Andrea Coleman, 65, of Norton, was handpicked by the Women of the Year nominating council to join 400 women in London last Monday (October 22) to celebrate her achievement in co-founding Riders for Health in Daventry in 1989.
Andrea and her husband Barry, 65, have been transforming healthcare in Africa for more than 20 years by providing vehicles and transport for healthworkers to access some of the most remote areas of the country. Despite being busy parents to three children, the couple decided to set up the charity which today employs 300 people in Africa and 27 in the UK.
Andrea said: “My husband and I come from a background of motorcycling and we know a lot about how vehicles work.
“After Barry visited Africa and said the people there did not have proper access to basic healthcare we knew we had to do something. We must have been crazy because we had three children but we knew it was important.”
Over the years the charity has received support from celebrities such as actor Ewan McGregor, who visited a Riders for Health programme in Kenya in 2007; comedian Ross Noble who visited in 2009; Bono the lead singer of U2, who donated a motorbike to the charity; and even royalty including the Princess Royal, the charity’s patron who presented them with a Major Business Award in 1999.
The Colemans are no stranger to award ceremonies. Riders for Health has received a string of accolades including the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2006; an award in the Social Enterprise Category in the Third Sector Awards in 2009 and the Best Transport Achievement Award at Fleet Forum in 2012.
However, speaking about the Woman of the Year lunch, Andrea said: “I was really shocked and I have absolutely no idea who nominated me.”
Andrea says she still feels as passionate ahout the charity’s work as she did when she set it up and has no plans to stop.
She said: “I still think it is unfair for people in Africa to not have proper healthcare, especially in rural Africa where people are really deprived of it. Nobody thinks about the practical issues of transporting medics to people.”
The charity has so far set up projects in ten different areas of Africa including Nigeria, Kenya and The Gambia and have made a huge difference to the lives of many people.
She added: “When we started talking around our kitchen table in Norton we never dreamed it would become so big. I look back and think ‘gosh’, is that how it started?”
The charity is now based in Pitsford and is an international organisation bringing medical treatment to those who need it. It is this achievement and growth that now sees Andrea named a Woman of the Year.
To volunteer with the charity contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01604 889570.