Over five years ago, a group of Mfanganoans gathered around a tree to discuss the possibility of high speed internet and a health-focused community center. While the community center opened its doors in 2010, OHR can now officially offer high speed Internet to its members, provided through the recently completed solar and wind powered tower atop Soklo mountain! Members are now able to browse, read, and research as they please, even Skyping friends and former WWOOFers across the globe.
The construction of the tower was a collaborative effort by the Ekialo Kiona Sustainable Design Guild, Acces: Energy, Invenio, and volunteer engineers Graham Tattersall and Forrest Lowell. Not only does the tower power EK’s high speed Internet, but the tower will power the Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Station as well, making EK Radio the first wind-powered station across Africa.
Questions, comments, or feedback on our new tower and high speed Internet? “Like” us on Facebook or write on the Organic Health Response Facebook wall. Members and staff in Kenya will speedily view your likes, comments, and, hey, why your video comments too!
Led by OHR’s Sustainable Design and Technology Coordinator Matthew Tierney, Aquaponics is swiming forward. OHR received UC-Berkeley’s Big Ideas Award in 2011 for the OHR Aquaponics pilot. Jonathan Dessi-Olive of Penn State and Amanda Bednarz of the University of Oregon join Matthew and the EK Sustainable Design Guild to construct the Aqauponics system and conduct trainings. Follow their progress on this innovative new system through Amanda or Matthew’s blog!
The Ekialo Kiona Bike Shop has opened with over 126 bicycles already tunes and distributed! Community members have eyed the hundreds of bikes transported in four separate boats to Mfangano this past April and May, stopping by the EK Center to study the different models and pick favorites. From road to mountain bikes, from Mondales to Treks, from red to black, silver, green, or pink and tasseled, the bikes have inspired new waves of first-time bicyclists and eased Mfangano transport, especially important for those in need of healthcare or for community health workers checking in on neighbors unable to make it the clinic.
World Bicycle Relief, based in Kisumu, visited Ekialo Kiona to train eight individuals across Mfangano East in bicycle repair. Three of those newly trained individuals now operate the EK Bike Shop, repair donated bikes, and teach others how to ride in what is fast becoming a steady income-generating operation.
A big thank you to Bicycles for Humanity for generously donating these bikes. The wheel are rolling!
The Mfangano Health Net or Micro-Clinic Program, has completed session 8 of the 12-session, 6-month curriculum! This session focused on interactions between herb use and ARVs, and included a unique panel discussion with local nurses and traditional herbalists. Many Mfanganoans commonly see herbalists before of while consulting a nurse for any ailment, including HIV/AIDS. Bringing Suba herbalists into this discussion is crucial to the health of Lake Victoria, and is the first step to integrating herbalists into local clinics and dispensary services. EK will continue addressing barriers between traditional herbalists and hospital staff with Part II of the panel discussion, and will collaborate with local healers as we develop the EK Emergency Boat and Clinic.
The EK Organic Farm team recently trained ten local farmers on organic farming methods, techniques, and resources in a 3-day seminar, hosted on-site at the EK Demonstration Farm. Led by Agriculture Coordinator Joel Oguta and Field Officer Nicholas Olambo, the seminar outlined the importance of oranic farming and provided hands-on instruction for interested agriculturalists. Increasing drought and limited resources have inspired many farmers to take initiative, explore alternative techniques, and revisit traditional organic farming practices.
The EK Farm team continues to maintain the EK Demonstration Farm, works closely with local resorts to provide organic produce, regularly provides one-hour farming lessons, and connects a network of local farmers to share information and innovation. Interested in learning more? “Contact” us!
Following a special EK Couples Seminar, led by volunteer Jim Russell and EK’s VCT counselors Jane Odindo and Theresa Alingo, EK hosted its first couple’s raffle! All couples voluntarily tested and counseled for HIV together were entered into a raffle – with an overnight excursion on the mainland as the grand prize. Over 76 couples entered, winning dish sets, water drums, farming tools, and tree seedlings in one of EK’s best attended events. While EK membership is rising, couples are rarely tested together and discordant couples are a common local reality. The seminar and raffle successfully promoted the benefits to joint VCT sessions, as well as communication and healthy habits in relationships.
Update 34: Ekialo Kiona hosts first annual staff retreat!
In the last year, Ekialo Kiona has nearly doubled its staff. These invaluable players continue to work everyday to keep the center open and improve community health on Mfangano. To celebrate, EK staff and volunteers enjoyed the first annual Staff Retreat on neighboring Takawiri Island!
After a morning of wiffle ball, netball, soccer, frisbee, swimming, and dancing, staff led and participated in communication, teamwork, and visioning exercises. EK Executive Director Richard Magerenge and OHR Director Chas Salmen inspired with speeches as we revisited the last five years and looked to the future.
Thank you to our ever-growing and ever-committed Ekialo Kiona Center team. With 1,918 members, three current research studies, high-speed internet, over 400 micro-clinic participants, and much more, EK is poised to build with its success and home-grow a brighter, health future for the shores of Lake Victoria. And we couldn’t do it without such dedicated staff.
From Glenwood Springs, CO to Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, the 2012 Mother’s Day Mile was a racing success! While this was the thirteenth annual race in Glenwood Springs, Ekialo Kiona members joined the run for the influential women in their lives in this first OHR solidarity event. Hosted by the Sisterhood Exchange Program (SEP), men, children, mothers, and grandmothers made the 1.5 km, cheered on by one another, music, Mother’s Day medals provided by our friends in Colorado, tree seedlings, and bags and picture frames specially made by SEP.
Local and visiting volunteers were ready with first aid, water, and shade for over 50 registrants, with each and every runner aware of their HIV status before the event. Across the globe, participants in Glenwood Springs received aprons, jewelry, table runners, and other prizes also made by SEP. Special thanks to all that helped to organize the successful sister events—and to all the women who continually carry us.
The 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. For more information on the women’s group, their partners, and their crafts, send us a note!
Friday, May 18th our OHR team in Portland, Maine held a highly successful fundraiser for our Ekialo Kiona scholarship fund. Our ambitions were high: we were to throw joint silent auction/variety show with only three weeks of planning beforehand. We pulled it off and are thrilled to report that our fundraiser was a roaring success. We raised over 4,000 dollars, turned on hundreds of Portland community members to the work of OHR, and had a really great night.
Here’s how our evening went: The venue was Geno’s, a self-described rock club, and not exactly where you’d imagine a benefit. But as the Portland Phoenix wrote in our spotlight event listing, “Is anybody else noticing how flexible and thoughtful Geno’s is getting with their programming? They’re not shelving the power-metal shows, they’re just adding experimental theater, circus acts, and benefits for progressive nongovernmental organizations”, and on May 18th that benefit was for us! We started at five with food from some fabulous local chefs (along with donated cupcakes) and our auction. With items donated from about one hundred local businesses, we had something for everyone—we auctioned tattoos, jewelry, brunch, flowers, candy undergarments and excel workshops, even a stuffed alien tentacle. Early in the night we were honored to have Mat from the Frannie Peabody center (Portland’s only HIV treatment center) give a talk about their services followed by Adam and Ana who, befuddled by cables, spoke about OHR ultimately without PowerPoint. At nine the frantic work of our auction volunteers was done and the entertainment began. Belly dance, hip hop, folk, spoken word, and so much more, with 16 acts the entertainment was among the best Portland has ever seen together in one night. We had so much going on that at 1am we sadly had to cut a couple of burlesque numbers with the closing of the bar. What a night!
We give so many thanks to all of the performers, chefs, volunteers, Geno’s staff, and businesses who donated to our auction. Special thanks to Sheila and Steve Sewall for their tireless work on the silent auction, promotion, and setup. Brett Faulkner, our stage manager, booking agent, and helper extraordinaire, who first got involved when sitting at a coffee shop and overheard Ana talking about the event, he chirped in, “I love planning fundraisers!”, and the rest is history. Maggie Zall for volunteering to MC a day before the event. Thanks to Adam and Ana who did the rest. We love you Portland and we can’t wait to see you at next year’s fundraiser!
Recent OHR volunteer, Emily Lowery, helped us kick-start a much needed Reforestation campaign as part of a capstone project for her completion of a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture. Her article published in Friends of Africa Magazine offers a window into our quickly moving, community-driven reforestation program! We celebrated our second annual Earth Day Event on April 22, calling Mfangano residents to attention (truly … the loud speaker was LOUD and reaching far distances!) regarding this critical issue as an estimated 10% of the forest remains. The Ministry of Forestry graced the event with speeches that truly touched the hearts and memories of the Suba people and humbly gave OHR nearly 2000 tree seedlings. Community members have elected a Reforestation Committee to move forward on the first and most complicated step, Gazettement – establishing areas to be conserved and preserved.
Home to high risk home deliveries, active children around open fires, deadly snakes and endemic infectious tropical disease, emergency health services are virtually non-existent on Mfangano Island. This Spring, the Organic Health Response is seeding an Emergency Health solution!
A local Mfangano Island boat owner jumpstarted our efforts through a generous donation of a 30ft wooden boat and 40mp outboard motor. The Ekialo Kiona team sprung into action, giving the craft a fresh coat of paint, making a few repairs, and outfitting it for patient transport. With help from a key donation from the Durrett family of Glenwood Springs, CO, we’re up and running with the region’s first ambulance boat!
The Ekialo Kiona Center is now ready to begin coordinating urgent care for the remote island communities we serve. Six Mfangano residents have been recruited to form the EK Emergency Team and are getting pumped for a weeklong Wilderness Medicine training near Mt. Kenya in mid-May, thanks to donations and coordination from Katie Fiorella and Wild Med.
Big things on the horizon for the EK Emergency Project this summer … we’ll be training 400+ Mfangano residents in basic first aid & emergency assessment, sending our team for additional EMS training, and researching regional health resources. Special thanks to the inspiring students at Glenwood Springs High School, who are using their creativity and energy to help us raise critical funds to keep the emergency boat running and to allow Kenyans to get the care they need, when they need. Through your ideas and donations, we hope you’ll join us in this innovative life-saving effort!