If you’re reading this you’re probably more than a bit keen on motorcycles. Do you love them because it feels so amazing to ride out on open roads, because you love the excitement of seeing them whizz around a race track, or simply because they look so damn good? Salifu Jabang would agree with any one of these. But he has his own particular reasons for his love of the motorbike.
Sal has been working with Riders for Health, whose programmes we support, since he was sixteen. Now head motorcycle technician at Riders for Health in the Gambia, Riders and a motorcycle rider himself, he absolutely loves bikes because they’re perfect for getting healthcare to people in his homeland.
At Riders’ main workshop in Gambian capital Banjul, Sal talks about the challenges for health workers in the Gambia. “During the rainy season even if you have four wheel it's difficult. With a motorcycle you can just ride and go,” says Sal. “Mud? Water? Doesn’t matter.” From June to October, it’s impossible for most vehicles to leave the main roads and get down the dirt tracks to remote villages. Anyone living in these areas is often unable to visit a doctor or nurse, even in an emergency.
Motorcycles mean heath workers in the Gambia reach people with vital services - immunisations, checking pregnant and new mothers, their newborn babies and well as the under fives. And in urban areas, riders can nip (carefully!) through traffic jams. “Our roads are very tight,” says Sal. “On a motorcycle, you can get to where you need to be.”
Cost is the other huge factor that makes motorcycles so useful in the Gambia and many other parts of Africa. They are cheaper to buy than four wheel vehicles and less costly to maintain. This makes a difference when money is tight and health services have to be delivered on a shoestring.
Maintenance – Sal’s area of expertise – is key to keeping costs low. Sal’s team make sure the bikes will never break down: mechanics service bikes regularly and health workers are taught to look after their own bikes so they can rely on them to last and last. This is what Riders calls ‘zero breakdown’ and it’s something they are world experts in.
All of us love motorcycles, but Sal has turned his passion into something immensely valuable for the world around him. As he puts it, when talking about why he loves his job: “Using two wheels has changed everything for health workers here – it is essential. Nobody can buy a life, but by using motorcycles for health care we are saving lives every day”?
Motorbikes make our lives better in all kinds of ways. By supporting Two Wheels for Life and the work of Sal and his team, we can use your love of motorbikes to improve the lives of people in The Gambia, and across Africa.