World AIDS Day 2010

Update 14On December 1st, 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 (above), 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!


All of us at OHR would like to extend a personal thanks to Craig Newmark and the Craigslist Charitable Foundation for their generous contribution of $20,000 to the OHR-Inveneo Partnership to help us improve our computer lab and encourage HIV counseling and testing at the Ekialo Kiona Center on Mfangano Island.

Craig Newmark of Craiglist has also featured OHR on his December 6th blog.


In June, Organic Health Response officially opened the Ekialo Kiona Center for membership! Since opening, Ekialo Kiona has enrolled over 400 members, all of whom have gone for Voluntary Testing and Counseling.
Voluntary Counseling and Testing – World Cup Program:
The World Cup Program was a sounding success. In just a few months after opening our VCT program, OHR has tested over 400 individuals, more than any other Suba Disctrict VCT Clinic in this time period.  Ekialo Kiona Club members also enjoyed the opportunity to watch the World Cup with our new projector and satellite tv!

Research Project:
OHR is hosting a team of UCSF/UCB Global Health students and supporting a research project in Mfangano East. The student group has supported nine newly hired research staff members and OHR staff in learning research methods and how to carry out the upcoming household survey. The survey will assess community health and demographics, including income, food, and water security, HIV/AIDS knowledge, and social support. Both staff and community members look forward to getting started with the project and using the information to shape OHR’s programming.

With the help of a grant from the Rotary Foundation, our farmers are planning farm improvements and new programs! The increased support is allowing OHR’s organic farmers to prepare the farm for demonstration and to support broader community programs.
Grant Writing:
With the help of OHR Grant’s Coordinator, Hannah Graft, OHR hosted a grant-writing workshop in mid-July. Over 20 community members were trained on how to formulate a proposal, research grant opportunities online, and write a grant.

HIV+ Women’s Craft Group:
The craft group’s sewing, paper, and beadwork departments are going strong. The group is looking forward to additional training in sewing and will soon add a suite of apron designs to their repertoire!

Ekialo Kiona Radio:
The Ekialo Kiona Community Radio Committee is currently working to develop strong programming for EK’s radio station, to air sometime next year, focusing on positive health, environmental issues, and social solidarity, amoung other relevant topics. The committee has hosted several community events, including a hugely successful Earth Day, and several HIV awareness forums, and continues to meet regularly for journalism skill development workshops.

Sustainable Design Guild:
In addition to constructing the Ekialo Kiona sustainable building, the Sustainable Design Guild has led several ferro-cement training workships with local masons and a neighboring technical school.


Update 10 Sisterhood ExchangeThe Sisterhood Exchange Program connects HIV+ women of Mfangano Island, Kenya with local and global sister organizations to model “positive living”, increase social support, and train in entrepreneurial craft making.

Thanks to the support of individuals and organizations in western Colorado, the Sisterhood Exchange Program is off and running.  In just a couple weeks, Glenwood Springs resident Nancy Reinisch will travel to Mfangano Island to lead a crafts training workshop and connect the women of the Ekialo Kiona Crafts Cooperative with their sisters of the Advocate Safehouse Project.  She’ll be joined by members of the Imani Workshop.

For any other information or to order products from our local-global sister please contact Nancy Reinisch, SEP Liasion, at nrein [at] rof [dot] net. Donations to support the Sisterhood Exchange Program are welcomed and appreciated … Thanks!


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


The Ekialo Kiona Center officially opened on June 10, 2010 on Mfangano Island!  In celebration of the World Cup, we are featuring the World Cup Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) program for the next 5 weeks. With our new projector purchased with help from the Rotary Clubs in Kisumu, Ft. Collins, and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, OHR is providing big screen World Cup viewing to all members of the Ekialo Kiona Club. Members join this unique club by learning their own HIV-status through a specialized counseling and testing session with OHR’s newly hired VCT counselors. On our first day of counseling and testing we registered over 120 club members, a Mfangano Island record for a single day of VCT testing!  With our partners at the FAMILY AIDS Care and Education Services program, we are ensuring that all HIV-positive friends receive an appropriate and effective treatment.  The Ekialo Kiona vision is off to a great start thanks to the hard work of our ferro-cement construction crew, dedicated staff, and countless volunteers in the US and Kenya.  Special thanks to Lauren Friedman, Adam Sewall, and Richard Magerenge for their tireless efforts and steady teamwork to help OHR reach this important milestone.


Update 8-1OHR raised $1690 through a San Francisco Biodiesel Bus Party: On May 13th, 2010,  Forty medical, nursing and pharmacy students from UCSF rocked out around San Francisco in a Sustainable Party Bus. The bus was generously donated for the evening by our friend Jens-Peter Jungclaussen at Our close friends and OHR supporters Alex Neves and Steven Arevalo donated driving skills and refreshments (respectively), the event would not have been possible without them.  After touring SF hotspots including Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island, and Twin Peaks, the party concluded with a gathering at Finnegan’s Wake in Cole Valley,, where 20% of the bar tab for the night was donated directly to OHR by Finnegan’s Owner, Tom Frenkel. We’re very grateful for the support of our event sponsors, and the generosity of everyone on the bus! These funds will go directly to supporting the Ekialo Kiona World Cup Soccer program, providing Big Screen World Cup viewing at Kitawi Beach for all Mfangano Island residents who know their own HIV-status.

Organic Health Response raised $3578! at the 1st Annual OHR Oyster BBQ and Promises Auction:  On June 6th, 2010, OHR hosted the first annual OHR Oyster BBQ and Promises auction at Reverie Cafe in Cole Valley SF.  Four Hundred Sustainable Oysters and Champagne were donated by Reverie Owner, Roger Soudah.  Reverie Staff and OHR Friends, Samer, Jill, Jen, Elder, and Ezekial helped serve and greet over 100 guests. Guests dined outside and enjoyed live music perfomances by UCSF students. Ben Thomas and Joe Leech served as MC’s raising over $2200 through a Live Promises Auction featuring talents and skills including, archery and beer brewing lessons, homemade dinners, airplane rides, hand-knitted mittens, and original art, etc. donated by a wide range of OHR supporters. We want to thank all the auction donors and buyers–your contributions will go directly to supporting staff salaries at the Ekialo Kiona Center in Kenya.


(Otalora, Eduard Huard, Sivasantosh Chinnasamy Thiyagarajan, Ryan Schoop, Adam Salmen)

(Otalora, Eduard Huard, Sivasantosh Chinnasamy Thiyagarajan, Ryan Schoop, Adam Salmen)

60 of the world’s upcoming entrepreneurs from America, Europe, and Asia are working together with the Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP)  to uncover opportunities in global markets. In February, two students made presentation on Guerrilla Marketing (a new type of viral marketing, using organic means to advertise a msage) in Hangzhou, China.  This presentation morphed into a month long initiative to raise money and awareness for AIDS.  “We just saw the link” said Adam Salmen and Jared Worley.  “We wanted to show how synergies in business and society, on an organic level, can really impact the world. we realized that this is what OHR is doing, so we decided to wear it on our faces for the next month.” And that was the start of Million Mustache March…” that and I really wanted to challenge my Indian buddy Siva, who has a really mean mustache!”  added Adam.  The Million Mustache March not only helped masters students demonstrate Guerrilla Marketing to global entrepreneurs, but perpetuated that theme to help OHR fund the radio station on Mfangano Island which will provide a means for local Kenyans to market and raise awareness of their own issues. Many thanks to the “Million Mustache March” participants, Babson College and the GEP for your help in our cause.


Update hesperianWe met this cool group at a UCSF Global Health Conference.  They will be providing some innovative literature for the library in the Ekialo Kiona Center.
Look for OHR on their blog in the near future!

Hesperian is a non-profit publisher of books and newsletters for community-based health care. Their first book, Where There Is No Doctor, is considered one of the most accessible and widely used community health books in the world. Simply written and heavily illustrated, Hesperian books are designed so that people with little formal education can understand, apply and share health information. Developed collaboratively with health workers and community members from around the world, their books and newsletters address the underlying social, political, and economic causes of poor health and suggest ways groups can organize to improve health conditions in their communities.


EK Ferro-Cement Crew

EK Ferro-Cement Crew

If you’ve ever been to Kenya (some may accurately generalize – anywhere in Africa), you know that time is rarely of the essence.  When you plan to meet a friend at 1pm, you know never to show up punctually at 1pm because you WILL wait anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours for your friend to finally arrive.
In 2008, when we set our building completion date for December 1st, 2009 – in celebration of World AIDS Day – we knew we were setting ourselves up for a challenge.  We gave ourselves 1 full year to design and build a solar powered community center … on a remote island in the middle of Lake Victoria, with no electricity, no vehicles, and a 3-hour wooden ferryboat ride between the mainland and our site at Kitawi Beach on Mfangano Island. We also decided to build this center as from our community—no outside contracting firms… We decided to build the EK center from local designs, with local sand and stones, with 100% local labor, and through local leadership.

EK Center Nearly Finished

EK Center Nearly Finished

Back in 2008, Adam Sewall, one our Kenya-based construction crew leaders and OHR founders, had highly recommended using an eco-friendly yet extremely durable building technique using ferro-cement.  Its economical advantages and sustainable characteristics made it a desirable option for our vision of building – in its broadest sense – a long-lasting, ecologically sound, community owned and operated, public education and support center for the people of mfangano.
Learning the skill seemed to be invaluable to the islanders as a way to build stronger structures with less material. Ferro-cement took the cake and we all jumped aboard. Before we knew it, ferroism had taken over and we were all eating off of ferro-cement forks and wearing ferro-cement shoes.
So far, we’ve encountered only a few bumps along the way.  Designed, built, and managed almost entirely by Kenyans, we are extremely proud of our work thus far. We continue to work hard to complete the roof, windows, doors, and interior details.

If you happen to be in the area (Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya) stop in for a tour of the building, a game of football, and most importantly, a warm welcome. Our next steps of interior set-up and program implementation will begin in the Spring of 2010.