How losing mum to HIV Aids pushed journalist to open radio station focused on health programs

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In 2005 when David Bondo lost his mum to HIV Aids, the penetration of radio was not that much in the rural areas.

Despite the government having had massive strategies to fight the scourge, getting this information to the people in the rural areas was still a big challenge.

“It was sad that my mum died without having accessed anti-retroviral drugs. May be she did not know about their existence and how they would benefit her,” said Bondo.

David Bondo was a young secondary school student, and did not know much about the disease.

And when he got the opportunity to be a radio journalist, Bondo, commonly known by his stage name ‘Captain’ vowed to use his space to promote health education.

And 12 years after working in various radio stations, Bondo opened a community radio station in the rural county of Siaya, where health education remains his main agenda.

Bondo and colleagues at Ratego Radio studios. (Photo: Kevine Omollo, LRB)

World Radio Day

On February 13, the world will be celebrating the United Nations World Radio Day, and Bondo will be assessing how much he has contributed in the radio communication sector.

“If I look at the work done by community radio stations now in terms of intervention into the issues facing the rural communities, I just wish the radio space opened up earlier so that my mum would have had the opportunity to get all the information she needed to beat HIV Aids,” said Bondo.

When Lake Region Bulletin visited Bondo’s Radio Ratego studios in Siaya on February 10, he was having a meeting with his lean staff, discussing among other things the marking of the World Radio Day.

Bondo was born in Gem West, Rangwe, in the now Homa Bay County in 1985.

He attended Aoch Muga Primary school in his village, and Disii Mixed Secondary School, sitting his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in 2006.

Bondo’s love for radio

His love for radio however started when he was still a primary school pupil.

“I used to mimmick radio presenters like Jack Oyoo Sylvestre. Billy Omala among others. And soon I begun commentating football matches at our school,” he said.

And after high school, he moved to Nairobi, where he was introduced to Radio at Gheto Development Centre, a Community Based Organization in Kibera.

“This is where our radio training begun, and the rest is history,” he added.

He later worked at Pamoja FM, before moving to Radio Nam Lolwe in Kisumu, in 2008, where he rose through the ranks to become the Head of News.

At Radio Nam Lolwe, Bondo introduced community targeted approach to journalism, and promoted reporting of local soccer sports as opposed to other stations which prioritized the English Premier League matches.

“I would go to the communities and do sport stories, deep in the villages, and I soon grew a huge fan base,” said Bondo, adding that it was this initiative which earned him the studio name, Captain.

Bondo

The birth of Ratego Radio

It was while in Kisumu that he begun to pursue his dream of owning a radio station.

In 2019, the Communication Authority of Kenya awarded him a frequency of 98.1 for a community radio station covering Siaya County.

This gave him an opportunity to fulfil his dream of promoting health to ensure that no one dies due to lack of information.

“We know a number of people fail to get crucial information on health, because people say health do not sell. Many radio stations focus on politics and the other juicy stories. But we decided that even as we serve those juicy stories, we also needed to make health juicy so that our people do not die due to lack of information,” said Bondo.

Today he has 10 people helping him at the studio. Many of them are multitasking on information sourcing, and hosting various shows.

Bondo says the staffs who are drawn from the communities volunteer to work there as the station do not attract regular financing to help foot all its bills. They are however given some tockens, but hopes good days are coming.

“Our biggest challenge in getting health stories is the laxity among the sector players to share information, as well as various laws which make health issues confidential hence not easy to share,” he said.

But he has been trying to juggle around, bringing together health experts, and people who have various health issues to share their stories so that others can learn from them.

He has turned a one-bedroom residential house in the outskirt of Siaya town into a station, and despite the space not being enough, Bondo affirms that Ratego Radio is meeting its objectives.

“When people call in, and ask for clarifications on various issues that we discuss on air, we get the assurance that we have impacted on a life. Our player is to get some partners to help us in this journey,” he said.

And with the global celebration of World Radio Day, Oloo Janak, the Chairman, Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) notes that radio as a medium of communication has grown tremendously.

Janak says KCA has been part of the advocacy for a freer and expanded environment for the radio sector and its membership serve as journalists in the various stations.

“We now have more than 300 radio stations operating across the country giving communities voices, helping in educating citizens, enhancing freedom of expression, and access to information,” said Janak.

He however points out that a number of radio stations are owned by politicians, a situation which makes it difficult for them to serve the communities better.

Kevine Omollo
Kevine Omollo
Lake Region Bulletin is your one stop multi-media platform for news from Lake Region Counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Kericho and Bomet. Email: komollo@lakeregionbulletin.co.ke omollokevine@gmail.com

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