In January, I travelled with a group of five members of the Dorna team on a knowledge-expanding, two-wheeled trip to Lesotho. We were there to see the work funded by Two Wheels for Life, the official charity of MotoGP™.
Up until then, we had only seen the fundraising side of Two Wheels. We’d witnessed the fun and excitement of their Day of Champions at the British Grand Prix, and seen their staff determinedly running up and down the paddock, always carrying a pair of riders’ boots or leathers!
I knew this rider memorabilia was destined for auction but didn’t understand how the money raised by everything from knee sliders to signed helmets, was transformed into fuel and blood sample backpacks, or quite why motorcycle transport is so important to healthcare in African countries.
This trip changed all that.
Who are Riders for Health?
In our initial briefing at the hotel, we learned that Two Wheels for Life supports healthcare transport programmes run by partner Riders for Health in four countries across Africa, including this one in Lesotho.
Once we’d grasped the basics we were able to see the work in action, travelling on motorcycles (Suzuki DR200s on this occasion) alongside health workers, delivering essential care and supplies to remote communities.
Most of us didn’t even know where Lesotho was. A small country surrounded by the nation of South Africa, they call it the Roof of Africa because of its significant altitude and scenery that can resemble The Alps or the rolling hills of Tuscany.
Enduro and trials meet MotoGP™
What shocked us most was how imaginative and skilled health workers have to be to do their jobs. Real roads don’t always exist, and often there is nothing more than a gnarly, muddy trail. The terrain is so steep and challenging that riding becomes like an enduro course!
So who better than 12-time Trials World Champion Dougie Lampkin to train health workers to get to places that are even a struggle for a trials rider?
While health workers are usually skilled-up by local trainers, Dougie was visiting the Lesotho programme to offer some very advanced training, and like us, learn more about Two Wheels and the programmes they support.
But it wasn’t all work. Everyone’s jaws dropped, from health workers to local children, as Dougie entertained them with stunts, tricks and acrobatics. And we were delighted to spend time with this incredible rider who is also an MBE, and a very funny and sweet guy.
Making a difference
While we were on what felt like a very special field-trip, riding beautiful cross-country paths through amazing green scenery (we were blessed with rain and consequently a lot of mud during our stay), we were in awe of our health worker guides who did this day-in, day-out – while also carrying precious cargo.
We were also stunned by the genuine difference that Two Wheels for Life – and, by supporting them – MotoGP™ has made. We learned that before this programme took over the transportation for the Lesotho Ministry of Health, citizens waited months to find out about test results, often not living long enough to receive the news. More help is needed but I’m delighted that reliable motorcycle transport means previously unreachable communities in Lesotho now have access to medical care and supplies.
None of us will ever forget the hospitality, smiles and landscapes of this big little kingdom. We all boarded the plane taking a bit of Lesotho back home in our hearts.
xx Friné Velilla
Friné travelled to Lesotho with Norma, Diego, Igor and Ignacio from the Dorna team.
All photos by Tom Oldham and James Hole.