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Don’t get too comfortable in Kenya. “We’ve been talking with groups and communities in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, the Philippines, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo so far. It really seems to have broad ranging application and interest.”

“We are really trying to create a project model that is truly community-focused and collaborative – and believe that this approach is critical in order for the project to be truly sustainable.”

“Ranging” is just what it’s meant to do, too, as a “bam(boo) ambulance” designed to get people faster to medical treatment they might need in remote locations.”

Bikes aren’t the only form of attachment for the Bambulance,” she says.

“We’ll adapt it to the most appropriate form of transportation” in a given location and set of needs.  “At the end of the day, the bike so far seems fastest in the areas we’ve worked, particularly Kenya. But it can be pulled by a person, bike, donkey. We’ve even considered oxen, but they’re very large, not so fast.”

“And one thing you do have to think about when setting up a Bambulance program” to get medical patients to a place of treatment as quickly as possible “is the availability of the transport mode. For example, if it’s an animal you expect to pull the Bambulance, you’re going to need a ready supply of healthy animals for when the time comes.”

It takes only a minute of thought to consider some developed-world settings in which a Bambulance might actually trump a more sophisticated form of fast transport for, say, an injury or sudden-illness situation. For example, how about a university campus? Could it be quicker for students and faculty members to grab the lightweight bamboo stretcher, attach it to a bike and wheel a sick associate to the campus infirmary?

“We’ve actually considered such uses,” Dun says, “but we’ve been warned by some contacts in the paramedic community that in major markets such as the United States, liability issues might come into play.”

Like many designers, Dun says her initial design work was in more traditional industrial areas — product design, electronics.

“And I enjoyed that work,” she says. “But I realized the potential of design for development work, I felt that if done properly, in its ideal state, it would be a fantastic combination for me,” the design approach and the needs addressed in humanitarian efforts.

In that regard, Dun’s non-profit Design for Development Society is keenly focused on the sustainability and community-impact aspects of design, as well as just the “invention”-related aspects of the work.

“With the Bambulance Project,” she says, “we are working with two community-based organizations who will manufacture the Bambulances with the question, ‘Is this the route that will bring maximum positive impact?’

Those two groups, both in Nairobi, are WEEP, a program that assists AIDS widows and women who have tested positive for HIV in learning a trade and becoming self-sufficient; and the Community Transformers. a group of young people in the Mathare slums who provide home-based care and support in their community.

“We are really trying to create a project model that is truly community-focused and collaborative,” Dun says, “and believe that this approach is critical in order for the project to be truly sustainable.”

Designed by: 
Philippa Mennell; Chris Ryan; Niki Dun, Canada; Philippe Schlesser, Luxembourg.

Produced by: 
The Community Transformers and Women’s Equality Empowerment Project, Nairobi, Kenya.

Additional credits: 
Design for Development Society (project concept, development and implementation), Vancouver, Canada; Emily Carr University (project assistance and student interns), Vancouver, Canada.

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