School of Medicine, UCSF
Mfangano Island, July – August 2014
Mfangano Island is almost a full day journey from Kisumu, but the ferry and motorbike rides make for a fun adventure. On the island, transport is simple and most people get around by foot or bicycle – cars are a rare sighting.
My typical day opens with a morning run along the hilly Ring Road that circumambulates the island of 26,000 people. Breakfast of black tea and mandazi (fried dough) slathered with peanut butter energizes me for the work ahead. Around 9:00am I walk to the Ekialo Kiona (EK) Center, a community center founded by past-UCSF medical students and now run by local Mfangano leaders. The projects at EK are numerous and all are based on promoting the health and solidarity of this island community.
Specifically, I am charged to design and implement a new emergency response system for the island. In collaboration with community health workers and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, we created a novel response, triage and referral system to support patients and their families in case of medical and traumatic crisis. To overcome the transportation barrier, we launched the only Emergency Ambulance Boat on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. This program is being piloted and rigorously evaluated in 2014 with hopes for island-wide expansion next year.
There are few options for accommodation on Mfangnao Island so all volunteers usually stay with welcoming families. The rotating meal schedule consists of fish and ugali (pounded and boiled maize), rice and eggs or lentils and chapatti. Small mangoes, bananas, papayas and avocados are sporadically available for purchase to supplement the meals.
The island provides many adventures on the weekends, including fishing expeditions, hiking to waterfall caves and endless single-track mountain biking. Since there is no electricity or running water on the island, the occasional trips to the mainland for meetings are a special occasion; I can also stock up on chocolate and peanut butter.
If you are interested in volunteering or researching on Mfangano Island or learning more about the Organic Health Response, the US-based non-profit organization supporting the EK center, please do not hesitate to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always open to describe my experiences further and discuss volunteer/research opportunities.