Monday, June 25, 2012

Making Shea Butter Soap: Home Ec in Africa

This past week we had the opportunity to make a batch of Shea Butter Soap. We have a woman who comes here to the orphanage and makes large batches of soap which we use for our widow baskets, sponsorship distributions, for the needs at the orphanage and to sell to others.

Shea butter comes from the nuts of the Shea Tree and is know for its amazing moisturizing properties. You can find numerous skin products that contain Shea Butter. The Shea Tree grows naturally here is Burkina Faso where is called Buerre de Karité (because this is a french speaking country). The people here apply Shea Butter daily because it helps keep skin from drying and cracking. Our babies get a generous slathering after each bath.

We wanted to test a new recipe for our soap that uses more Shea Butter. We wanted less of the other oils used in our soapmaking and more of the good stuff. It is also more cost effective when we produce large quantities. We also wanted to try a different shape and have some fun by using soap stamps.

Welcome to the test kitchen!!

Step One-
Purchase all the ingredients. We went to the market to buy the Shea Butter. You can see in the picture that they form it into small balls and they continually keep it wet so that it won't dry out.

Step Two-
Carefully mix the water and the lye in a bucket. Lye can burn your skin so use extra caution when mixing.

Step Three-
Melt the Shea Butter over low heat. You do not want it to burn.

Step Four-
Mix in your oils and colorant if you are using one. We went natural.

Step Five-
After the ingredients are mixed well, take off the heat and pour contents into bucket. Again, be carefull as you are now working with lye again so you may want twear gloves. We don't have gloves, but we did have a ziplock bag handy.

Step 6-
Add the fragrance last, but stir in quickly because this stuff starts to harden fast.

Step 7-
Now you pour the soap into a mold. Typically our soap is poured into a rectangle made from wood that has been nailed together. This time we decided to try circular soap. We used PVC tubes and lined them with silicone oven liners. Cute shaped molds are not available to us here and not really practical when making a large quantity. We have to get creative with the resources we have.

Step 8-
When the soap goes into the mold you need to tap the mold several times to remove any air bubbles. Then you wait for the oap to harden. You don't want it to get completely hard because it will be difficult to cut and if you want to use a soap stamp it needs to be a little soft. The soap stamps were not bought here either, but brought by the lovely Dawn you see pouring the soap. Dawn stayed here in Yako for a week and brought with her wonderful ideas. Below you can see the finished product.

We still have some tweking to do, but we are happy with the product, how it lathers and leaves the skin soft and clean. 

Below is a recipe that you can try. Find more recipes at

Basic Shea Butter Soap

Base IngredientsGramsOunces
Coconut Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Palm Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Olive Oil270 gr.9.524 oz.30%
Shea Butter90 gr.3.175 oz.10%
Distilled Water326.07 gr.11.502 oz.
Lye124.451 gr.4.39 oz.

Fragrance and Colorant are optional

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mahadaga...say that three times fast!

Yako is where we live is the Yellow Star
Mahadaga is the Red Star

I had the opportunity to spend a few days with some lovely ladies traveling to the far, south east corner of Burkina Faso to the little town of Mahadaga.

Besides having beautiful rock formations and hiking opportunities, Mahadaga is also home to a very unique and incredible handicap center and school. We have three children sponsored through our program who we have sent to the school and we were blessed with a chance to catch up with them and to see the amazing work going on at the center. It is important to mention that in this part of the world, the handicapped are often pushed aside and forgotten. This culture considers the handicapped to be cursed.

Herman is a child in our sponsorship program.
He loves to learn and spends all his free time practicing.

Francoise, the director started this facility over 20 years ago with one child. While she was working as a nurse and midwife at the medical center in town she spotted a five year old boy on the side of the road who couldn't walk. This boy had polio. He now works at the medical center. In fact, there are over 30 Burkinabe employees working at the center, many of them have disabilities, and many have grown up through the program.

A few of the girls after receiving dresses
made by a women's church group

Today, The Center for the Advancement of the Handicapped offers numerous ways for the handicapped to reach their full potential. There is traditional school for the children as wells as opportunities to learn trades such as sewing, weaving, various crafts, soap making, fabric dyeing, wood working and gardening. They also offer physical therapy, have treated over 1700 patients and they have their own orthopedic workshop where braces and other items are made.


Physical Therapy
The blind use the black straps to guide them
through the garden. It's amazing!
Three Muskateers! Apparently these adorable deaf
students like to cause mischief!
We were very impressed and very inspired. We were touched by the beautiful children we met and look forward to when we meet again.

God Bless!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An African Wedding

A few days ago we were guests at a wedding...our first African wedding.

Many have asked what the differences are between an American and African wedding so we thought we would post some pictures and tell you a little about marriage in Burkina Faso.

First of all, there are definitely different kings of weddings here in Burkina. There are weddings taking place in villages that last several days. Often when a marriage is going to take place a bride price is negotiated. This can be a sum of money, livestock, maybe both. The woman after marriage will move to her husband's village and probably his family courtyard. There are arranged and forced marriages that still take place and multiple wives are not uncommon here.

Then there are more westernized marriages. It's been said that years ago there were missionaries that introduced the fancy white dress and big party  type wedding common in America to Africans and now there are more and more ceremonies like this taking place. Outside od small villages, it seems that there is tremendous pressure to have a huge affair inviting everybody you know. This has posed a problem in a lot of cases. A wedding is very expensive. It's expensive in America, but to the average person in Burkina Faso it seems an impossibility. Therefore many people wait to get married until they can afford to do so, many times after living together and having children.

The wedding that we attended was of the more westernized variety. The groom is a really great guy who works at the orphanage. He is in charge of daily operations and he is truly a gem. The couple are Christians and attend our church.

This is how the day went. We were invited to start the day at the Mayor's office where the official marriage took place. We arrived and waited outside the building because there weren't many seats inside, but last minute a few of us were ushered in and found a seat. It was in a mix of French and Moore so I cannot really tell you details, but the Mayor asked many questions and talked to them (possibly about the seriousness of this commitment).  Papers were signed and stamped and then everyone exited and waited for the bride and groom to emerge. Several photos were taken and at one point a man just wandered up and tried to get in the picture. Then everyone left and proceeded to the actual wedding.

He just wanted to get in the picture.

On the way to the wedding
This ceremony complete with "I do's"...but sounding entirely different in Moore, took place under rented tents in the church's courtyard. It was much like a wedding you are probably used to. There was music and singing and a processional with a flower girl who tossed confetti. Actually both time's she aimed the confetti directly at me. I have no idea why...I was covered!

Bringing out the rings
Sassy flower girl in the middle

 Afterwards there was a feast! All types of African dishes including couscous and rice and sauce and beans and chicken and goat. Also glass bottles of Fanta, Sprite and Coke.

It was a very long day and we were very full and tired. The bride was beautiful and the groom very handsome. It was a good day.