Missionary Charcoal Stories from Africa
We have collected a number of stories Carolyn has sent on to us from 2015, and this year. You only have to live a short while in a developing country to know how popular you can become if you show an interest in people’s health. With a national healthcare budget of $8 per person, Uganda is among the poorest on earth and the sickest. Charcoal fits right in.
The compound around our home is beginning to look like it could become like the garden of Eden as Keith is again using the "Farming God's Way" method of gardening (in the foreground). It's yield will be compared to the same size plot in the background using the village traditional gardening method. Last year he used it to produce three times the yield of the traditional gardening methods for corn and beans.
Lucy, our fabulous house girl for the past 3 years, is game for anything, including grinding charcoal with the blender, then sieving it by the gallon. Keith mixes it with the compost and cow manure in all of our gardens. There are so many viruses and diseases affecting the plants here. His concoction seems to be keeping the plants healthier.
Charcoal for making Acetylene
Over many months, we've been collecting egg shells to mix with ground charcoal for Keith's experiment making calcium carbide, and putting it in water to make acetylene gas. He had his first trial this week which was hugely successful with lots of celebrating and lighting of gas bubbles! His ideas of how to use this are still a mystery to be tested in the future.
Open Toe Surgery
Carolyn had her own experiment going testing various tools to extract a "Jigger" from Keith's toe. A panga (machete) and tweezers were the best choice and the surgery was successful! (just kidding)
The Jigger (T. penetrans) is the smallest known flea, at only 1 mm. It is a parasitic insect found in most tropical and sub-tropical climates.
We also have a bad news/ good news story to share with you. Two weeks ago, one of the women in our literacy classes out in the Amolatar District, was walking home from class when a poisonous snake bit her. She was alone, and no one found her before she died of the snake bite. Her burial was just a couple of days ago. This week, we held a Teacher Training Workshop in the same district, near the same area, in Agweno Onywal. It was just completed today. Yesterday, our lead trainer, Peter, as usual on the second day of the training, he taught the student teachers about the preparation and use of charcoal for diarrhea, wounds and snake bites. They were extremely attentive and happy to know that they could use simple charcoal for so many uses. Not even two hours later as one female student, Ketty Obang, walked home, she heard a lady screaming that she had been bitten by a snake. It was a very aggressive snake as it tried to bite her a second time, but caught only her dress.
Immediately Ketty ran to a nearby dwelling where, miraculously, there was a home where they make charcoal. Other people carried the woman, Naibyata, to the place where Ketty was already pounding the charcoal into a powder. She then mixed it with water and made a poultice, putting it directly on the wound, while others tied a cloth around Naibyata’s upper leg to slow the blood flow to the rest of her body. Every 20-30 minutes they changed the poultice. Ketty said she changed the poultice six times and the pain and swelling began to subside. They did not take her to a hospital as it is three hours away and there is no anti venom in this area. Today she was walking with no pain or swelling. Her husband Ebitu came to the Teacher Training Workshop to thank Hands Across Nations for teaching people about charcoal and saving his wife’s life. It was God’s mercy and miracle that His timing brought the training at exactly the right time to the right person and put her in the right place to save Naibyata’s life. We are grateful for the information we were given by you, John, which has already affected many people in a positive way, and we are certain, has saved the lives of three children, and this woman. We know that there are many more who have been helped that we have not heard about.
After this [charcoal training] event, we have come to the conclusion that the double sided sheet of instructions in English and Leblango (bottom of this page) is good to hand out wherever we can. But we also are convinced that we need to put it, in it’s complete form, into Primer One and teach the adult learners right at the beginning of the classes. Currently it is one of the health lessons in the second Primer Book and it isn’t complete enough. It tells how to make charcoal, but there’s not enough detail about how to use it for treatments. So we will add several pages to the first primer and that will go out to thousands of people in the prisons and villages."
Onward Christian Soldiers!
The motorcycle wounds on Peter are well healed and he even fell onto his knee in another accident on a muddy road and the newly healed wound held up well to the trauma.
Beatrice’s leg wound is clearing up well – I’ve taken photos but I need to go find them on the SD card and can’t do that tonight.
Diarrhea & Typhoid
My sister Nancy, who is here, has had a short bout with diarrhea and is sold on charcoal. She gets immediate relief from gas pains and has been able to cure the diarrhea pretty quickly. Keith had several bouts with Typhoid in the past so the minute he starts feeling something amiss, he’s on it with the charcoal. My neighbor and his daughter came to me about having stomach pains and diarrhea and both are now singing charcoal’s praises with very quick relief. Our housegirl’s daughter took charcoal and honey on a spoon the other day to get rid of her sore throat.
800 Man Prison
The Prison is now out of charcoal, so tomorrow I’m taking another bag for them to prepare. The men use the powder daily as there are now over 800 men in the small prison, sleeping almost on top of each other on the damp concrete floors of their wards, and they catch all sorts of illnesses from each other. Charcoal is their best remedy for most of them. Charcoal has helped relieve much misery in the two prisons who now have the mortar and pestle and everything to prepare the charcoal [powder]. I haven’t yet heard from the nurse who did a training in a 3rd prison but should talk to her soon.
… The other woman’s wound is continuing to be cleaned out – we haven’t come to the bottom of it yet. It’s only about as big around as a large pencil but is deep. She is faithfully cleaning it with the charcoal soap and then applying the damp dressing and wrapping it.
Just this morning our neighbor said her stomach was very painful and she had diarrhea – just one cup of the activated charcoal we have, and she was back to normal by afternoon. Another happy camper who now believes in charcoal. Until they try it themselves and find it works, it’s not easy to convince them of its power.
Hi John and Kimberly,
We hope you are well and continuing to share the wonderful news of CHARCOAL!
Activated Carbon Cloth Wound Dressings
I have 2 people on which I am using the 4x4 charcoal dressings. One has several smaller fresh wounds from a motorcycle accident - our lead teacher trainer, Peter Pule. He hit a pregnant goat on the way home from the village Friday. So that night I used one dressing on the biggest knee wound, and large bandaids with antibiotic ointment on the other knee, (a smaller wound) and on his hand (because I didn’t want to use the charcoal dressings all up too quickly). The next day, when we took off the dressings, the larger wound looked nice and clean, no yellow on it. The other two were gooey with yellow tinge to them.
Right away, I changed to the charcoal dressing and the next day, those too were very clean and pink, no evidence of yellow pus! I’ve told him to keep them wet with boiled water but they do dry out and he doesn’t like the sticking. However, after the first day, when it was still bleeding and the dressing stuck a bit, it has since come off quite easily.
I’m taking photos and will send them together at the end. By the way, on the front of the box it says NOT to cut the dressings into smaller pieces. But on the back it says they can be cut to the shape of the wound (or something close to that). Since the wounds were significantly smaller than the dressing, and I’m going to run out if I use a whole one for each wound, I am cutting them into smaller squares and they’re working. Please instruct me on why not to cut them. There is plenty of extra dressing outside the borders of the wounds.
(It is a matter of guaranteeing sterility. If the sleeves are opened and a portion of the dressing is cut off, there is no guarantee the rest of the dressing will remain sterile. It is a labeling requirement and probably has some merit)
Second wound is one of a lady named Beatrice in her 60’s who had osteomyelitis 2 years ago – we paid for her surgery, brutal, and she did well after several months of hospitalization and pain. She now has a small, about 3/8” diameter wound in the same area with yellow dry pus in it. It’s a crater. It’s non painful. She keeps it covered with a wrap of cloth all the time. So 2 days ago I started with the charcoal dressing and today, it no longer had that dry pus on it. The wound had been cleaned out some. I had Beatrice wash the wound with the charcoal soap and rinse it with boiled water which I left with her. Then had her redo the damp dressing, wrap the leg with a cloth and put a plastic wrap over it. Now – it’s not clear if the wrapping with a cloth then plastic is what I should have her do. The instructions aren’t very detailed on the box – so I’m going on how you taught us doing the poultice, so the charcoal remains wet. She is working in the dirt all the time so she must have the leg covered to keep the wound clean. Anyway, we have nothing to lose working with her as she will NEVER do that surgery again.
Fortunately she has no pain at all in her flesh or the bone that she’s willing to admit to. I’ll keep you posted as she is a dear friend and is very compliant.
The third story is a life saved story. Our housekeeper, Lucy, has been trained in making the charcoal powder, has her own powder made up and stored at home, and shares the “knowledge” as she calls it to whoever comes her way that needs help. A neighbor came to her over the weekend with her very young daughter, who was “diurrating” (had severe diarrhea) as they call it. She was so listless that she could not hold up her head and wasn’t eating or drinking. She had been taken to a local clinic and given medicine which did not help. So they sent her to the Pentecostal Hospital where they put her on IVs but could not stop the diarrhea. They finally sent them home saying only prayer could help her. The lady could see that her daughter was going to die if something didn’t change soon. So Lucy told her about charcoal, made up a cup of it, and to show the woman that it would not harm her daughter, she took a drink of it herself. They were able to get the daughter to drink it slowly, and by morning her diarrhea had stopped. I think she took 2 or 3 doses and by that night she was crawling and playing again!! That’s with using just cooking charcoal! God is so good. Thank you for your faithfulness, John and Kimberly, in helping us to train others so they can train others…….Lucy now has a stack of the instructions in English and the Lango Language so that she can train people, then give them the instructions to keep. Everyone uses charcoal to cook, and everyone has a mortar and pestle and a strainer. So they don’t have to go get something new. I’m going to get a photo of the child this week – sorry we don’t have a “before” photo.
By the way, when you sent the charcoal soap, I thought, WHO is going to use black soap?? Well……I now wish I had those bars I put in the auction baskets! I brought one bar with me, and have cut it into 4 small pieces (the wooly sheep bar) so Peter has his and Beatrice has hers for cleaning their wounds, and I have 2 for future use on someone else.
More good news about charcoal here…….
2 women from the Kampala area are staying with us this week learning how to teach reading using the Bible based method we teach. As they’ve been here, we’ve taught them about the use of charcoal for medicinal use. They are very much interested and have translated our training sheet from English into the Luganda language and we will print up sever hundred copies for them to take back with them. Then they will be able to train their church people, their literacy classes and their neighbors. So as God brings people to us who are willing to learn and teach, we will translate the instructions into various languages and disseminate them all over Uganda! Your training, a couple of years ago, has brought life and health to many!
Just a quick update that the gal that we put through both nursing and mid wife school, Judith Olanya, has gone to a prison in a sub county of Apac District, called Ibuje where I spent 5 days (not in prison) in 2001. Because she had learned the method you taught us, she decided to go on her own and train them but did only lecture as she had no materials.
We printed out 300 instruction sheets which have the instructions in both English and Leb Lango. You will note that we told them to pour boiling water over the charcoal, but they like to put it in a pot of boiling water and then dry it, and it works fine too – so we added it. We have also printed another 700 for ourselves. Then I gave Judith money for the charcoal kit, enough for 2 prisons with mortar and pestles, charcoal, posho, sieves and screw lid containers. She’s very excited to return to them and do the full demonstration where they will take part themselves. She will then go to another prison, and do the same. I know she will teach the method anywhere they’ll let her in the prison, and being a nurse, she will be able to get in most places. Because it’s about 1½ hours away, I can’t get any photos, even if they let me , as we just don’t have time to go that far away with all that is going on with translating the Bible and all the classes going.
Hopefully tomorrow Keith and I will go start using the charcoal wound dressings on Beatrice’s leg wound that has returned. We will get photos.
Just a quick, recent, story from one of our literacy teacher-trainers, Jonathan Omara. He is also the book collator and sometimes works in the garden for us. He missed a day of work on Monday because his daughter “Precious”, about a year old, was sick. He didn’t tell me until the next day that she had been vomiting and had diarrhea for 2 days and they had taken her to the hospital. She had taken some meds but was still vomiting and “dihurating” as they call it here though a little less. As he is one of our trainers, he has taught the new teachers about how to make and use the charcoal method you shared with us, at most of the workshops. So I asked if he had tried the charcoal……which he had not and in fact he had not made any for his home to keep for emergencies. So I gave him some of the activated charcoal we brought with us, and told him to be sure to also make up his own stash of powdered charcoal for the next emergency. By the next morning, Precious was no longer vomiting and that day she only had 2 bowel movements. She is now fine.
The comprehension level is so low here, even with intelligent people. Jonathan had the head knowledge but had not put it into practice. What we’ve found is that once an incident like this occurs, they get it, and don’t forget the next time.
Our translator, Richard has had his kids taking charcoal regularly, a couple of times a week just to keep them healthy. They have not been sick for most of 2 years now! He had made up a bunch of it with us, and fortunately had it on hand that night that 2 of his kids had diarrhea and were vomiting so it was very handy for him to use right away. His mother has a leg wound again. Remember a couple of years ago, she decided to go in for surgery for osteomyelitis. She was in the hospital for three months. It has now returned……so I am taking out some of those wound dressings to use on her. I’ll take photos and let you know how it goes. I have my surgeon friend who probably would try them as well. He liked the simple charcoal remedies on regular wounds, but the osteomyelitis kept returning on those resistant cases. He even has a young man, Edmond, that we used charcoal on two years ago. He did well and went home for many months. However, he is now back in the hospital with infections popping out in several places on his body. If you would like to send some more of those wound dressings for him to try, you could send them to my sister who is coming in April.
She, herself, is sold on it and has used some of your products. By the way, Keith continues to take charcoal on a regular basis, as he has had Typhoid at least twice where he has been tested positive for it. So when he starts to feel anything out of the ordinary in his gut, he starts taking it and nothing ever develops. It appears to be a difficult illness to completely resolve.
I’ve also used charcoal on a puncture wound for one of my workers who poked a stick into her ankle and it became quite painful to her. So we got her a tetanus shot and used charcoal and she was fine in a couple of days. None of these last ones are worth pictures, but are a testament to the power of charcoal.
Open Prison Doors
One more interesting story. We were requested to visit with the overall head Welfare Officer of Ugandan Prisons, and the Director of Correctional Services for the whole country to explain our literacy program and just to see us in person. We have been working in their prisons for over a year and they really wanted to know who we were and what our program is. They said they are interested in more than just reading and writing. They want people to come out of the prisons with higher skills in farming and health etc. So we told them about wanting to introduce the principles of the Farming God’s Way program, and that we have also been training people in the medicinal use of charcoal, teaching them how to make it for themselves and giving them the tools to make it. The Director was delighted and gave us the go ahead on everything! So we are spreading the word wherever we can. We need about 5 more full time people to go around training people in the use of charcoal and how to protect and strengthen their backs.
Well it’s 2 am so I’d better hit the hay.
Thank you so very much for assisting us in introducing charcoal. We’ve also been given permission to take photos of our students and the projects so now we’ll be able to give you some more.
God bless you and Kimberly
HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis
We do have stories about charcoal! It has been incorporated into our literacy program as one lesson. And then I’ve done a full training for the Main Prison literacy classes, of how to clean, dry, pound and preserve the powder. The method has been written up for them in both English and Leblango, their tribal language which they have learned to read now. We’ve given them a huge bag of charcoal, a mortar and pestle and air tight containers for their powder. With about 700 men in that one prison, it has eased the misery of so many of them with their gastrointestinal difficulties, sore throats, and wounds.
The first man, I think you might know his story – I’ve attached his photo above. His name is Ben*. He came to me complaining of terrible stomach pain, unable to eat or sleep, and he had actual holes in the edges of his tongue. He had not been diagnosed so I encouraged him to see a doctor. In the meantime, I gave him some charcoal powder we had made from regular charcoal, and taught him how to use it in water for the stomach, and making it a little more like the consistency of gravy for the throat, and then more like a paste to put on his tongue for the sores there. Within two days, he was so much better, thanking God for the relief he received from it. Other inmates saw his improvement and asked him to share his secret medicine and he did. That was a huge sacrifice as he did not know if he could get more of it. Now that all of them can make their own, it is not an issue. We did keep him supplied. He was diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis and is now on meds for those diagnoses, but he continues to use charcoal making sure he gives adequate times between the meds and the charcoal. I’ve cautioned him on taking them too close to each other.
I’ve also given the prisoners cloth for their poultices – they have an iron they can use to sterilize it. So your teaching, shared with me, is continuing to affect so many across the Lango sub-region. In the teacher training workshops, where all the village literacy teachers are trained, the charcoal lesson is specifically taught in more detail so they can impart it to the classes. So it has gone out to about 13,000 plus learners. We are now expanding to other prisons, so we will need to find a way to provide for each prison, the equipment needed to make the powder well and keep it dry. It is a natural for the prisons as medicines are difficult for the prisoners to obtain. It is a wonderful healing remedy!
*Ben – name changed for privacy