On October 6th, 2012 OHR was featured on Worldview: “Global Activism,” an NPR program from Chicago’s WBEZ. NPR hosted an hour-long discussion with Founder Chas Salmen and Program Coordinator Marco Salmen highlighting OHR’s continued work within the HIV-affected fishing communities of Lake Victoria, Kenya. The interview sheds light on the fascinating origins of the Suba people, the 1980s explosion of the Nile Perch fishing industry within the region, and the future of Lake Victoria.
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.
On August 17, 2011, Chas Salmen, the Founder and Director of OHR 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.
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.
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.
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 promosing 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!
Ampath and Imani have teamed up again with SEP for craft and business trainings. This week the women have expanded their jewelry product line, among other crafts, and will soon receive course completion certificates.
The ferro cement guild has also been so busy at EK center doing their construction and I had a brief meeting with them and they are very confident that they are ahead of schedule. By next week all the gables will be completed and all the palings and trashes will be on the roof.
Joel Oguta, OHR’s Agricultural Coordinator has been attending business training from Ampath. The farm is doing well, though it is a very dry season, however, soon the rains will come and the farm will recover from the shock from the heat, which has affected most plants. Joel has also been participating in the business trainings and said they will really help him on the farm.
Construction of the VCT wing has kicked off and in a few months time we will be having a new building at the center to host VCT, clinical activities for care and treatment, a small store and a Library. We appeal to anyone reading our website and is interested in donating a book or books to our library.
Craig Newmark of Craiglist featured the Organic Health Response on his February 1st post, stating:
“The folks at Organic Health Response are doing really good stuff, using IT and environmental sustainability on Mfangano Island in Western Kenya to work against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria.”
On 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.