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!
Mfangano can now boast of it’s first-ever wind turbine. Last week, the OHR crew worked alongside Dr. Sam Duby and his team from Access:Energy to install a hybrid wind + solar power system on top Soklo Mountain on Mfangano Island.
During 4 hardworking days this crew completed a challenging install amidst several setbacks in a very remote setting. All equipment, including masts, turbines, props, batteries, panels, racks, tools and more, were hiked up the mountain by hand and back in serious muddy conditions. With determination and skill the 1kw wind turbine was successfully erected and connected to the 220w solar paneling and batteries. Power is up and there is a lot of it!
Next month our friends from Inveneo and Byce Broadcast will join us on Mfangano to install a 70-km broadband Internet connection as well as the EK Radio transmission system. This turbine will power each of these systems, making EK Radio sub-Saharan’s first-ever wind powered radio!
A huge thanks to Sam Duby and his team. Access:Energy, a sustainable energy collective based in Kisumu, works to design, locally source and manufacture, and install appropriate energy services to rural households throughout East Africa. Without access to grid electricity, Access:Energy’s award-winning Heron Wind Turbine provides many rural communities renewable energy that is reliable, safe and cheap.
Ekialo Kiona has successfully erected a 56-foot communications mast near the top of Soklo Mountain on Mfangano Island. This mast was designed, welded, transported, constructed, and safely grounded entirely by hand thanks to the tireless efforts of the EK Sustainable Design Guild, dozens of volunteers from Soklo community, and our international team of engineers including Forrest Lowell, Graham Tattersall, and Tyler Hutchinson.
This communications mast will relay high-speed internet to the island from Kisumu, 70-km to the Northeast, as well as serve as the FM Broadcast Transmitter for the Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Station. Now that the mast is visible on our mountain skyline, EK has been receiving excited congratulations from community members and local leaders. Thanks to everyone who has helped us achieve this important step.
On November 18, 2011, Glenwood Springs, Colorado was the location of a successful fundraiser for the Sisterhood Exchange Program. Nancy Reinisch, the mama of OHR Executive Director, Chas Salmen, turned her house into an all-day market and showcased products made by the Sisterhood Exchange Program of Mfangano Island and the Imani Workshop of Eldoret, Kenya.
Friends and family were treated to a visual feast of table after table of over 125 aprons hand-delivered from the island. The SEP women and men tailored and beaded the aprons on the treadle sewing machines donated by the women of the Roaring Fork Valley, CO. The different “sister” apron styles are named after three native languages spoken on the island. Shoppers could buy a short “Dada Apron” (Swahili for sister), a beaded, medium-sized “Nyako Apron” (Luo for sister), or a long and beaded “Omwala Apron” (Suba for sister). Each apron was crafted by the SEP with a labor of love and no two were alike. Each apron came with its own “her-story card” and the mission of the SEP.
In another part of the “market,” a table was filled with jewelry and unique crafts hand made by the SEP. Beautiful beaded bracelets, necklaces, earrings, stuffed dolls, accessory kits, and bags decorated the table. Special handmade mama and baby African dolls were a popular gift!
Over 75 people shopped at the open house and together they raised over $1700 for the HIV+ women and men of the Sisterhood Exchange Program. These funds guarantee that the women and men will continue to have a fair-trade income through the SEP cooperative. And more importantly, it guarantees that they get a chance to support each other through the stigma and challenges of “living positively” with HIV.
To make a donation to the SEP Program click here. To place an order for aprons please contact Nancy Reinisch, SEP Liason at nrein [at] rof [dot] net.
In honor of World AIDS Day, OHR organized the fourth annual World AIDS Day celebration on the island. This year, the communities of Mfangano participated in the island’s first-ever road race! Over 50 residents registered to run, each knowing their HIV status before the kick-off. The race started at EK’s opening gates, headed towards the neighboring village of Sena and back again, depending on the leg: 10K or 5K.
In a Denver warehouse on December 3rd, a gang of bikers, OHR supporters and a slew of friends will assemble a holiday package for Mfangano Island: 400 mountain bicycles! Thanks to Bicycles for Humanity – Colorado a crate loaded with 400 bikes will ship from USA to Kenya in mid-December.
Have an extra hand?
Come join the bike load-up on Dec. 3rd!
When: Sat. Dec. 3rd, 10-2pm
Where: B4H HQ-1100 E 73rd Ave, Unit J, Denver, CO
What to Bring: Positive vibes, gloves, pedal wrench and allen key set if available!
Questions, please call B4H Director Josh Pace at 415.717.2771
Once this package hits Mfangano in January, the 400 bicycles and matching helmets will be distributed from the EK’s first-ever bike shop operated out of the Ekialo Kiona Center.
As an EK business, the bike shop will participate in the EK “post-test club,” offering EK Members the opportunity to purchase mountain bicycles at an extremely discounted rate. The EK Bike Shop will also provide bike repair services for the community, as well as offer free basic bike maintenance trainings to any EK Member.
On October 6th, 2012 OHR was featured on Worldview: “Global Activism,” an NPR program from Chicago’s WBEZ. NPR hosted an hour-long discussion with Founder Chas Salmen and Program Coordinator Marco Salmen highlighting OHR’s continued work within the HIV-affected fishing communities of Lake Victoria, Kenya. The interview sheds light on the fascinating origins of the Suba people, the 1980s explosion of the Nile Perch fishing industry within the region, and the future of Lake Victoria.