OHR Partners with Rotary to implement $35,000 Global Grant!

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Organic Health Response is excited announce our partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Mfangano Mbita and Fort Collins Breakfast in Colorado to implement a $35,000 Rotary International Global Grant! This grant will expand the proven Mfangano Health Network (“Kanyakla” program) to 70 new support groups, reaching 15 new villages in 2017-2018.

As the implementing partner, OHR will work hand in hand with the Rotarians from Mfangano Mbita to achieve the following objectives:

  • Mfangano Health Network _microclinicsCreate 70 new Kanyakla groups on Mfangano Island, providing access for 15 more villages to serve up an additional 20,000 people.
  • Engage 40 community health workers to facilitate group trainings of teams on critical maternal and reproductive health issues affecting this population.
  • Graduate Kanyakla groups through an 8-session curriculum on HIV.
  • Activate a comprehensive outreach, referral and monitoring system across all villages on Mfangano Island, Kenya.

Since 2012, The Rotary Club of Ft Collins Breakfast in Colorado has worked with Organic Health Response and community leaders n Mfangano Island to improve the lives of the community’s 26,000 residents. Ft. Collins Breakfast Rotary has supported the building of the 100% solar-powered Ekialo Kiona Center (OHR’s central hub), supplied the EK demonstration farm with irrigation and tools to educate the community on agriculture, and purchased an outboard motor for the EK Emergency Boat, which today has saved hundreds of lives in times of emergency. Most importantly, these Colorado Rotarians helped mentor and support local community leaders on Mfangano to successfully establish and register the Rotary Club of Mbita Mfangano in 2015.  In a little over 2 years this club has already proven itself to be an active change maker for the communities of Mfangano Island, initiating and completing successful sanitation, health, and mobility campaigns!

We are so thankful for the work of Rotarians around the world! A big thank you to all the Rotary Clubs throughout Colorado that are supporting this project.

For more information, please contact Robinson Okeyo at okeyojnr [at] gmail [dot] com.

Local Rotary Club of Mfangano Mbita

Local Rotary Club of Mfangano Mbita

Join our Campaign: “Mfangano Tomorrow!”

Organic Health Response is proud to launch the Mfangano Tomorrow” Campaign, which will secure capital to support sustainable infrastructure and operations in Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya for generations to come.

Our impact so far:

  • Since opening the doors of the Ekialo Kiona ‘EK’ Center in 2010, Organic Health Response (OHR) has grown to support over 5,000 EK Club members; membership is based on HIV/AIDS voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), which actively combats the social stigma of the disease.
  • OHR supplies the only high-speed broadband Internet connection to the 30,000 residents of Mfangano across the longest wi-fi link in East Africa.
  • EK FM Radio East Africa’s first wind-powered radio station, and one of the only stations in the region to broadcast in Suba, one of UNESCO’s critically endangered languages. Operated by local youth, over 200,000 listeners throughout Lake Victoria enjoy quality public health, environmental and cultural programming.

The work ahead:

  • Sustainable energy sits at the core of OHR’s mission: OHR has always maintained full energy independence through its solar and wind power systems.
  • The EK Center serves as a model for other rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that hope to integrate sustainable information communication technology (ICT) and energy into their way of life.
  • However, OHR’s outdated solar and wind systems are almost a decade old: a major upgrade and expansion of our facilities is needed to support valued community programs and services.
  • Our newly designed solar and ICT systems provide access and opportunities to a new generation of innovators in Kenya who can build a sustainable future for their community.
  • If we meet our goals, we can safely reinforce and retrofit our building and tower, as well as power our computer and radio networks without technical interruptions that impede our work.
  • The EK Center is fully reliant on funding from institutional and individual donors. We aim to raise capital to implement a business and income-generating strategy to allow EK to self-sustain core operations and salaries in 2019.

Projected budget = $100,000:

Solar power systems and equipment: $30,000
ICT Services and facilities upgrade: $20,000
Start-up Capital: $50,000

For more information, please contact Kelsi Hines at khines[at]organichealthresponse.org.

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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