MFANGANO SUMMER 2010 UPDATE #1

I’m writing to you today on a cell phone modem and a solar charged laptop from the one and only official home of the Organic Health Response, the Ekialo Kiona Center at Kitawi Beach. I hope to provide semi-weekly updates over the course of the summer, so that all our supporters have a sense of the ways that their energy is contributing to our mission.
I’ve been back on the Island for one week and my cup is really overflowing.  Its wonderful to back among old friends, introducing our student volunteers from the University of California San Francisco to the Ekialo Kiona family, and getting down to business with a summer full of hard work, research and service.  Its very inspiring to see our vision materializing, and our ideas beginning to have a real impact in the lives of the families and people we’ve come to know and come to care for greatly. EK Center is now operational and the place is beautiful. Big, cool ferro-cement domes over the office, and high open ceilings with wind vents in the computer and seminar rooms.

The EK Ferro-Cement Crew has done a wonderful job (Thanks Gabby, Adam, Mike, Ochieng, and Sam!). We have not yet finished the roof over the VCT block, so our offices are serving for now as counseling and testing rooms.  Each day more and more members have been coming to join our Voluntary Counseling and  HIV Testing Club. To date we have over 350 Members. Each member joins by going through a specialized HIV Counseling and Testing session. I received unofficial news yesterday that we are currently the leading stand-alone VCT center in Suba District for monthly intake.  Not bad for our first month of operation! Last night about 200 of us piled into our hall to watch the World Cup final on satellite TV and our new projector. We rocked the house until midnight, and I’d say pretty much everyone was rooting for Spain.

We are still waiting for the arrival of our computers and solar panels. Expectations are really growing, the community is eager. I think once we have them installed our membership is really going to skyrocket. The community is so excited to be wired, and I really want our members to be able to start signing up for emails and corresponding with their friends in the US.  We’re being patient with our partners in Nairobi who are also working hard to bring the hardware and connectivity that we need out here on the Island.

I’ve been very encouraged to see all the Ekialo Kiona groups that remain active and dedicated to helping build solidarity and hope within their communities.  The EK Women’s Crafts Cooperative has been meeting each Friday, beading jewelry, recycling paper into journals and books, and showing an example to all of us on the possibilities of positive living.  The EK Organic Farm, coordinated by Joel Oguta, is going to begin making fence and irrigation improvements this month, and we’re designing a future nutrition program for HIV-affected families. The EK Youth Radio team has also been meeting each week, we’ve organized journalism clubs in the area secondary schools, and we look forward to going on air within the next year.

Lake Victoria remains cool and inviting, however the catch is significantly down this year. The Fisheries department is promoting fish farming very heavily and we’re making place to promote our own specialized version of aquaculture/agriculture designed by Matthew Tierney.  We’ll keep you posted.

We’re also very fortunate to have 8 medical, pharmacy, nursing, social work, and public health students from the University of California in San Francisco.  We’ve designed a community health baseline research study, in partnership with the Kenyan Medical Research Institute.  We’ve spent the last week training a group of 20 local research volunteers and staff who will work with us to complete the study. Its been a great workshop, the first official seminar series within the EK Seminar room.

That’s it for now from Lake Victoria.  Thanks again for all your encouragement and support, it really means a lot to us out here on Mfangano.
over and out from Kenya,

Chas Salmen