Christopher Ategeka-Ambulance-cart-RidesForLives

Meeting Christopher Ategeka in San Francisco today, where his three start-ups are headquartered, one would never guess that this urbane young man, named last year as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs, grew up living in dirt-walled hut in rural Uganda—and was in his teens before he owned his first pair of shoes.

By age seven Chris had lost both his mother and his father to HIV-AIDS and was living in dire poverty, leaving him effectively the head of household for his five siblings.

Five years later, through a church-based NGO and orphanage Y.E.S. Uganda, Americans Martha and Michael Helm learned of 12-year-old Chris’s plight and offered to help the hard-working boy keep going to school.

When they learned of the one-hour hike Chris had to take every day to school, they bought him a bicycle. He used the time saved every day to study hard. His discipline impressed the California couple so much that they sent for Chris, then 20, to come live with them and attend college in California. He attended UC Berkeley, where he received his Bachelors and Masters in mechanical engineering.pope-waving-YouTube-screenshot

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A non-profit organization founded by Chris, Rides for Lives (formerly CA Bikes) started out as a social business to create jobs in Uganda while solving transportation problems for rural Africans. Workers used locally sourced scrap metal to design and build bicycles, three-wheel vehicles and wheelchairs for families, farmers, business persons, and individuals with disabilities.

One of the most compelling applications for the locally made vehicles has, as of September 2014, become the primary focus of the company: to create “bike ambulances” which can be attached to small trailers to transport people in need of medical care and vital medicines to outlying areas. The seed of the idea was born of yet another personal tragedy in his amazing life: When Chris was 9, his younger brother died while Chris tried to carry him to the nearest hospital — 10 miles away.

(READ the full story from Yahoo BusinessWATCH Chris’s Ted Talk below)


Story tip from Joel Arellano

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