Richard has been the Executive Director of the Ekialo Kiona Center since its inception in 2007. Richard is a trained VCT Counselor and talented organic farmer. He oversees all programs out of the EK, monitors daily activities within the center, directs finance and accounts, and manages the EK staff. Richard also coordinates with the Kenyan Government and other NGOs in the region, as well as partners and funders of OHR.
How did the Ekialo Kiona Center come to be?
OHR and subsequently the EK Center came to be after Joel and I began posting on the WOOF website about the organic farm we had started. Soon after Lauren Friedman and Adam Sewall came to the island and they met Chas Salmen. Having been trained as a VCT counselor, I at first just wanted to see free services come to Mfangano East a couple of days a week. Chas developed ideas for a needs assessment and what could be done in the community. The ideas began to grow, Joel donated land for the center – a library and a few computers were given – but Chas had the dream of developing something permanent. And look, now we have this huge building!
Do you enjoy your job at EK?
Yes, very much! It is in my heart, something I am very proud of and will do whatever it takes to make this thing succeed. It is our home!
Why is EK different from other community centers and VCT programs?
We are unique because we work as a club – Cyber VCT isn’t happening anywhere else! While it is still voluntary, people now feel they SHOULD know their status. People in the community trust us and our vow of confidentiality. Having such trust is not easy to have; people in other communities don’t have this kind of trust.
What is one thing people should know about EK?
How we operate in terms of addressing HIV and also that Cyber VCT is something new and unique – everyone should become a member! Its a club! Remember, EK is almost run entirely by people FROM Mfangano!!