Nourish UMN and OHR: Reforestation Program 2013

OHR volunteer, Mae Hanzlik, spent the summer on Mfangano as part of the Nourish group at the University of Minnesota. Mae talks about her experience this summer in a recent blog post.


Here’s a tidbit from her post:

“So, how’d you spend your summer?”

Those six words unleash a rush of emotion, passion and nostalgia for me after I spent this past summer on a little island in Kenya. Mfangano is an mountainous island on Lake Victoria. It is an island where there is limited electricity and only one dirt road that connects the small villages. Transportation is by foot, boat, bicycle or motorcycle. The citizens of the island live in basic mud homes with no running water. Additionally, the HIV/AIDS infection rate on the island is estimated to be over 30%, which is due to the culture of poverty where fish is traded for sex.

Read the full post here.

Also take a moment to view a short video explaining the project, here.


Highspeed Internet access is provided freely at the EK Center with the condition that all Internet users must check their HIV status every 6 months. The “Free WIFI for Mfangano” vision has been partly funded by the Craigslist Charitable Fund. Craig Newmark of Craigslist recently posted about the Organic Health Response on the Huffington Post Blog. Craig says, “This is real important stuff, and can help a lot of people out. More to come. I’d like to say that the sun never sets on the Nerdish Empire…” Check out the post here.



OHR’s Sisterhood Exchange Program hosted the 2nd annual Mother’s Day Mile on May 12th, honoring mothers from Mfangano Island to Colorado. Mfangano’s race had over 50 participants, 25 volunteers and hundreds of spectators watching women, men and children run cross the rocky finish line. The fastest woman finished the mile with a time of 6:39 and the fastest man – who was running barefoot on the rain-torn dirt road – sprinted through his mile with a time of 5:04. The community joined the participants at the awards ceremony at the Ekialo Kiona (EK) Center, which was emceed by EK’s youth radio team and accompanied by music, dancing, and chapati, rice and beans for all.

Mother's Day Mile in Colorado!

Mother’s Day Mile in Colorado!

Mother's Day Mile on Mfangano!

Mother’s Day Mile on Mfangano!

The day’s event resulted in 5 new community members becoming EK members, indicating that they now know their HIV status after undergoing a free test through OHR’s Voluntary Counseling and Testing program!

The Mother’s Day Mile was coordinated in conjunction with the Advocate Safehouse Project in Colorado, which hosted over 500 runners and 100 volunteers at their Mother’s Day Mile race on the same day in Glenwood Springs. Awards for both races were handmade by the Sisterhood Exchange Program artisan crafts group and Imani Workshop in Eldoret, serving to promote their talent and unique products. The two events, hosted simultaneously and in solidarity with each other, helped to fulfill the Sisterhood Exchange Program’s mission to connect women on Mfangano with their ‘sisters’ at Imani Workshop and in Western Colorado – creating a strong network of emotional support for women living with HIV.

Finish Line!

Finish Line!

Getting ready!

Getting ready!


Help Us Raise $10,000 to add 1,000W of Sustainable Power!

OHR staff and Access:Energy engineers install Wind/Solar Hybrid System on Soklo Mountain

OHR staff and Access:Energy engineers install Wind/Solar Hybrid System on Soklo Mountain

The Ekialo Kiona Center, OHR’s community-owned resource facility, is buzzing with activity this summer. Since opening in 2010, over 2,300 Mfangano residents have become Ekialo Kiona ‘members’ by undergoing HIV testing through our Cyber Voluntary Counseling and Testing program and new participants learn their HIV status everyday.

As members, the community can enjoy all of the Center’s features at no cost. The 10,000 square foot solar-powered facility features confidential mobile clinic rooms, Mfangano’s only Internet facility and Broadband computer lab with 17 low-watt PC’s and wireless Internet access, a radio studio, multiple workshop and seminar rooms, and a large open-air amphitheater

The impact of the Ekialo Kiona Center reaches beyond our membership base: many people visit the Center seeking connection to community resources and last month alone, our popular youth-run radio station received over 2,000 calls.

To ensure the Center is ‘powered up’ to support hundreds of new members, we need your help to raise $10,000 to add 1,000 Watts of sustainable power. Help the Ekialo Kiona Center offer free access to health information, support and technology by increasing our solar power capacity in partnership with Access:Energy and provide a voice for the people of Lake Victoria.

  • $50: 1MBS Highspeed Broadband fees for 1week, providing unlimited web access for all members
  • $150: 105Ah 12V Deep Cycle Solar Battery
  • $350: 240W Access:Energy Solar Panel
  • $1,000: 1200W Victron Pure Sine Wave AC Inverter.

With your contribution, OHR will expand our pioneering approach to HIV prevention, education and support for the people of Mfangano Island.



Each year, December 1st is celebrated throughout this planet as World AIDS Day. Last week was EK’s first annual World AIDS Day event at Kitawi Beach on Mfangano Island that was broadcast LIVE by our very own community radio station, EK FM. With a crowd of over 700 people, we gathered together to raise awareness, commemorate our friends who have passed on, celebrate the many victories in the fight to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS and look forward to the many challenges that lay ahead.

Update 46-1Update 46-2


In April 2012, 365 bicycles arrived on the shores of Lake Victoria. “A Piece of the Puzzle” by Mark Piquette of B4H is a short film that highlights the impact of bikes on Mfangano Island. Today, a majority of all 365 bikes have been dispursed throughout the community.

Watch this short film to see how bikes are lowering HIV prevalence while creating alternative transportation options for island residents.


Update 44Following a 3-day “Organic Farming Level I” seminar held at the EK Demonstration Farm last month, the organic farm team handed out it’s first certificates to 6 local farmers. The training outlined the importance of organic farming and provided hands-on instructions for interested agriculturalists.  Moving forward, this team of newly trained farmers will work in collaboration to experiment growing new crops in the community. They plan to form a cooperative in order to sell local organic produce to surrounding resorts in the area.


Update 43 Kanyakla GraduationOn Wednesday, September 19, 2012, over 500 participants representing 46 “microclinics” across Mfangano East, graduated from OHR-MCI’s Microclinic Pilot Program for HIV-affected communities.

Over the course of a 6-month curriculum, each self-chosen group completed trainings to empower themselves in topics from HIV pathology & adherence to the effects of deforestation on the health of their community, with a last session focused on group testing. Acting as living examples for Lake Victoria, these “microclinics” are among the first to disclose their HIV status to one another, building a one-of-a-kind social support network on an island with a 30% HIV infection rate, one of the highest on this planet.

Check back for more photos of the graduation ceremony and quotes from our microclinic participants!

Update 43-2Currently EK FM Radio is in testing phase and can be heard on FM 99.3! The official launching of the studio will take place in conjunction with World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at the EK Center at Kitawi Beach


Update 42If high-speed Internet was something, Mfangano can now boast of Africa’s first Wind-powered Suba Youth Radio Station, EK FM – “Turi alala,” we are together!

Mfangano residents have waited for over 4 years to hear their own voice over the radio. Completed last month, OHR teamed up with Nepalese Engineer, Pawan Prakash to install a 500 watt FM transmitter and basic studio, powered completely by wind-power (thanks to all those at Access:Energy who made that possible!).

This is Lake Victoria’s first Suba community radio. With only 112,000 Suba speakers remaining, this radio broadcasts to over 80-km away, covering not only Mfangano Island but neighboring Suba-speaking communities in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. This is also a for youth, by youth radio, giving Suba youth a platform to share their voice across the lake. With little access to local and relevant news and information, EK’s Suba Youth Radio will disseminate community-driven programs centered around health, sustainable agriculture & fishing practices, Suba language & culture, and youth empowerment.


Update 41The new Ekialo Kiona Scholarship Program hosted its first community harambee, or fundraiser, at Kitawi Beach. Community members joined together to support the EK Scholarship Fund, raising money to send a select number of local students to school for the full duration of their secondary school education. In a community where 8 in 10 households cannot afford to send their children to school, this program has huge potential to change Mfangano’s education trends. Read more about the EK Scholarship Program!