Phase I: (July 2007) Introduction to Mfangano:
In July 2007, I visited Mfangano for the first time, and spent two weeks iving and working with some of the first organic farmers in Kenya, Joel Oguta and Richard Magarenge. I had spent the previous 6 months working in the Community Mobilization department for an HIV/AIDS organization called AMPATH in Western Kenya. I was overwhelmed by the HIV/AIDS situation on Mfangano Island and promised Joel and Richard that I would start thinking of ways that I could help.
Phase II: (December 2007) Needs Assessment:
The following December, over my winter holiday at Oxford I returned to Mfangano to conduct an informal health needs assessment in Suba District. I gathered ideas and concerns from numerous government and community leaders, health workers, women’s groups, students, farmers, and fisherman on Mfangano. The Organic Health Response model grew from recognition of the need for HIV counseling and testing services, the need for comprehensive support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, keen local enthusiasm for access to computers and the internet, and and opportunities to use my friends organic agriculture expertise to provide nutritional support for people undergoing anti-retroviral treatment.
Phase II: (July-September 2008) Securing Local Collaboration:
In July 2008, I returned to Mfangano, along with my younger brother Marco Salmen, to formally introduce a plan to Ministry of Health and local government officials, gather more community input and concerns, and secure partnerships with organizations in Suba District. We were able to successfully form a coalition of partners including the Suba District Ministry of Health (MoH), the International Medical Corps (IMC), a UCSF program called Family AIDS Care and Education Services (FACES), and several local community based organizations on Mfangano. We are now in the process of forming a local board of trustees and an island steering committe comprised of representatives from each of the villages on Mfangano to ensure that OHR is a locally owned and managed program.