Charcoal Stories from North Uganda
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Last year we introduced our readers to Carolyn and Keith who are working in northern Uganda. Carolyn is the director of Hands Across Nations. She became acquainted with charcoal as a medicinal and wanted to learn more. Being a physical therapist she has been teaching simple lifestyle changes that have had some dramatic results – including putting longer handles on brooms and hoes so the women are not always bent over working as they sweep or garden. Carolyn and Keith returned earlier this year and we began to receive their newsletters with charcoal stories and pictures. I have excerpted some of the emails she has shared:
 
“Hi John and Kimberly,
You’ve really been on our minds and on our lips the last couple of weeks. We are doing some charcoal training and have already had some good stories.
The first one was our cook, Francis, who had an eye infection on his upper lid which came up quite suddenly over a day or so. I would call it a sty. Anyway, he came to work saying he hadn’t slept all night and his lid and eye area were so swollen he couldn’t see out of the eye. Immediately I got the charcoal out, made a poultice with charcoal and I think a little oil with water. We put it in a piece of clean fabric, had him lie down and put it on the eye. Then with another cloth he kept putting hot compresses on it every few minutes. I just kept bringing him the hot water. I prayed over him for Doctor Jesus to put his healing touch on his eye and return it to perfect health and to relieve his pain right away. He said that almost immediately the pain left and never returned. We did this for 2 hours – and by that time, the swelling had subsided about 50%. He worked a little, then did it again for about 30 minutes, and the swelling decreased by about 75% when he went home. He did more at home and the next morning he returned with it healed about 80-85%, and the following day you could hardly tell it had been there. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the eye, but many people saw it in his village and can’t believe all he used was charcoal, water and prayer.   
 
2 days ago, Francis’s ox got away from him. The rope was caught around his hand and gave him a big burn he said as the ox ran off. Immediately he went home and just put charcoal powder he had made directly on it, no water, and wrapped it for the night. He said the pain left and the next morning you could hardly see where it was. I didn’t even know it had happened, he had taken care of it so well by himself. All that was left was what looked like scratches on his hand.  
 
He is now ready to try drinking it for his esophageal ulcer. They eat so late at night here and go to bed, and many people have esophageal reflux and ulcers. My opinion is the late meals are contributing to this. I’ll keep you posted.” 
 
"A Trail of Suffering and Tears" should be the title of this week's newsletter. We have not suffered ourselves, but we have observed an over abundance of suffering and tears in the deaths of a number of loved ones of our friends, injuries, diseases, wounds and lifelong disabilities which would make even the most optimistic person, become morose and cry out to God, WHY?? We wonder why the little ones are especially singled out to suffer. You have heard about 19 year old Judith, with

the wound of 7 years from a stick which went through her leg while running away from the rebels in 2006.  

There is also Edmond, age 12, who suffered a beating from the Lord's Resistance Army under the control of Joseph Kony, at the age of 6 months, along with his mother while being carried on her back. He has never, since then, had a day without pain as his bones in the right thigh have been infected with osteomyelitis. 

And now Edirga, a 13 year old boy who discovered a land mine this week while watching his family's livestock, and ended up with his dominant left hand blown off at the forearm, and a shrapnel wound to his left leg and low back. He is continuing to fight for his life in Lira hospital.

Another little girl had disfigured feet with 2 deep infected wounds on the side of her right foot from accidently stepping into the fire as a little one 4 years before.  Walking, for her, was one painful step after the other without the joy of running and skipping  as a child.  
 
Many people complained of "waist" (back) pain when asked.  Besides physical suffering, thousands suffered at the hands of the rebels and are psychologically scarred by the experience.  A memorial to "40 innocent victims" stands in a field on the way to the church, commemorating their loss to the Kony Rebels in 2003. Almost no family was left untouched during the 20+ year war.  
That is all the BAD news  - but we are also acquainted with the GOOD NEWS
Edmond's wounds are almost miraculously disappearing, with the use of charcoal dressings for just 2 weeks, and this boy who was dragging his right leg, having to lock the knee to keep it from collapsing, is now running races against me, and nearly winning!  

Judith's wounds are also healing well with the charcoal. And her psychological wounds are healing - she is taking care of herself, fixing her hair, wearing earrings at times, and smiling almost constantly. She has mastered making the charcoal powder and is teaching others at the hospital. She can mix her charcoal bath for the foot, and is ready to tackle preparing her own poultice for the wounds. Her leg, which was hard and painful, is now soft and supple because she has learned a special massage to reduce the swelling and performs it several times a day! 

One of the people that benefited from last year’s instruction was Pastor Richard and his young family. Together he and Carolyn gave “additional training in how to make and  use simple charcoal powder for stomach ailments, diarrhea, and infected wounds was Richard’s forte. His children's vomiting and diarrhea was quickly remedied last year with just one treatment with charcoal powder he had made with instructions we had learned from John Dinsley, author of CharcoalRemedies.com. His family has had no bouts of gastrointestinal illness since then, as they take charcoal powder in water daily. Now he instructs anyone who is willing to listen. Even the poorest of the poor here have charcoal available and can make the powder themselves.” 
 
Carolyn and Pastor Richard gave a short review of the "Back Seminar" presented last year and went on to teach the villagers how to make charcoal powder from their ordinary "makar" charcoal they use for cooking. We brought some charcoal made the powder and drank it first ourselves before offering it to others. One man, Tony was game to be used in a skit demonstrating how charcoal is like a magnet, drawing the bad germs to itself and taking it out of the body to the pit latrine.Tony took his buddies who were given names like typhoid germ, and diarrhea, and marched them out of the church toward the out-house. Everyone got the idea and had some laughs as well. 3 people who took the charcoal drink came to us afterward and said that almost immediately their stomach upset had significantly improved. We will follow up with another day of teaching on making poultices for wounds and to ensure they are processing the charcoal correctly.
 
It seems that the use of common charcoal for both internal and external healing, has become a larger need than we thought at first. It was to be a sidelight, something to share with the village people which we had discovered for our own use to stave off gastro intestinal problems on the previous trip to Uganda. But people in need, continue to arrive at our doorstep, or become known to us, and we can't ignore their problems.
 
It seems that the use of common charcoal for both internal and external healing, has become a larger need than we thought at first. It was to be a sidelight, something to share with the village people which we had discovered for our own use to stave off gastro intestinal problems on the previous trip to Uganda. But people in need, continue to arrive at our doorstep, or become known to us, and we can't ignore their problems.

Virtually everyone in the village cooks with charcoal and has a ready supply. Huge bags of charcoal like the one above, sell for under $4 in the village but are highly expensive in Kampala. Last week, our friend, Francis, had an eye infection, something that looked like a sty to me on his upper lid which came up quite suddenly over a day or so. He came to work saying his eye had been so painful that he hadn’t slept all night and his lid and eye area were so swollen he couldn’t see out of the eye. Immediately I got the charcoal out, and made a poultice. We put it in a piece of clean fabric, had him lie down and put it on the eye. Then with another cloth he kept putting hot compresses on it every few minutes. I just kept bringing him the hot water and prayed over him for Doctor Jesus to put his healing touch on his eye and return it to perfect health and to relieve his pain right away. He said that almost immediately the pain left and never returned.  We did this for 2 hours – and by that time, the swelling had subsided about 50%. He worked a little, then did it again for about 30 minutes, and the swelling decreased by about 75% by the time he went home. He used another poultice that night, and the next morning he returned with his eye healed about 80-85%, and the following day you could hardly tell the sty had been there. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the eye, but many people saw it in his village and can’t believe all he used was charcoal, water and prayer.  

The second person, a young woman, 19 year old Judith, suffered an injury 7 years ago when she fell in the bush while running away from the rebels

after her abduction. She had some medical care, without any improvement and has recently had 4 surgeries which has brought her a long way. Her lymphatic system in the lower leg has been damaged by the infection, and her lower leg was hard with so much fluid that deep finger prints were left from just touching her leg. Notice the larger size of her right leg from her 7 year old wound.

Dr. Opio OK'd a trial of charcoal baths and poultices which we started on Thursday May 2nd. Below is the simple process in photos of how we learned to prepare ordinary charcoal powder from wood charcoal from John Dinsley, author of CharcoalRemedies.com.
 
Judith chose several good pieces of ordinary charcoal.


She boiled the charcoal in water for 5 minutes, then set it out to dry.

Next came repeated pounding of the charcoal while Semmy, chief nurse put the pounded charcoal through a fine sieve. It was all placed in air tight containers.

Judith's wound dressing was removed to reveal a large and painful wound on top of the foot and another on the outer heel...

And into the black charcoal foot bath she goes for 10 - 15 minutes!

Afterward we made a poultice of charcoal, posho (corn meal) and water, placed it in a clean dressing over the foot and in 2 days of twice a day treatments, the wound had significantly improved.



There was significant cleansing and healing of the tissues.

I also trained Judith in a type of massage she could manage independently to decrease the swelling in her lower leg. Even that is improving. We're thankful that God saw fit to work this all out for Judith's sake.  
Meanwhile other patients are taking note, including one 12 year old boy, Edmond, (with quite the personality), who has osteomyelitis, and will start to use charcoal on 2 thigh wounds along with his antibiotics this week.  

Edmond and his mother were beaten by rebels when Edmond was 6 months old, and being carried on her back. He has watched the charcoal process for Judith without missing a treatment time and is quite ready to try it for himself. He is also receiving physical therapy to help his movement in the right knee.


Carolyn and Pastor Richard gave the back seminar, then Richard and Grace (Nursing Assistant from Ayira Hospital) gave an enlightening and humorous rendition of the information on how to prepare and use ordinary charcoal to prevent and treat diarrhea, and to use as a poultice for wounds. Richard slurped down a full cup of charcoal water, which gave many the courage to try it for their stomach ailments.
It is a great pleasure to see our Ugandan friends taking up the challenge to train others in some of the things which they have learned from our teaching in the past years.

One friend helped another whose hands were missing fingers and the ones left were disfigured and unable to hold the cup. She was also missing all of her toes on both feet.

Pastor Thomas receiving wound cleaning and a charcoal dressing for his foot wound from Grace. He told us that even when it hurts men are supposed to not let it show.  He told us he hit his foot with his hoe, making a gash that bled quite a bit. He then had to go home and prepare the charcoal to be able to use it on his wound.   We reinforced his previous training with the practical application on his own foot!
The training in the use of ordinary powdered charcoal with water, for internal use, especially for diarrhea, and for external use as a paste on wounds has been welcomed and put into quick practice in each village where we have presented it.  


Each step of making a charcoal poultice is explained, and demonstrated with villagers taking part.

Many have immediately returned home and made up a supply to have on hand for their families. And some have even reported back that they have had a use for it almost as soon as they completed making it.  


An elderly man at charcoal for diarrhea training was more than willing to try it for his stomach pain

All around us this week we have been surrounded by scenes of people overcoming daunting situations and facing challenges which would make even the hardiest of us quake at the knees. When we get down to it, we find people have struggles everywhere and they either overcome or succumb.


Edirga, (who likes to be called John) the 13 year old boy who had his hand traumatically amputated by a land mine last week, is at the forefront of our minds as he courageously faces his future without his dominant left hand. His father and he are positive about his ability to overcome the disability, and believe that God will "work all things together for good" because he is a believer in Christ and knows from where and whom his strength will come. He is practicing his writing in a special notebook with his right hand and has legible handwriting already! Being a curious boy, he was able to maneuver and figure out how to use my camera with just one hand.   That curiosity was a major factor in being injured, as he closely examined the land mind just before it exploded. John's leg and back wounds are healing nicely, and the pain from the left arm is not too great. This is quite amazing when all around him there are people with infected wounds which are becoming life threatening.  He knows that hundreds of people have been praying for him in America, and he's so appreciative. We hope those prayers will continue.
Edmond, the 12 year old with wounds from his infancy, and Judith with 7 year old wounds are both healing miraculously. Dr. Opio, their surgeon, has used the phrase "it is a miracle" as both children have had serious difficulty healing for so many years.

Richard and Grace presented the charcoal for healing training which has become the most important information for people who can't afford medical care. Many of them end up suffering from illnesses and wounds which are painful for years, if not life threatening.  Edmond and Judith told their stories about years of infection and surgery, and now, after  just 2-3 weeks of treatment with common charcoal powder which they can prepare themselves, they are nearly healed and will be able to return home and start living a normal life.

We had a man named Moses come to church asking for help. He is unsure of his age, but looks to be about 40 - 45. He has had a wound on his lower leg since he was 18!  It looked to be very deep, and he had been treated for short durations, but nothing had worked.

The smell has kept people from coming too close to him, and when he allowed us to open his wrap on it, the sight was quite grotesque. Grace, the nursing assistant from Ayira hospital who shares in the training, cleaned the wound as best she could, used a charcoal poultice in plain cloth for the dressing, covered it with plastic wrap to keep it moist, and instructed him to have his family change the dressing at least twice a day.
 Later, I asked the pastor about how the man would travel back to his nearby village.  I knew that the shortest route was through a deep swamp where people remove most of their clothing, holding it high over their heads while they wade through waist deep water. He said that of course he would go through the swamp! After the negative effect on the wound healing was explained to the man, he agreed to go the longer route - but he had no real insight about how dirty water could affect the newly treated wound.  There is much teaching and learning that needs to take place, but people are excited and willing to courageously try new and strange things.


June 2013
For the final week in Uganda, I was blessed to be invited to the village of Bala, to present the training about preventing and treating back pain caused by methods of working and living which are traditional in Uganda.  Secondly they were very interested in learning about using ordinary charcoal for treatment of wounds, diarrhea and even gastrointestinal ulcers.  Little did I expect such a challenging scenario!  I asked Evaline, the nursing assistant who organized the seminar, to invite people with wounds so we could choose one for the charcoal demonstration....
 
One man came with this challenging wound, called a Medura foot, caused by a small wound 18 years ago which went untreated, allowing a slow growing, painless, but resistant infection to progress to this stage which now has engulfed his entire lower leg and is quite painful.  Frequently when it gets to this stage, the leg is amputated but this man insists he will die with both legs rather than having it cut off.

Following soaking the leg in charcoal water, nurse Aida instructed the man's wife in how to clean and dress the wounds with a homemade charcoal poultice. (We still have some work to do for Aida’s back posture during the treatment.)

After having his wounds bound up, the man then returned home riding his bicycle!!  These are tough people!  As Keith and I thought about this event we realized that this man getting treatment of his wounds all started with Joy Talbot making a baby quilt in Chewelah Washington!
 
 2 weeks later
"Keith and the others drove Jasper home then continued down an almost impassable track to see the man with the infected leg wound treated with charcoal 2 weeks earlier. (He forgot his camera) As the man unwrapped his leg, Keith wrote "he was beaming from ear to ear, because the 20 year old wound was now clean, and noticeably smaller".


Carolyn returned to the U.S. to attend some literacy training, leaving Keith to carry on.
Keith, the carpenter, fabricator, Jack of all trades, is obliged (blessed) to assume more of the gift of healing.

Editor: Because it is obvious this "charcoal story" is only going to get longer and more interesting, I have decided to start breaking it into segments. To follow their adventure, you can click on the different pages below.