Dorna in Lesotho to witness Two Wheels for Life fieldwork
From January 6th to the 13th, five Dorna employees went on a ‘riding’ trip whose purpose was to see the other side of the coin of the work carried out by Two Wheels for Life in Lesotho. Up until then, we had only seen the fundraising work in MotoGP™ circuits. We had seen the TWFL staff running around with determination up and down the Paddock, Day of Champions at Silverstone, into the Dorna offices, inside pit garages, always carrying a pair of rider boots or some used leathers. Okay, we knew that this was destined to be auctioned and that the money was going to be sent to Africa. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. Little did we know how these knee sliders and signed helmets were going to be ‘translated’ into fuel and blood sample backpacks. Why was riding so important?
In #Lesotho, many communities are found at incredible altitudes with no proper road access. That’s where @dougielampkin’s skills as a trainer come in!— Two Wheels for Life (@2WheelsforLife) January 15, 2020
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Photos by Tom Oldham pic.twitter.com/4UcINjuBUH
In their shoes
After being thoroughly briefed on the specific fieldwork TWFL carries out in the gorgeous country of Lesotho, where we were fortunate enough to visit the hospitals where the magic happens, we were able to ‘ride’ a mile in the shoes of the Health Workers and the Sample Couriers. We rode on the bikes they ride, a Suzuki DR200 for this occasion, we went through the villages they visit, we suffered the challenges they encountered. But we were there on a holiday-ish visit. These Health Workers, who were not born knowing how to ride an off-road bike, had to be imaginative when they had to go to the remote villages to pick up blood samples – crucial in the rapid diagnose of HIV or tuberculosis – to be taken back to the health centres in bigger towns, or when they had to reach the furthest little group of huts to deliver some medicines. Roads don’t always exist, and when they do, they are gnarly and often muddy paths that look like an Enduro track. Thanks to the acquired riding skills of the Health Workers, blood samples are transported quickly to the clinics to be analysed, the same goes for the results of the test. The Basotho (the Lesotho inhabitants) could now be informed whether their results were positive or negative in a matter of days, whereas before TWFL became in charge of the transportation for the Lesotho Ministry of Health, citizens took months to find out about the results, often not living long enough to receive the news. For us, it was a field day on beautiful cross-country paths with amazing green scenery, as we were blessed with the rains and mud during our stay. But what it must be to do this with a specifically designed backpack full of blood samples
Enduro meets Trials meets MotoGP™
The Health Workers and Sample Couriers are trained to ride and to take care of the maintenance of the bike. It is an Enduro machine, but sometimes the paths are so steep, rocky, muddy and challenging, that riding becomes more like a Trials section. So who else better than 12-time Trials World Champion Dougie Lampkin (MBE and Two Wheels for Life Ambassador) to train them how to confidently take their motorcycles from point A to point B? Lampkin showed his skills to Health Workers and also to schoolchildren from the Maseru area. It is difficult to say who was more impressed, as everyone’s jaws dropped with his stunts, tricks and acrobatics. Dorna staff took the opportunity to interview Lampkin and ask him about his experience in Lesotho with Two Wheels for Life.
Most of us did not even know where Lesotho is – a small country surrounded by the nation of South Africa – but now none of us will ever forget the hospitality, smiles, and landscapes of this big little kingdom. They call it the Roof of Africa for a reason, as it has a significant elevation and offers scenery that can resemble the Alps or the rolling hills of Tuscany in some locations. After donating all our bike gear, helmets, boots supplied by Alpinestars, a partner of MotoGP™, school supplies, old uniforms and some clothes to be administered by TWFL, we reckoned the experience was an unforgettable one, and we all boarded back on the plane taking a little piece of Africa in our hearts.