OHR kicks off new reproductive health program to enhance sexual-decision making power among adolescent girls


Through your generous #GivingTuesday support, next month, OHR will kick off our new reproductive health pilot program for adolescent girls on Mfangano Island! Starting in January, our team will train 10 peer mentors to support 150 adolescent girls, ages 10-14, through a 3-month curriculum focused on topics such as adolescence and the life cycle, HIV and STIs, sexual-decision making, and goal-setting and leadership skills. This pilot will utilize soccer as a tool to create safe spaces for young girls to gather, have fun, and discuss topics that directly impact their lives. Girls will be organized into soccer teams for weekly play and meetings, and will come together during week-long tournament camps for in-depth training, during their school break in August. OHR will provide ongoing reproductive health services to all participants as well as “youth-friendly” outreach campaigns to increase access to all adolescent girls in the community.

With the help of 97 donors contributing $6,500 during #GivingTuesday last November, and a $15,000 grant award from the International Foundation, we have secured required equipment, supplies and sanitary towel kits to pilot this program from January – June 2018. In addition, we plan to partner with Coaches Across Continents, a global leader in sport for social change, to  build the capacity of our mentors, coaches and referees.

We look forward to sharing our process post program kick-off!

EK Kenya Director makes first trip to the U.S!

OHR Co-founder and Kenya Director, Richard Magerenge, makes first trip to the U.S.!

We were more than thrilled to finally share our community with Richard!

We were more than thrilled to finally share our community with Richard!

After eight years of dedicated cross-continental collaboration, Richard Magerenge, co-founder and executive director of Organic Health’s Response’s Ekialo Kiona Center on Mfangano Island, made a highly-anticipated inaugural visit to the United States – and his first trip outside of Africa!

From March 15 to April 7, Richard embarked on an ambitious three-week tour of Minnesota, California and Colorado, where he had an opportunity to meet with several of OHR’s friends, board members, funders, partners, and potential collaborators.

Richard began his trip in Minneapolis, where he was unsurprisingly welcomed by cold weather, but he learned fast – and bundled up quickly! Together with Kelsi Hines, executive director, and Chas Salmen, fellow co-founder and board president, Richard gave a presentation to the Minnesota International Nonprofit Network. He also helped finalized an exciting new academic partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Global Health and Responsibility and Department of Family of Medicine, where Chas will be joining the faculty later this year. Before departing, Richard also partook in local St. Patrick’s Day festivities and experienced the Midwest-Scandinavian tradition of sauna!

OHR Board Retreat in San Francisco!

OHR Board Retreat in San Francisco!

Richard then made his way westward to San Francisco. As a founding board member of the Rotary Club of Mbita-Mfangano, Richard had the opportunity to mingle with fellow Rotarians at Clubs in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Longtime partners at Microclinics International and Craig Newmark of the Craigslist Charitable Fund also met with Richard after several years of working together from afar We also reconnected with our academic roots at the University of California – San Francisco, where Richard spoke to graduate students in the Masters of Global Health Science Program. After a busy week of meetings, we also made sure to schedule in some time for some much needed r & r after a board retreat! Richard thoroughly enjoyed hearing live chamber music for the first time at a concert in the home of our board member, Lily Muldoon. We then concluded this leg of the trip with a scenic boat tour of the San Francisco Bay, captained by co-founder and board member, Adam Sewall.

Before returning to Kenya, Richard head to Colorado, where he met up with Bicycles for Humanity, an organization that sources our bike shop on Mfangano Island, and the leaders of Rotary Clubs in Denver, Centennial and Fort Collins who have supported us over the past eight years. With the help of the greater Rotary of Colorado, OHR has been able to build the Ekialo Kiona “EK” Center and the EK demonstration farm, and purchase the engine to the first ambulance boat for the region.

Richard and his staff have graciously hosted countless researchers, students and volunteers from abroad over the years, and we were thrilled to finally return the favor! It was surreal to see Richard on American soil – and look forward to seeing him stateside again.


When human illness rises, the environment suffers, too.








April 3, 2017 – Berkeley News

When human illness rises, the environment suffers, too.

We are excited to share this research led by OHR member, Katie Fiorella, examining links between human and ecosystem health, to be published this week in PNAS.

Thanks to Erin MilnerChas SalmenMatt HickeyBrian Mattah, Dan Omollo, Abdi Odhiambo, Elizabeth Bukusi, Lia Fernald, and Justin Brashares for their hard work on this research!


Bay Area Happy Hour!

Please welcome Richard Magarenge, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Organic Health’s Response’s Ekialo Kiona Center on Mfangano Island, in his first ever visit to the United States!

After 8 years of dedicated cross-continental collaboration, Richard is embarking on an ambitious and exciting American tour that is taking him to three different timezones in Minnesota, Colorado and California!

Now on to the second leg of his visit, Richard joins us in the Bay Area next week with Co-Founder and Board President, Chas Salmen, and the Executive Director of our US office, Kelsi Hines.

Organic Health Response has built a strong community of supporters in the Bay Area region over the years, and we would love to have the opportunity to thank you and say hello!

Please join the leaders of Organic Health Response for a happy hour on Thursday, March 30 at 5:30 pm at The European (490 Geary Street) near the Powell Street BART station in San Francisco.

We hope to see you there!

MINN Talk & Tour

Wednesday, March 22 from 6:00-8:00pm
Impact Hub MSP, 250 3rd Ave N #550, Mpls, MN

Join Minnesota International Nonprofit Network (MINN) for a Talk and Tour of Organic Health Response (OHR) to get an in-depth look at the organization in a small group setting. The agenda includes an overview of the organization by Richard Magerenge, Co-Founder and Kenya Country Director, and Kelsi Hines, Executive Director, as well as a private tour of their space at Impact Hub MSP.  Register here on the MINN Eventbrite invitation!

Richard Magerenge is a Co-Founder and current Kenya Country Director of OHR. Richard will be sharing his inspiring story of growing up on Mfangano Island, Kenya, losing both of his parents to HIV/AIDS, becoming a trusted community leader, getting his family farm registered on the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms registry, and ultimately co-founding OHR with Chas Salmen who was a visiting medical student exploring sources of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Western Kenya. OHR has now become a truly transformative community-led health and sustainability organization that serves Mfangano communities in Kenya. Click here to read Richard’s full story.

*The MINN Talk and Tour (T&T) is an opportunity for MINN members to gain first-hand knowledge of the workings of international NGOs in the state. The T&T agenda is simple. Employees of an international NGO offer a private tour of their facility and then field questions about their organization’s work and their office culture. While MINN T&Ts are free and open to MINN Members, space is limited, and registration is required. Please consider joining the hundreds of international professionals who already have a MINN membership. Click here to join. If you have questions regarding your membership write us at membership [at] minnesotangos [dot] org.


There will be a networking opportunity following the Talk and Tour at Modist Brewing starting at 7pm. The Modist Brewing event is open to all who would like to network with the MINN community and OHR staff!


You did it! The generosity of #GivingTuesday






100 at-risk girls now have access to reproductive health education!

Your generosity sent us above and beyond our #GivingTuesday goal! The $5,620 raised will allow us to impact over 100 young girls with the reproductive health education and services they deserve. We are so grateful for your support, thank you!


Why adolescent girls?

Your generosity will help educate and protect this at-risk population from HIV/AIDS, STIs, and teen pregnancy.

While the number of HIV/AIDS cases has gone down significantly in the United States, the epidemic continues in western Kenya. Mfangano Island, located in Lake Victoria, has one of the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa – and women are disproportionately affected by the virus. A waning commercial fishing industry has devastated the island’s public health, environment and economy, leaving 30% of residents infected at a rate nearly 6 times the national average.

Giving adolescent girls access to reproductive healthcare and education is essential to winning this fight. Yet women’s access to these critical services are under attack in the U.S. and in many places around the world. It’s becoming harder for women to attain the knowledge and resources they need to to make healthy reproductive and sexual health decisions.


Your #GivingTuesday support will enable Organic Health Response to:

  • Support staff and facilities to educate 8 teams of 100 adolescent girls with culturally-appropriate, reproductive health education who reside on Mfangano Island
  • Purchase and distribute 100 Days for Girls Washable Hygiene Kits, which facilitate menstrual hygiene management for up to 3 years
  • Fund a 4-day workshop that will train 3 peer mentors who specialize in women’s issues
  • Provide access to reproductive health services through youth-friendly outreach events that address HIV/AIDS and STDs, pregnancy, and domestic abuse

Community-based interventions and programs give participating girls enhanced decision-making power to stay in school, protect their health, and chose when to marry and conceive. We anticipate higher rates of school attendance, lower rates of teen pregnancies and HIV/STD infections, and fewer child marriages.

Check back for our 2017 roll-out!


Retro Bike Shop Makes Impact


This month, the Ekialo Kiona Center received its fourth shipment of 375 mountain bicycles from our partner Bicycles for Humanity-Colorado. After 3 months of transit and 6 months clearing the onerous port of Mombasa, the bikes finally arrived on Mfangano shores! For the past 4 years bicycles have been used to incentive residents to learn their HIV status. Check out this cool video by B4H about how they are used for social impact.  In 2017, the Ekialo Kiona Center will use the fourth shipment not only to improve knowledge of HIV but to generate sustainable, in-country revenue for the organization. EK Staff will use the shipping container and turn it into a retro satellite bike shop on Kenya’s mainland.


Though HIV testing will not be required to purchase these bicycles (as it is at the Ekialo Kiona Center), this shipment will be sold at full retail price. Revenue generated will put our Kenyan staff in charge of owning and generating in-country revenue to support services at the Ekialo Kiona Center. Moving forward, bike shipments will be split between making social impact on Mfangano through HIV testing, and generating income through our satellite shop for our center.

Next time you travel through Mbita, Kenya, stop at our new bike shop!

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Together, We Are Making Mfangano Green Again!

Kanaykla seedling collage

In May, 2,500 native tree seedlings were distributed during the rains to kanyakla groups across the island, in efforts to reforest Mfangano. Every tree was followed up during group kanyakla sessions, after 2 weeks and 4 months. Our philosophy doesn’t stop just at planting. Community members are educated on planting and care instructions as well as the social, environmental and financial value of trees, specifically those native, on the Mfangano community health ecosystem. Plant now – harvest in the future! Community members learn about different types of trees and ways to financial invest now to pay for school fees and health care costs in the future.

During the distribution of seedlings in May, EK Reforestation Officer, Nicholas Olambo, pointed to the hillsides of Mfangano. “They are now green. It is difficult to find someone clear cutting up on those steep slopes. Our message is getting out and people keep coming back for more trees. As soon as it rains, you hear, Olambo where can I get more tree seedlings!?. Those who are planting up high are now examples of what not to do. They are being reported and we are working with the government to ensure consequences are given. At the same time we must find other activities for them to do. It is difficult. But we are going somewhere.”

Nicholas Olambo along with EK Nutritionist Niva Ligawa will follow-up with each tree. Together they are also identifying talented farmers in the area to serve as peer mentors to other farmers in their region. Their goal is to create a network of peers on Mfangano, create awareness around the importance of re-foresting our hillsides while creating sustainable farming practices around the lake. Together, we are making Mfangano green again!

Group Cohesion, HIV Stigma and Care and Treatment

How do we overcome stigma? How do we ensure we all know our status? How can we better care for one another? With support from Microclinics International, the Segal Family Foundation and our supporters around the world, Organic Health Response is exploring these exact questions through our Kanyakla Program.

On Mfangano Island, deep stigma of HIV remains a major obstacle to accessing and remaining in care and treatment for island residents. Even though community members today will say HIV stigma on the island is nowhere near where it was 10 years ago, it continues to block open discussions, effective actions and community solidarity towards reducing the overwhelming rates of HIV – 30% around the lake shores, almost five times higher than the national average.

By the end of July over 450 community members will have disclosed their HIV status to their self-chosen teammates through OHR’s Kanyakla Program. The word for “team” in the local Dhuluo language, “kanyakla” works by organizing small groups of 5-15 people – neighbors, friends, church members, futbol teams – and supporting them through an 8-session curriculum on HIV to better their own health and the health of their kanyakla group. After learning together, each group will take a collective leap of faith in the strength of their commitment to one another and will participate in a group HIV status disclosure session. By being a fully transparent about one another’s HIV status, these groups will become a powerful platform for helping support those who are in need of HIV treatment.

The kanyakla program was rigorously tested during a pilot study from 2011 to 2013 (read the results in this scientific publication). During this evaluation we determined that the intervention reduced drop out of HIV care by 50%. A full randomized control trial (RCT) is currently underway to assess the impact of the kanyakla intervention on improved HIV treatment literacy, retained engagement in HIV care and treatment, reduced stigma and better social support from the community.

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