South Sudanese Survivors of War and Slavery Learn Breath-Body-Mind for Self-Healing


Dr. Richard Brown traveled to a remote clinic in South Sudan during the week prior to its declaration of independence from the North. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudan’s people had been taken captive by the North and many have been kept as slaves for over ten years. Christian Solidarity International has been “buying” their freedom in exchange for cow vaccine. Dr. Luka Deng has been treating villagers from a desolate area for many years in his rural clinic. Ellen Ratner, Talk Radio host has been raising money to support his clinic. She invited Dr. Brown to provide stress and trauma relief using Breath~Body~Mind™ practices for 600 recently liberated slaves who were walking for seven days through jungle and desert in extreme heat to reach the clinic. They would be treated and then returned to their original villages.

Dr. Brown, working through a translator, led the first group of 200 in simple Qigong movements and breathing practices. Within about fifteen minutes, the grim, frozen faces with vacant stares transformed as the Sudanese began smiling, laughing, and eventually dancing.

It was as though their liberation from bondage was finally being experienced as a reality, as though they could finally unfreeze their emotions and feel some joy and hope again. Two days later Dr. Brown led a group of 400 liberated slaves with the same emotional responses.


Dr. Brown taught Breath~Body~Mind to Polio Victims in South Sudan

A group of 18 polio victims were taught gentle movement and breathing practices. They felt stronger, empowered to increase their strength and independence.

Bicycles are converted into wheelchairs with baskets for carrying. This changes the life of a polio victim from crawling over hard dirt and rocks to using hands for pedaling. Instead of burdening their families, they use their baskets to contribute by transporting food, water and other objects that are needed.


Sustainability is Key for Disaster Relief:
Training Members of the Community to Teach Self-Healing Practices to Others

Dr. Brown worked with twenty women, former slaves, who had been practicing Coherent Breathing for 6 to 12 months. He taught them more advanced techniques healing techniques. They experienced deep and powerful stress release.

Afterwards, they decided as a group that they would travel to other villages to teach the practices to more women and children. They are also helping children at the local orphanage.

Independence Day Preparations


Independence was declared at the end of the week. The South Sudan flag is a very important symbol of independence. The Sudanese used crayons to create flags on pieces of paper and taped these to sticks.

These little boys have been through so much misery, taruma and deprivation, yet, they have kept their resilience and ability play, to hope, and to hold up the flag of their new country.
Adapted with permission Photographs by Gunther

Cholene Espinoza's "Freedom Eclipsed" can be viewed at

Ellen Ratner reports on the situation in Sudan for WorldNetDaily at

Excerpt from Pre-publication manuscript by Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, Gretchen Wallace, and Dr. Richard P Brown
Final version published: Mass disasters and mind-body solutions: Evidence and field insights. International Journal of Yoga Therapy. 2011. 2(21):23-34.

Ellen Ratner, EdM, had been working with Christian Solidarity International to help Sudanese genocide survivors as well as women and children recently liberated from years of slavery. She wanted to offer them breath practices because there was virtually no mental health treatment available. These survivors have complex trauma and function by suppression—prohibiting themselves from thinking about or experiencing feelings about the trauma. Although suppression causes emotional numbing, it also enables trauma survivors to get through each day without becoming overwhelmed or losing control. Therefore, practices that might trigger traumatic memories or dissociation were contraindicated. Brown and Gerbarg suggested that Ratner introduce a few simple Qigong movements and gentle Coherent Breathing, followed by rest. Ratner initially reported that the women had very positive responses to the program, with improvements in worry, fear, jumpiness, mood, and physical symptoms. She offered these practices under the supervsion of Dr. Luka Deng at the Pamela Lipkin, MD clinic in South Sudan, about 30 miles east of the border with Darfur.

To evaluate the effects of the techniques, different assessment methods were tried. Because participants were unable to understand or answer questions in the usual test format, the PTSD Checklist-17 (PCL-17) was converted to a PTSD visual analogue scale (VAS) using a 10.0 centimeter line for each of the 17 items. A six-item VAS Mood Scale developed by Telles assessed anxious/worried, sad/depressed, helpless, angry, physical pain, and difficulty sleeping. Scores on each item ranged from zero (not at all) to 10 (the worst ever), based upon where the participant placed a mark on each 10 centimeter line. Both scales were administered at baseline (T1) to 19 adult Sudanese women who were survivors of war and genocide traumas. Five days a week the participants were given an abbreviated BBM program of three Qigong movements and 20 minutes of Coherent Breathing by the clinic staff. Both VAS scales were then administered after 6 (T2) and 18 (T3) weeks. The improvement in mean scores at six weeks was 10.0 on the VAS Mood Scale and 32.1 on the VAS PTSD Scale; at 18 weeks, the change in mean scores was 13.7 on VAS Mood and 34.8 on VAS PTSD. After 18 weeks of practice, this represents an improvement of 66% on VAS Mood Scale and 71% on VAS PTSD Scale.


  Mean Test Scores Changes in Mean Scores / % Changes in Mean Scores
  Baseline 6 weeks 18 weeks 0 to 6 weeks 0 to 18 weeks
VAS PTSD 49.3 17.2 14.5 32.1 / 65% 34.8 / 71%
VAS Mood 20.8 10.8 7.1 10.0 / 48% 13.7 / 66%

Goats for the Old Goat

“Goats For The Old Goat” began as Ellen Ratner was preparing for her 60th birthday. Goats graze easily on the grasses of Southern Sudan. They provide milk and cheese and their dung is used as fertilizer. A she-goat can provide up to one liter of milk a day, the difference between nourishment and hunger. Goat milk provides high quality protein, calcium, fat, and riboflavin. Excess milk can be made into cheese and sold in the market. One goat opens a world of survival, a safety net for a family to pursue education and micro-business. Neighbors can pool resources to start small local dairies. As there is no need to homogenize goat’s milk, it is simple to begin production for sale. If you want to help, go to to contribute money for goats.


“Survivor Hearts for Africa”
Made by South Sudanese Women with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Proceeds go to support their self-sufficiency.

You Can Help! Please:

  1. Purchase goats for South Sudanese sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other victims of genocidal conflict in Sudan — $50 per goat.

  2. Purchase “Hearts for Africa”. Proceeds support Beading and Breathing and other human rights and humanitarian programs of CSI in South Sudan — $25-$35 per heart.

  3. Support one or more breathing trainings for adults and teens in South Sudan. These trainings are conducted by the breathing women’s group. This money will support transportation and an honorarium for the women trainers. For donations and purchases, please visit our websites: