Text and photos by Adam Wohlman
Last Wednesday I was fortunate enough to accompany two language school students, as well as Alberto and Carmelina from Pop Wuj, to Llanos del Pinal for Safe Stove construction. Pop Wuj has been building ‘Safe Stoves’ in the rural communities surrounding Xela for almost 23 years as both a response to common respiratory illnesses associated with cooking over an open fire in an enclosed space and the inefficiency of such fires and their contribution to deforestation. Furthermore, respiratory illnesses are currently the leading cause of death among children in Guatemala.
This particular stove had been started the previous week, therefore our small group was responsible for the second of three phases of construction. This being my first experience building stoves, it’d be fair to say I was a bit bemused by our initial task, cutting four bricks in half with a machete. But hey, it worked! Biggest takeaway? It's definitely all about the technique (thanks for the pointers, Alberto)! Other tasks included mixing cement, setting bricks, layering cement and clay, and building upwards layer-by-layer of brick. We all got nice and dirty, had a lot of fun, and I certainly learned a ton about the process.
This week another group will be primed to finish the job and another family will be ready to put their new stove to use! All in a morning’s work!
|Spanish language students, Gaétan and Aditi, prepping for the day's work by cutting bricks and mixing cement, alongside Carmelina.|
|Carmelina laying down the clay and cement upon which another layer of bricks will be set.|
|Spanish language student Gaétan removing excess clay and cement from the outer walls of the oven.|
|Aditi and Gaétan celebrating the completion of a successful day of stove building!|