Project #2511

Organic Health Response for HIV/AIDS in Kenya

by Organic Health Response
The year 2011 was incredibly exciting for the Organic Health Response. Below are a number of activities that have been moving forward during the year. Thank you for your continued support as we grow as an organization!
In Spring 2011, the Ekialo Kiona Sustainable Design Guild completed construction of the 10,000ft2 Ekialo Kiona Community Center at Kitawi Beach. Trained in lightweight Ferro-cement techniques, the crew built and roofed the east wing of the EK center, which now serve as confidential HIV counseling rooms. The Ekialo Kiona Center reached over 1,400 members, all of whom now know their HIV status. All HIV tested EK Members have free and unlimited access to the Cyber Lab, library, conference rooms, and the open-air amphitheater.
Ten sleek ultra-low power Inveneo computers reached the EK Center in July, along with upgraded networking and seminar equipment. With help from OHR IT Coordinator Brian Mattah, Mfangano residents have been learning typing, word processing, and Internet skills. The Ekialo Kiona Center is the only Internet facility or library on the island serving over 20,000 isolated Mfangano residents. Students, teachers, health workers, farmers, and fisherman from the community come here to research innovative ideas for sustainable health, fishing, agriculture and educational opportunities.
After 3 years of productive collaboration, OHR has formalized our partnership with Micro clinic International (MCI) to implement an innovative social support pilot for the HIV-affected communities of Lake Victoria. With a newly hired & volunteer staff of 12, the team has successfully registered over 40 micro-clinic groups from the island to participate in a comprehensive training designed to empower them with the practical tools to address HIV/AIDS in their affected networks. The Mfangano Island Healthy Network Impact Study (MIHNIS) began in October 2011. This study will assess the impact of the novel Micro-Clinic program targeted at HIV-affected networks in Western Kenya. The MIHNIS will evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention for improving antiretroviral treatment adherence, HIV/AIDS disease trajectory, social support, and risk behaviors among people living with HIV/AIDS and their associated social support networks.
In Fall 2011 a drip irrigation system – one of the first of its kind on Mfangano Island – was installed at the EK Farm. The new system, with drip lines and a new 3,000L water storage tank, is a vital step toward our goals of enhancing organic nutrition for EK members and promoting sustainable agriculture on the island.
Meeting twice weekly at the EK Center, the men and women of the Sisterhood Exchange Program continued their handmade production of African aprons and jewelry. In 6 separate shipments, over 300 beautiful African aprons, handmade jewelry and paper products found new homes in Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The SEP also completed three additional training exchanges, returning home with newly acquired craft and business skills. The income earned through the Sisterhood supports many families on the island with food, school fees and healthcare, and empowers women with an independent income.
In December, over 350 donated bicycles and 300 helmets from Colorado, USA were packed into a 40ft shipping container bound for Mfangano Island. These bicycles will stock EK’s new Bike Shop, providing EK Members bicycles at a special discounted price. With only one ring road encircling half the island, bicycles provide an easy and affordable transportation option for residents, improving access to healthcare and treatment facilities, schools and village centers. A big thanks to Bicycles for Humanity-Colorado and Greg Lynch.
On December 4th, in honor of World AIDS Day, Mfangano held the island’s first-ever road race! Over 50 residents registered to run, each learning their own HIV status before the kick-off. Men and women of all ages participated running a 5- or 10-km leg. OHR also kicked off the December “Get to Zero, Get to $5,000” campaign that highlighted four notable dates in honor of four groundbreaking OHR programs. Thank you to all who donated! Because of you we are now a step closer to zero AIDS-related deaths, zero new HIV-infections, and zero discrimination.
This spring, OHR members from across the U.S. convened in San Francisco for the first official OHR retreat. With over 15 volunteers present we spent the weekend bringing the team up to speed on the many projects and programs and dived into OHR’s first visioning session, led by our very own Hal Campbell.
The retreat was a huge success. We emerged with a promising action plan for the upcoming year and OHR’s new vision statement:
“Seeding health possibilities through community-rooted partnerships.”


Internet Access on Mfangano
Internet Access on Mfangano


The Sisterhood Exchange Program (SEP) members traveled to Eldoret this September to receive training from the Imani workshops.  The training took place for two days where members were trained on making shopping bags, yoga bags, pajama suits, double sided apron, and school uniforms.  There was also training on beaded jewelry, clay, cards, books, and picture frames.  Much of the training emphasized quality control and members are now working to improve the quality of their products.

The Ekialo Kiona Farming Department also traveled to Eldoret where they were motivated by the AMPATH farm and learned they will need a good irrigation system like drip irrigation which is used at most of the farms in Eldoret.   They realized doing that will give them a green and healthy farm as water plays a big role in plant life.


Free Internet access has taken a step closer to 20,000 rural Kenyans living on a remote island in the middle of Lake Victoria in Western Kenya. The Organic Health Response, with the help of San Francisco-based partners, Inveneo and Equal Access, is preparing to install a wireless Internet link and community radio tower on the top Soklo mountain on Mfangano Island. Based on a comprehensive topographical survey by Inveneo’s connectivity engineers, Equal Access is developing a radio broadcast map using open access satellite software to assess the reach for Mfangano’s first community radio station. On the ground, OHR is moving forward with site preparations and the tower’s challenging construction 1600m above the Lake shore. Thanks to land generously donated by the Okello family, a 12th generation Mfangano family living atop Soklo mountain, the tower site will serve as both the point of reception for OHR’s 70km long-range Internet link, and the point of transmission for the Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Station.  Actual construction of this unique tower will be carried out by the Ekialo Kiona Sustainable Design Guild, a team of local Mfangano carpenters, welders, and masons who successfully completed construction on the Ekialo Kiona Center in May 2011.
Born in 1925, Joseph Okello Misiara is a native of the Soklo clan that has lived on Mfangano Island for over 12 generations. He is now the Elder responsible for taking care of the sacred Kwitutu forest, an old growth forest and ancestral burial site that remains atop the highest point on Mfangano Island. Inspired by the land donation made by Joel Oguta for the Ekialo Kiona Center itself, Mzee Okello and his eldest son have generously donated their family’s land near the Kwitutu forest, to bring free Internet to 20,000 of their fellow residents on Mfangano Island. During a visit this June, Mzee Okello explained that although he has never used the Internet or touched a computer himself, he knows his land will be used to build a tower that will “connect the world together.” Mzee Okello sees this donation as a landmark for his children and grandchildren and his final legacy to the community of Mfangano.


On August 17, 2011, Chas Salmen, the Founder and Director of the Organic Health Response had the opportunity to present at a Google Tech Talk on HIV/AIDS Prevention Collectives in Western Kenya.  Specifically Chas discussed the Mfangano Island Healthy Networks Pilot Program. To view Chas's full Google Tech Talk, click here.


This September, Chas Salmen, the Founder and Director of OHR, and Jenna Hines, OHR's Director of Agriculture Research Implementation, are moving to Mfangano for the year with many goals in mind.  Over the course of the year, they are going to keep all of you updated through their blog to share stories from Mfangano, updates as they set up their farm, unexpected challenges, their progress with OHR and the Ekialo Kiona Center staff, and their evolving visions for a healthy Lake Victoria, and planet.  Stay updated at: 


Chas Salmen, Annika Terrana, and Kelsi Hines
Chas Salmen, Annika Terrana, and Kelsi Hines

Here's a quick glimpse of what we have been up to this summer so far!

OHR Hosts 2nd Team of UCSF Global HealthStudents!

Late June, Mfangano welcomed its second group of University of California, San Francisco students! This year's dynamic group of seven come ready to exercise their nursing, medical, social work, and pharmacy studies and will hit the ground running with projects in community health. The group will primarily focus on relaying last year’s research results back to the community.

In partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, OHR and UCSF designed the first community health baseline study for Mfangano East. During the summer of 2010, UCSF students trained and hired 9 local research staff to gather data from households in the community. The household survey assessed community health and demographics, including information on HIV/AIDS knowledge and stigma, income, food and water security, and social support.

The same local research staff will return this year to assist the UCSF students in organizing and conducting community focus groups. The focus groups will discuss OHR programming, specifically for the Micro-Clinic Project. Both staff and community members look forward to using this information to help shape the future of OHR and its programs and services. 

VagaBead: Bead a Better World

On July 31st, 2011, OHR participated in a celebration of international crafts with VagaBead, a local Minneapolis bead and jewelry business. The event will featured OHR’s Sisterhood Exchange Program aprons and jewelry alongside other vendors, great eats and global beats. VagaBead founders Kara and Craig collect beads straight from the source, traveling to international markets, then making and selling jewelry at home. VagaBead generously offered to donate 5% of all their profits to the Organic Health Response.

OHR Welcomes New Co-Directors of Operations! 

The Organic Health Response is thrilled to announce our first US-based staff, our new Co-Directors of Operations,
Kelsi Hines and Annika Terrana!  Kelsi and Annika are founding members of OHR, with extensive experience living and working within the communities of Mfangano Island, organizing HIV/AIDS awareness events and ecological sustainability activities, coordinating OHR's volunteer home-stay program, and developing the Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Station. Kelsi and Annika will direct day-to-day US operations as OHR Founder, Chas Salmen, returns to Kenya for 12-months to implement the Mfangano Island Healthy Networks Pilot Program. 

Please feel free to touch base with Kelsi and Annika as your primary contact for any questions or ideas relating to ongoing OHR programs, fundraising, partnership opportunities, volunteer coordination, or media announcements:  We look forward to exploring new directions under their creative leadership, and working together with the rest of the OHR team in Kenya and the US to continue our long-term vision, seeding health possibilities through community-rooted partnerships.

2011 has already been a year of many successes and progress and we are so thankful for all your support.  Stay tuned for more updates.

Sisterhood Exchange Jewelry Making
Sisterhood Exchange Jewelry Making
OHR Retreat Group Shot
OHR Retreat Group Shot

Spring has been exciting time full of growth for the Organic Health Response.  Here's a glimpse at what we have been up to so far in 2011:

OHR's First West Coast Roundtable a Success!

OHR members from across the U.S. recently convened in San Francisco for the first official OHR retreat. With over 15 volunteers present we spent the weekend getting to know one another, bringing the team up to speed on the many projects and programs, and dived into OHR’s first visioning session, led by our very own Hal Campbell!  Overall, the retreat was a huge success. We emerged with a promising action plan for the upcoming year and OHR's new vision statement:
“Seeding health possibilities through community-rooted partnerships.”

We look forward to having our Kenyan partners join us in our next great get together!

OHR Wins First Place in UC Berkeley's "Big Ideas" Competition

Selected from over 200 entries, OHR has won 1st place in UC Berkeley's "Big Ideas" Competition. The annual competition inspires innovative and high-impact student projects aimed at solving the world's most pressing problems. The aquaponics project aims to address "Big Ideas" category Global Poverty Alleviation by increasing food security in the Lake Victoria basin.

Headed by Matthew Tierney, the aquaponics project is a sustainable food production system that combines aquaculture, or fish farming, with vegetable and chicken farming. Not only could this system provide a more secure and nutritional diet, but aquaponics disincentives unnecessary slash and burn agriculture and overfishing in Lake Victoria, and allows fishermen to stay at home with their families.  Stay tuned for details as we work to bring the aquaponics project to life!

Sisterhood Exchange Program Delivers 3 Apron Shipments to U.S.

All the way from Mfangano Island, a total of 3 large shipments of aprons and jewelry, sewn and beaded by the women of the Sisterhood Exchange Program, have successfully left port and arrived in Colorado, U.S.A! Since last summer the women of the SEP craft group have been hard at work fulfilling the numerous orders placed from across the U.S. Each apron ordered directly benefits the SEP women of Mfangano. Individual orders are currently taken on a rolling basis with shipment orders sent to the SEP quarterly.

Thank you for all your support in helping us work towards our mission. We'll continue to keep you updated on our work, events, and news.

New Vision Statement
New Vision Statement
Aquaponics Project
Aquaponics Project
Sisterhood Exchange Program
Sisterhood Exchange Program


World AIDS Day 2010
World AIDS Day 2010

On December 1st, 2010 the Ekialo Kiona Center hosted its 3rdannual World AIDS Day celebration. Hundreds of guests gathered to hear speakers from all over Mfangano, with special messages from the Mfangano East Chief (below), Mfangano’s public health official, representatives from FACES and the Ministry of Health, along with other area chiefs, clan elders, church elders and community members.

Youth representatives from various villages performed poems, songs and plays, informing and challenging their peers to avoid risky behavior, to stay informed and to know their status. Twenty people were tested and counseled, helping to bring the Ekialo Kiona Center’s total number of people tested to 776!

The 2010 Year in Review:

2010 was a monumental year for OHR, and we could not have done it without your support. Below are some of the year’s exciting milestones. We:

  • Established OHR as a Colorado-based 501c3 non-profit
  • Completed initial construction of the 10,000sq-ft Ekialo Kiona Center, featuring %100 local labor and ferro-cement materials locally donated
  • Established the Ekialo Kiona Sisterhood Exchange Program, training over 25 local HIV+ women in crafts, income generation and business skills
  • Celebrated Mfangano’s first Annual Earth Day event, featuring an open forum and discussion panel and the hosting debut of EK’s Community Radio Committee
  • Hosted 8 UCSF medical, nursing and public health students through the freshly established OHR Volunteer Program and Home Stay Network on Mfangano
  • Trained and hired 20 local interpreters, community health workers and data analysts to complete the Mfangano Health Baseline Study regarding disease, HIV risk, nutrition, income and water security within the Ekialo Kiona catchment area
  • Officially opened the Ekialo Kiona Center for EK Members! EK Members now register through individualized HIV Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) sessions with OHR's onsite VCT counselors
  • Established a streamlined referral and follow-up system for HIV/AIDS care and treatment, in partnership with UCSF Family AIDS Care and Education Services
  • Celebrated our 3rdAnnual World AIDS Day
  • Installed a 300Watt solar system, 3 Inveneo low-power workstations, with a Safaricom Internet Router to successfully provide free internet access to all EK Members
  • Became the leading VCT center in enrollment for all of Suba District within the first 3 months of operation

What a year! To date we have over 700 members, and EK is currently the only active stand-alone VCT center on Mfangano Island. Special thanks to all our partners and all of you for continuing to make our mission possible.

Sisterhood Exchange Group
Sisterhood Exchange Group



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Organization Information

Organic Health Response

Location: Glenwood Springs, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Organic Health Response
Project Leader:
Rose Carr
Public Relations Coordinator, Organic Health Response
San Francisco, CA United States

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