Riders for Health: Bringing Reliable Health Care To Africa

riders for healthOne of the biggest problems facing rural Africans is the lack of access to reliable health care. In many regions, a single health worker may be responsible for as many as 20,000 people, often spread out for miles along poorly maintained dirt roads that may be little more than cow paths. These conditions are hard on vehicles, which break down frequently as a result, limiting the people’s access to health care even more.

Riders for Health, a non-profit social enterprise, has developed an innovative program to combat the problem of unreliable transportation for health workers and patients in need of hospital care.

How They Work

Riders for Health was founded by motorcycle enthusiasts Barry Coleman, Andrea Coleman, and Randy Mamola after a trip to Africa, where they saw broken-down vehicles piled up around health clinics. Without local mechanical expertise or access to parts, doctors and nurses were unable to reach needy patients. Mamola and the Colemans returned home with new purpose and began their first national scale Riders for Health program in 1991 in Zimbabwe.

Their mission is simple: to provide reliable transportation for health workers in Africa and improve health care in underserved areas. To accomplish this, Riders for Health has developed a sustainable transportation infrastructure to support their activities, including:

  • rider and driver training to minimize damage to the vehicles, improve the safety of the passengers, and reduce carbon emissions
  • daily maintenance checks of all vehicles by riders and drivers
  • outreach maintenance for more serious mechanical problems
  • parts supply chain to ensure that parts get where they need to be when they need to be there
  • high technical standards for mechanics to ensure safe and reliable vehicle transport
  • accurate bookkeeping to improve financial self-sufficiency

The financial self-sustainability of their programs is very important to Riders for Health, and for that reason, they operate the organization as a not for profit social enterprise rather than a traditional non-profit that relies on donations to run its programs. Riders charges governments and local partners a small fee to cover costs and focuses fundraising activities on programs that give donors something tangible for their money. Riders has long been active in the motorcycle community, and some of its fundraising events include the Day of Champions races in the US, Spain, and Great Britain.

Today, Riders for Health employs nearly 300 people and maintains more than 1,300 vehicles in Gambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, and Mozambique, providing reliable access to health care for an estimated 10.8 million people. Riders for Health overwhelmingly employs local citizens, improving the local economy. The training it provides to its employees helps build infrastructure and expertise among the local communities where it works. Riders for Health also established the International Academy of Vehicle Management in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2002 in order to health care providers and other aid workers not affiliated with Riders for Health in proper vehicle maintenance techniques.

To learn more about Riders for Health’s great work, visit their official website or watch the following video by Wall Street investor and entrepreneur Alvin Hall:

How You Can Help

Riders for Health accepts donations and offers a number of volunteer opportunities for people interested in helping their work in Africa. You can also support Riders for Health by attending a Riders for Health even such as the Day of Champions at Donington Park in Britain, and at Riders for Health’s official website, you can participate in auctions for items such as paddock passes for major motorcycle races and similar events.

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