Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bike ambulances help connect Ugandan villages to city clinics

NPR reports today on a nonprofit, CA Bikes, that teaches Ugandan villagers how to build bike ambulances and wheelchairs from scrap metal.  Founder Chris Ategeka explains:
I teach you how to make it, and I teach you how to fix it. If it breaks, you know what to do, and if you want to build something you think outside the box and you do it.
Ategeka's story is inspiring.  He is an AIDS orphan, and when he was 10, he tried to save his younger brother's life by carrying him 10 miles from the village where they lived to the nearest hospital.  The brother died, but a U.S. AID organization, Y.E.S. Uganda, sponsored Ategeka, who went on to earn engineering degrees at U.C. Berkeley.   

Ategeka estimates his group has helped support the fabrication and distribution of more than 1,000 bikes and bike ambulances throughout Uganda.  Each ambulance costs about $600 to make and can transport about 100 people a month.

The goal of CA Bikes is to connect rural Ugandan communities with city clinics, and it has attracted support from funders such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.  Ategeka explains:
I wanted to do something about the effects of lack of health care in rural villages, so I combined my life experience and engineering.    
Ategeka also hopes to make the endeavor self-supporting and an engine for job creation.  Right now, the demand for the bicycles is outpacing the supply.