$100,000 CAD Stars in Global Health Award to Improve Maternal Health

We are excited to announce the receipt of a $100,000 CAD Stars in Global Health Award to expand our Health Navigation model, funded by Grand Challenges Canada! This 18-month project will strengthen the emergency referral system for mothers and newborns on the remote island of Mfangano by establishing a durable pathway for healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries, and effective referrals. Beginning in April, this project will support community education for mothers, male partners and traditional birth attendants and will help us train 30 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to serve as “Health Navigators” during critical emergencies. Over the course of this project, we seek to improve maternal and newborn health, demonstrated by:
  • Increase in number of pregnancies with at least 4 ANC visits from 27% at baseline to 70% 
  • Increase in skilled birth attendance from 36% at baseline to 70% 
  • Improved access to emergency obstetric care, indicated by an average time of 120 minutes to reach care from the time symptoms present 
  • 70% births having a follow-up visit within 3 days 
  • Qualitative decrease in patient’s financial concerns caused by obstetric emergencies 
We are thankful for all of you who supported the pilot phase of this project, such as our Rotarian partners in Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley community, and look forward to the next 18-months of community implementation!
To learn more about Grand Challenges Canada and the Stars in Global Health Program, click here.

Kanyakla Expansion Study is Complete!

Over the past 5 years Organic Health Response-Ekialo Kiona has graduated over 100 “Kanyakla” groups from our innovative HIV microclinic curriculum on Mfangano. After a successful pilot in 2014, OHR designed a Randomized Control Trial to help us better assess the impact of this intervention on retention in HIV care and treatment adherence with “Kanyakla” groups across 4 islands in Mfangano Division. Our staff worked up and down to track 301 participants, and despite study delay due to 2017 election instability, we are excited to announce that data collection is complete!

Kanyakla Program

Glenwood Springs CO helps kick off “Mfangano Tomorrow!”

Co-Founder, Chas Salmen sharing OHR’s vision of a sustainable future for Mfangano Island.

Last week, two long-time supporters of Organic Health Response, Bruce and Jan Shugart, graciously opened their home in Glenwood Springs, CO to help us kick off the 2018 “Mfangano Tomorrow” Capital Campaign! Over the course of the evening, 25 friends and guests came together to learn more about the remote communities of Mfangano Island, Kenya and pitched in to support the vital growth of this community for generations to come. Together, this dedicated group raised over $10,850! 

Big thanks to Bruce and Jan for organizing the event, opening their home and helping OHR to grow our network! We are also grateful for the food provided, the beautiful kitenge bags made by Mfangano craftswoman Elida, and all of the new and old friends who shared the evening with us.

This is the first of many gatherings to support “Mfangano Tomorrow.” Stay tuned to help us secure a sustainable future for Mfangano Island, Kenya.

Guests gather in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Help save our radio this #givingtuesday!

In the spirit of giving thanks this holiday season, help get EK-FM Radio, a beloved community radio station in Mfangano Island, Kenya back on the air! To learn more and donate this #GivingTuesday, visit https://saveourradio.causevox.com/.

EK-FM Radio is a local community radio station that is operated by the Ekialo Kiona (“EK”) Center, in partnership with Organic Health Response, on Mfangano Island in western Kenya.

Sustained by wind and solar power and administered by local youth, EK FM Radio provides a popular and eclectic array of cultural, environmental, and public health programming to over 200,000 listeners along the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

The Problem:

In 2017, EK-FM Radio was forced to shut down indefinitely because of permanent hardware damages to the station’s transmitter that were caused by an electrical storm surge. Your donation will help the EK Center purchase an urgently needed FM stereo transmitter and related equipment.

The work of EK FM Radio is more critical than ever.

Radio is by far the dominant and most important mass medium in Africa. Community radio stations have the unique ability to connect isolated communities and disseminate critical information .

EK FM is the only radio station in the region to broadcast in Suba, an ancient Bantu language that came to Mfangano Island with its first inhabitants – Abacunta clans who escaped political persecution in Uganda over 15 generations ago.

Islanders lived in relative isolation until 1954, when a lucrative but invasive species of fish, the Nile perch, was introduced into Lake Victoria’s waters. A commercial fishing boom followed that decimating the region’s marine biodiversity, attracting thousands of workers from every corner of East Africa.

The industry eventually declined after the 1980s, devastating the island’s economy, environment and public health. Today, Mfangano has one of the most HIV-impacted populations on the planet, with a 30% infection rate that is 5 times higher than Kenya’s national average.

Since then, Mfangano Island has also suffered from widespread cultural erosion due to the school language policies and the influx of mainland Kenyans from other regions. Today, Suba is classified as a UNESCO endangered language.

Help us reach our goal of raising $5,000 today! Donate at www.saveourradio.causevox.com.

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

IMG_1619 (1)

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!