Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Reality: Safe Stoves in Guatemala

By Amy Scheuren
Photos by Jeff Leventhal and Amy Scheuren

Nine years in Guatemala and I still get on the wrong bus sometimes.  Nine years in Guatemala and still the situations of many of the Pop Wuj families affect me beyond words, especially the Safe Stove families. 

These families are often new to Pop Wuj and have not participated in our other projects.  These are families with parents who didn’t go to school or only attended for a few years.  These are families whose children may or may not attend school now.  They are families who may or may not have enough food on a daily basis and whose children are most certainly malnourished.  They are families whose homes may have walls made of found materials or may not have a real roof.  They are cooking over open fires in the same room where they live.  They are often using whatever they can find, including plastic, as firewood.  The women and children are breathing smoke from an open fire every day.  These are families that live just a few miles from the second largest city in the country. 

One family's kitchen and current "stove"
The families that we met during the October and November Safe Stove interviews shared their stories with us and we shared our project with them.  This is the first time in nine years that I have been part of each and every interview of a Safe Stove group.  The personal tragedies lived by the families only seemed to get worse with each interview.  The lack of basic infrastructure and services is infuriating.  If Guatemala and other "poor" countries are forgotten by the wealthy countries of the world, then the rural, indigenous areas of Guatemala are just as forgotten by their own country. 

Another current "stove"

Another current "stove"
So we're trying to do our small part and affect change, poco a poco.  The interviewed families attended the group meeting in mid-November and they will participate in the building material delivery day in early January.  We will begin building safe, fuel-efficient stoves with this group during the second week of January.   

Carmen speaks with the women who are part of the new group

The Safe Stove funnels smoke out of the home and uses approximately 70% less firewood than an open fire.  The risk of an accidental burn plummets with the use of a Safe Stove.  The risk of respiratory illness and eye problems also drops considerably.  

When the Safe Stoves are complete, these families will be breathing cleaner indoor air, spending less money on firewood and/or less time looking for firewood on the mountainside, and leaving more trees standing on the mountainside.  The benefits of our Safe Stove Project reach individual families, the community, and the environment as a whole.

Mynor on the rusty roof to cut the hole for the chimney for one of the families of the last group

A completed Safe Stove
And when we finish building these Safe Stoves, we will find another group of families and start over again. 

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