#ImpactThursday spotlights a young Ugandan, Christopher Ategeka and the amazing work he is doing by providing mobile healthcare in rural Uganda.
Shaped by the tragedies of his childhood, Christopher is taking steps to ensure that no one in current- day Uganda has to undergo the agony he did because of the inaccessibility of healthcare facilities.
This story should warm your hearts and quicken your hands.
Christopher Ategeka was born in a small village in western Uganda along and is a native of Fort Portal Uganda. At a young age, he witnessed both his parents die from HIV/AIDS, and his brother who died in the arms of his extended family in an effort to carry him to the nearest healthcare facility. He became the head of the household to his five siblings at the age of seven and started his first business by collecting garbage in exchange for food.
Despite these tragedies, Chris connected with an organization in Uganda, called Y.E.S. Uganda, where he was able to receive support, opportunity, and an education. Chris showed reverence for education; a sponsoring family from California took notice and gave Chris funding to attend private school and invited him to live with them. Chris attended UC Berkeley, where he received his Bachelors and Masters in Mechanical Engineering.
With his new found knowledge, in combination with his childhood experience of growing up in poverty in Uganda, he created Rides For Lives in June 2011, a non-profit organization with a vision to create a world where every community is empowered to access local healthcare.
Access to healthcare continues to be a serious and widespread problem in developing countries in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa. In Uganda, where rural communities are poor, isolated and up to 10 kilometres away from any healthcare, there are limited ways to transport the sick and the injured.
According to Rides for Lives, their most pressing challenges were the overwhelming statistics. According to the World Health Organization, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, and such deaths are higher in rural areas and poor communities.
Also, almost 70% of children under five years old who die can be treated and survive with proper medical attention.
Enter Rides for Lives.
Rides For Lives manufactures locally sourced medical vehicles with the mission of improving medical access and economic opportunities to those that are the most vulnerable. It connects individuals and communities in rural Uganda to health and education services by building and coordinating the distribution of locally made transport vehicles, such as wheelchairs, bicycles and bicycle ambulances.
According to Echoing Green, unlike imported items, Rides for Lives products can take a beating: they can be baked by the sun, pounded by the rain, dragged over huge potholes and rocky surfaces, and still remain standing. These products help individuals in rural Uganda access dispensaries, clinics and hospitals many miles away from their villages.
Services provided by Rides for Life include: a Mobile Health Unit, which is a refitted bus that contains three different medical stations and a General Practitioner.
A Pharmacy which is run by a full-time pharmacist and contains the most common essential medicines and interventions needed by the local community.
A Laboratory with the capacity to carry out tests like HIV, Malaria, cancer screenings, family planning services as well as preventative care.
Christopher has been awarded several awards for his work at Rides for Lives, including the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) award, a Chevron award, and the Judith Lee Stronach award. He is a 2013 Echoing Green Fellow. In 2014, he was listed amongst the Forbes Magazine 30 under30 Social Entrepreneurs in the World, and received a SET Africa Award (Social Entrepreneurs transforming Africa; USAID, MasterCard Foundation) was named a United Nations Global Accelerator, and a Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance fellow.
In 2015, he received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, and was named as an Ashoka Fellow as well as a Cordes Fellow.
Christopher is figuratively killing two birds with one stone- he is utilizing home-made vehicles, creating job opportunities and adding to the overall growth of the economy; and he is doing all this while granting access to healthcare in rural communities… did I say two birds? More like ten!!!