Couple launches ministry to help African peopleFebruary 20, 2020
By ALLEN LAMAN
Mary Ellen (Stenftenagel) Kluth was raised to care.
Before she first distributed the resources, before she set foot in Uganda, and before she left Dubois County for Colorado all those years ago, the Jasper native was surrounded by good.
Her family members started a number of Jasper businesses and have actively served in their church, schools and civic groups, leaving a lasting impact on her life.
And it shows. The lessons she learned from them are now impacting thousands of people in need.
Recently, she and her husband, Brian, launched a ministry named Healthy Charity that works to bring clean water, solar-powered lighting and high-efficiency stoves to people living in Africa.
“Growing up in Jasper, my family has always been ... the focus and priority has been to serve others,” said Mary Ellen, who lives in Denver. “And to give back to the community.”
She and Brian were both widowed in 2010 and they married in 2013. The idea for Healthy Charity came from previous volunteer work they completed on the other side of the globe.
For the past seven years, the couple has given time annually to work with the Sandi House dormitory they started in Rukungiri, Uganda, which serves needy children at a school in the African town.
By visiting the community and immersing themselves in the families’ homes, the Kluths became familiar with problems the residents face daily. There exists a struggle to access clean water. Homes and huts are lit with unsafe and smoky kerosene lighting, and the harsh smoke that is emitted from open-fire cooking in living spaces is dirty and dangerous.
“While many Americans are aware of the dangers of people not having clean drinking water, unclean water is the number 2 cause of disease and death in the world,” Brian said in a press release. “The number one cause is dirty smoke that comes from families without reliable electricity using kerosene lamps for light and cooking their meals over open fires.”
Added Mary Ellen: “Every hour of every day, over 1,000 children and adults die from the effects of dirty smoke and 500 die from having to drink dirty water.”
So, the couple prayed and raised money for equipment that directly tackles these issues. After pooling together $60,000 from donors, the Kluths distributed Sawyer Water Filter kits, which allow African families to purify contaminated water they have to fetch from dirty rivers, ponds and lakes.
Mary Ellen and Brian then found, distributed and tested affordable, high-quality and long-lasting solar aid lamps, as well as high-efficiency cook stoves that produce significantly less smoke with significantly less required wood.
Their labors have been felt. And their efforts have been appreciated. Martin Duhimbaze, a Ugandan NGO leader, said that the Kluths “discovered and brought to our community life-saving charity products that we never knew existed.”
Agaba Moses, an entrepreneurship instructor at Ugandan Christian University said that “many families have been greatly helped by these life-changing charity product donations.”
Moses Muhoozi, the superintendent of the school where the Sandi House dormitory is located, commented that: “The Kluths and the donors they represent have been a great help and blessing to everyone at our school. Students are sick less often and study more because of less smoke, clean water and a bright light in every home.”
The Kluths don’t plan on stopping any time soon. They will return to Africa later this spring, with the goal of continuing to help as many as they can.
“The people are incredible,” Mary Ellen said of those she serves. “They have such great joy even though they have so little. But they have great joy in life and in everything. And they appreciate everything so much. So, like these products, they are very, very, very thankful for anything and everything.”
Those who would like to give to the charity are encouraged to do so at HealthyCharity.org.
Brian is a bestselling generosity author, minister, inspirational speaker and national spokesperson for the Bless Your Pastor Movement. Mary Ellen taught special education for 35 years and now is on the adjunct faculty of Colorado Christian University.
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