Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Second and Third Stages of Stove Building

By Anssel López

In my last post I talked about the great things I’ve seen while interning at Pop Wuj and how Pop Wuj brought a community together. Among all that I witnessed, the most striking was the power of changing a life.  I know it sounds a little extreme, but hear me out and then make up your mind.

I was only involved in building eight stoves during my short time at Pop Wuj. My direct involvement was leading the team and translating to English for the Spanish immersion students. Once or twice I was told, “We are learning Spanish, and we should be speaking Spanish, not English.” Perhaps they were right, but I saw volunteers working to achieve a common goal: a new Safe Stove for a complete stranger! I know that when we come to Guatemala to volunteer it is because of just that. We don’t care who is receiving the safe stove, rather we come to build it so we can contribute in some way.

Cutting Bricks,  Photo by Juan Burlew

Broken Bricks!  Photo by Juan Burlew

Paty, working on the Second Stage
Photo by Juan Burlew

This attitude sounds a bit bad in one way or another. However my perspective changed in the last few weeks working with Pop Wuj. I got to know the people. I got to know Doña Rosa and Doña Josefina, how many kids and how many grandchildren they have. I got to know what was affecting them. I had never seen these things before I started directing the stove construction.

Leveling during the Second Stage
Photo by Juan Burlew
We help people with asthma, cataracts and many other problems—too many to describe. Many of them where so happy that they cried when we finished the stove. Doña Margarita was the last stove that I had the honor to build—talk about need. I took three groups of students to the home and we worked in the same way as any other stove. However, not a single student could resist saying, “Wow!” as soon as we stepped into the kitchen. There were layers of smoke, soot and creosote from the last 49 years. It was so thick that you could take a knife and cut it. Can you imagine what her lungs must look like? Not a pretty picture.
Doña Margarita, before picture
Doña Margarita cried of course, but it was her words that struck us the most. “Gracias, nadie me había dado un regalo tan lindo como este. Ustedes son ángeles.” Thank you, nobody had ever given me such a beautiful gift. You are angels.” It might not seem that impactful, but for me, knowing her story of abuse, neglect, and her husband’s alcoholism and that she is ending her days alone, these words were very valuable and important. 

This is what your contributions and work do; it changes lives and gives opportunity to those that already have lost faith in life and humanity. As part of my last assignment I want to take this opportunity to say gracias, thank you, to you the donors of time, money, and logistical support. Every single thing you have done has left a deep mark that time will only make greater.

End of the Second Stage,  Photo by Juan Burlew
The family's reminder not to burn plastic!  Photo by Juan Burlew
Although the stove recipients might not know your name, they will never stop thanking those that made this possible. This sentiment is coming from a Guatemalan that had the opportunity to come home and help with only a grain of sand. What you have given are bags and bags of sand, you are their heroes and dream makers. For these communities you are the superheros. The families do not know you, but they know that you are there when they need you. 

Finished Stove with Reminder
Photo by Juan Burlew

Gracias Pop Wuj por la oportunidad de servirles con poco, pero más que nada por permitirme ser parte de esta historia sin fin, que ustedes siguen escribiendo semana a semana. Ustedes cambiaron mi vida y mi forma de verla.

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