Update 29Home 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!


Update 28-1Mfangano 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!

Update 28-2Next 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.

Update 28-3


Update 26Ekialo 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.


Update 25-1On 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!

Update 25-2Over 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.

Update 24-1Update 24-2


update 23In 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.


update 21The Sisterhood Exchange Program (SEP) members traveled to Eldoret this September to receive training from the Imani workshops.  The training took place for two days where members were trained on making shopping bags, yoga bags, pajama suits, double sided apron, and school uniforms.  There was also training on beaded jewelry, clay, cards, books, and picture frames.  Much of the training emphasized quality control and members are now working to improve the quality of their products.

The Ekialo Kiona Farming Department also traveled to Eldoret where they were motivated by the AMPATH farm and learned they will need a good irrigation system like drip irrigation which is used at most of the farms in Eldoret.   They realized doing that will give them a green and healthy farm as water plays a big role in plant life.


Update 20On August 17, 2011, Chas Salmen, the Founder and Director of OHR had the opportunity to present at a Google Tech Talk on HIV/AIDS Prevention Collectives in Western Kenya. Specifically Chas discussed the Mfangano Island Healthy Networks Pilot Program.  To view Chas’s full Google Tech Talk, click here.


OHR Executive Director, Richard Magerenge (right), discusses the radio and Internet tower with Mzee Okello (left) during land negotiations at his home atop Soklo mountain on Mfangano Island.

OHR Executive Director, Richard Magerenge (right), discusses the radio and Internet tower with Mzee Okello (left) during land negotiations at his home atop Soklo mountain on Mfangano Island.

Free Internet access has taken a step closer to 20,000 rural Kenyans living on a remote island in the middle of Lake Victoria in Western Kenya. The Organic Health Response, with the help of San Francisco-based partners, Inveneo and Equal Access, is preparing to install a wireless Internet link and community radio tower on the top Soklo mountain on Mfangano Island. Based on a comprehensive topographical survey by Inveneo’s connectivity engineers, Equal Access is developing a radio broadcast map using open access satellite software to assess the reach for Mfangano’s first community radio station. On the ground, OHR is moving forward with site preparations and the tower’s challenging construction 1600m above the Lake shore. Thanks to land generously donated by the Okello family, a 12th generation Mfangano family living atop Soklo mountain, the tower site will serve as both the point of reception for OHR’s 70km long-range Internet link, and the point of transmission for the Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Station.  Actual construction of this unique tower will be carried out by the Ekialo Kiona Sustainable Design Guild, a team of local Mfangano carpenters, welders, and masons who successfully completed construction on the Ekialo Kiona Center in May 2011.

The view from Mzee Okello’s land atop Mfangano Island, where OHR’s new Internet tower will direct a wireless Internet link from Kisumu, 70km to the northwest, to the Ekialo Kiona Center along the shores of Lake Victoria on the southern side of the Island.

The view from Mzee Okello’s land atop Mfangano Island, where OHR’s new Internet tower will direct a wireless Internet link from Kisumu, 70km to the northwest, to the Ekialo Kiona Center along the shores of Lake Victoria on the southern side of the Island.

Born in 1925, Joseph Okello Misiara is a native of the Soklo clan that has lived on Mfangano Island for over 12 generations. He is now the Elder responsible for taking care of the sacred Kwitutu forest, an old growth forest and ancestral burial site that remains atop the highest point on Mfangano Island. Inspired by the land donation made by Joel Oguta for the Ekialo Kiona Center itself, Mzee Okello and his eldest son have generously donated their family’s land near the Kwitutu forest, to bring free Internet to 20,000 of their fellow residents on Mfangano Island. During a visit this June, Mzee Okello explained that although he has never used the Internet or touched a computer himself, he knows his land will be used to build a tower that will “connect the world together.” Mzee Okello sees this donation as a landmark for his children and grandchildren and his final legacy to the community of Mfangano.