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Updated March 16, 2016

Motorcycles & Bicycles in Development / Aid / Relief & Volunteer Efforts

Motorcycles for good? Indeed! This page tracks the use of motorcycles in development / aid / relief / humanitarian efforts in developing countries. This isn't so much about volunteers going to developing countries and using motorcycles for relief efforts; rather, these efforts are more about local people being trained to ride and service motorcycles themselves as a part of such efforts, which not only helps get aid, including medicine and medical care, where it needs to go, but also helps create small businesses (motorcycle repair shops, places that sell motorcycle gear, etc.). At the bottom of the page is advice for individuals and small groups who want to use their motorcycles and travels to help others. If a URL no longer works, type it into to find the information.

    With cameras & smart phones, via motorcycles & tuk tuks, volunteers map Dar es Salaam streets
    Google Street View has not yet mapped the streets of many large cities in developing countries, including Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. These missing maps make it next to impossible to track traffic congestion, to effectively deploy resources to poverty-stricken communities and to build public transportation systems. Maps of the city detailing roads, homes, streams, drains and other features could help by becoming the first step in adequate city planning, including for disasters. A joint effort involving volunteers and organized by the World Bank and the Swedish start-up Mapillary aims to map the streets of Dar es Salaam. "Sparking the community's interest in mapping has the potential to truly transform Dar es Salaam into a prosperous city with the infrastructure to prevent floods, bring awareness to the need for flood prevention and risk reduction, and arm its citizens with the right tools and skills to build a better city," states a World Bank blog post celebrating the mapping efforts. As they begin to come together, maps are being run through InaSAFE, a free software that reproduces natural disaster scenarios to help locals improve city plans and disaster response efforts.

    Motorcyclists do good for Mandela's birthday
    "A multiracial, multilingual group of South Africans have ridden their motorbikes across the country's highways and byways for the last week, doing good along the way." It was July 2011, and it was part of the Bikers for Mandela Day initiative -- their gift to Nelson Mandela for his birthday. Supported by the U.N., Mandela's birthday is a day of public service, on which people are encouraged to spend at least 67 minutes doing some kind of community service in honor of the 67 years Mandela spent fighting for social justice. "In the small town of Harrismith the bikers stopped off to paint a small orphanage, adding a little color and a little hope to the children's lives..."

    Riders for Health
    A nonprofit organization using motorcycles and the training of local motorbike riders to improve delivery systems for healthcare in Africa. You can check out a short film on the site narrated by Ewan McGregor giving an insight into the work of Riders for Health.

    Motorcycles helping to ensure access to maternal health services in Zambia’s remote villages
    The distance and lack of transportation from Mulala often prevent pregnant women from reaching the health center, particularly in instances of sudden onset of labor. FHI 360’s Zambia Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership (ZPCT II) project is working in the Mansa District to ensure that pregnant women have access to maternal health services. ZPCT II, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided the Mansa District with 12 motorcycle ambulances and three traditional ambulances to help transport pregnant women to local facilities where a trained birth attendant can assist in their deliveries. These efforts are part of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a public–private partnership that aims to dramatically reduce maternal mortality by improving access to and quality of maternal health care.

    Motorcycle Outreach
    A nonprofit introduces and supports effective healthcare delivery - by motorcycle - in remote areas of developing countries. Motorcycle Outreach works closely with the UK Charity Riders for Health (RfH), which supports primary health delivery in Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) in eastern Indonesia. These two organizations provide motorcycles for health workers, specifically midwives and nurses working in public health centres that are responsible for large areas but which have no means of transport to cover these areas. Health care workers are trained on how to ride and on basic maintenance, and the use of motorcycles is monitored by Health for All and others such as community leaders, the Ministry for Health in sub-district levels, NGOs and the public. Motorcycle Outreach helps local people to manage and control the road worthiness of the motorcycle fleet, to ensure that a Zero Breakdown principle is maintained. The health workers responsible for the motorcycles fill in a logbook and the riders themselves are regularly evaluated. Read more about their activities.

    Relief Riders International
    This organization has been running has run two or three small group trips via horseback, where travelers tour an exotic location and provide some simple humanitarian relief to remote communities. They have recently added trips via motorcycle. The service provided by riders is more educational for the volunteers than critically necessary for locals - you do not need to have any any expertise, other than as a motorcycle rider, to participate in these volunteer vacations.

    Ted Simon Foundation
    A new foundation named for Ted Simon, a famous international motorcycle traveler. It will "encourage and assist travellers in making an extra effort to develop their observations and insights into something of value for the rest of the world to share, whatever their medium of expression might be... We believe that individuals of good will, moving among foreign cultures and making themselves vulnerable to the beliefs and customs of strangers, have great importance in promoting world understanding, and even more so when they can distill the essence of their experiences into a form that can be absorbed by many."

    Bicycling 'Info Ladies' bring Internet to remote Bangladesh villages
    Dozens of Bangladeshi "Info Ladies" ride bicycles into remote Bangladeshi villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people, especially women, get everything from government services to chats with distant loved ones. It's a vital service in a country where only 5 million of 152 million people have Internet access. The Info Ladies project, created in 2008 by local development group D.Net and other community organizations, is modeled after a program that helped make cellphones widespread in Bangladesh. It intends to enlist thousands more workers in the next few years with startup funds from the South Asian country's central bank and expatriates working around the world. D.Net recruits the women and trains them for three months to use a computer, the Internet, a printer and a camera. It arranges bank loans for the women to buy bicycles and equipment. Check out this profile of a typical "Info Lady."

    Malcolm Smith Motorsports Foundation helps children in Baja, Mexico
    Baja, Mexico is a favorite destination of adventure motorcycle riders from all over the world. Established in 1998, Malcolm Smith Motorsports Foundation is a fully volunteer organization that helps children in Baja. Facilities, utilities and most costs are donated by Malcolm Smith Motorsports, ensuring all dollars are used for the children. The foundation has paid for a fully-funded education for every child involved in its program: tuition, books, uniforms, travel and room and board where applicable. The foundation has also paid for a facility, water systems for both potable and agriculture water, electrical system for the site, playgrounds and ball courts, a center for after school studies and enrichment, beds, medical assistance in US for extreme conditions, and a US-based summer internship program for university age students.

    Uganda’s boda boda babies: Indian-made motorcycle taxis come to the rescue of pregnant women
    Health services are uneven throughout Uganda. Some parts of the country have village health teams deployed by the government to help residents. In others, non-government organisations or universities run projects that include community health work. Since public transport is limited and ambulance services are poor, boda bodas - motorcycle taxis - are the preferred form of transport for people both in Uganda’s cities and rural areas. Most of the motorcycles that ply on Ugandan roads, including Benic’s, are Indian imports. Though boda bodas are not the safest form of travel, especially for pregnant women, they are popular for their efficiency, easy availability and low fares. As such, they have become an intrinsic part of the country’s healthcare system. Used to ferrying pregnant women, boda boda drivers like Benic have come up with a few guidelines for how they conduct their service. They make sure a relative accompanies the woman – which means three people ride the motorcycle designed to carry two. This is to ensure the mother-to-be, and the driver too, have some help at hand in the all-too-possible event that the baby comes before they reach the hospital. This article by Priyanka Vora offers more; it's published in, "an independent news, information, and entertainment venture" focused on stories in or relating to India.

    The Gender Desk - Rwanda
    The Gender Desk was launched in May 2005 at the Rwandan National Police Headquarters under the framework of the joint UNIFEM-UNDP Project, "Enhancing Protection from Gender-based Violence." The Gender Desk includes an interview room to enable women to speak in confidence with a trained officer; a nationwide toll-free hotline service for reporting gender-based violence; and a UNIFEM-UNDP-funded adviser. UNIFEM facilitated quick reporting and response to cases of violence and increased awareness among the police and community of gender-based violence as a human rights issue. Investigating officers have been trained in victim empowerment, psychosocial support and victim/survivor protection. Motorcycles, provided by UNIFEM-UNDP, enable them to respond rapidly.

    Members of the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance, or GAIA, visited Blantyre, Malawi in June 2003. "We spent time with the women who are part of the GAIA program to strengthen women, thanks to a grant from the Gates Foundation. Originally referred to as women's empowerment, the program is now referred to in terms of strengthening the family, as gender issues are a strong force in this culture. Transportation is an enormous issue for our local trainees. Their areas are large, and flooding in the rainy season makes many villages inaccessible and many roads impassable. One of our decisions was to make small motorcycles available to them. We also provided them with cell phones. Both have been an enormous help as they go about their work." Read the entire story

    Motorcycles and horses provide key ways to help rural people in Lesotho, a tiny country landlocked within South Africa about the size of Maryland. 25% of its adults are HIV-positive. Pony riders to transport blood tests, drugs, and supplies between remote mountain health clinics and better-equipped hospitals at sea level. When roads are navigable by two wheels, motorcycle riders join the journey to further speed the process of rushing blood to the lab or medication to those sick with HIV. USAID and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation support this effort.

    eRanger: Mobile Multimedia Classroom
    The Digital Education Enhancement Project (DEEP) is a research and development programme investigating the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for teaching and learning. It works in schools serving disadvantaged communities in different parts of the world. Partners: Open University, UK, Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) & University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape. In April 2007, the DEEP team began testing a prototype motorbike-based unit to transport ICT equipment, support and training to a rural school in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Funders: Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE), The Open University Alumni & Ranger Production Company. The aims of the prototype are:

    • To provide sustainable access to ICT for remote, rural schools;
    • To explore the benefits in teaching and learning with multimedia;
    • To supply educational and ICT support onsite - the eRider.

    Two models of equipment are being tested, including a 'solo' unit for efficient on and off-road transport of equipment for group work sessions, and a sidecar-based education unit for larger school-based events. The provision within the units comprise:

    • On-board power, networking and internet connectivity
    • Multimedia laptops for use in media-rich projects
    • Digital Camera and Camcorder for recording footage
    • Portable power generation for larger events
    • Projection and amplifier equipment

    During the prototyping phase, the eRider is an ?Education Development Officer from the ECDoE, who is undertaking this work as part of their role in developing eLearning in the East London district of the Eastern Cape. The role of the 'eRider' is:

    • To provide support to the educators on how to use multimedia to enhance teaching and learning
    • To work with the learners in creating their own media resources
    • To supply educational and ICT advice

A motorcycle ambulance in Zambia with a side car added to help pregnant women in rural areas reach health centers staffed with trained birthing assistants. A project by FHI 360.


African women trained as health care workers and motorcycle riders, providing medicine and medical information to families in rural areas. A project by Riders for Health.


Bangladeshi "Info Ladies" ride bicycles into remote  villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people, especially women, get everything from government services to chats with distant loved ones. It's a vital service in a country where only 5 million of 152 million people have Internet access. A project by D.Net.


Also see the positive effects of sustainable development and alternative tourism.

If you have related information or examples, please contact me.

Are you an individual, or part of a group, that wants to travel and do good (transire benefaciendo)? You have several options for helping either domestically (in your own country), or abroad (in another country), but note that it will take planning before your trip, as well as a lot of coordination in the weeks and days leading up to your on-the-road activities. This web page, transire benefaciendo, will help you coordinate such an efort. See in particular the section on Volunteering On Your Own Abroad. Also see this page on Finding Community Service and Volunteering for Groups, as well as the links at the bottom of that page.

Of course, everyone knows Expat Aid Workers love motorcycles.

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