The Devastating Cycle of Poverty on Rusinga Island

Rusinga Island, always a region of poverty, has recently been devastated by HIV/AIDS. With one of the largest rates of infection in the world, the people of Rusinga feel the impact of this disease in every aspect of their lives. As AIDS strikes down more and more adults, widows with no way to feed their children turn to prostitution: exchanging their bodies for scraps of food. When they too succumb to HIV, the orphaned children are left to fend for themselves. 

Now, even younger girls are forced to prostitute themselves to feed their siblings or their elderly caretakers. Girls of 14 or 15 are having babies, and so HIV touches even the smallest children. Desperate for food, people also cut down the trees to sell charcoal, leaving the soil impoverished and incapable of producing crops. Each year this cycle continues, the people of Rusinga become more desperate. Communities are losing their vigor, their joy of life, their hope.

Breaking the Cycle

In 2013, a handful of local volunteers gathered to do something about the spiral of poverty destroying their communities. With little more than determination, they began small programs of education, sanitation, and charity: giving of their own time and meager resources to help their brothers and sisters. With funding from the McNulty family and a few other donors,  they went on to form CAITHS, a government-recognized community organization, and later opened a school for orphaned and vulnerable children: The Kathy & Mike McNulty Academy. These organizations are having a tremendous impact on the local communities, but urgently need support to maintain and expand their programs.


Through the Kathy & Mike McNulty Academy and additional outreach programs offered by CAITHS volunteers to local schools, we are providing education and skills to Rusinga’s impoverished children and young adults. 

Health & Sanitation

Highlighting the importance of sanitation by establishing permanent trash bins in villages and organizing clean-up events not only removes harmful disease vectors, but helps restore pride in the local communities.


Improving the water quality and the soil is critical to helping Rusinga escape the cycle of poverty. By planting and nurturing trees around the island, we can restore the richness of the soil and return the area to its natural beauty.

Testimonials from the People of Rusinga

Fr. Robert Sewe
Local Franciscan Friar

“The future of Rusinga lies in the little children. The only way to liberate them is to give them their basic needs and education. I thank God for the few organizations that do this, such as the Kathy and Mike McNulty Academy. ”

Sarah Okeyo
Health & Sanitation Dir.

“We want to create awareness in our community and help our people to live a better life and eradicate poverty. But we need help. We are doing this as volunteers. We try to sustain young girls any way we can, but still have very little to share, no resources.”

Charles Okongo
Head Teacher, KMMA

“If someone or some group who can join together with CAITHS members, we can mobilize the community to learn about health, sanitation, HIV, and the forces that contribute to our poverty. Only by educating our people, can we overcome these problems.”

Samwel Owuor
CAITHS FOunder and Dir.

“The deadly combination of HIV, poverty, and environmental decline is devastating the people of Rusinga. If we do not act to improve our community, Rusinga will soon be a desert with no one left to live here.”