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The Guatemala Stove Project is a small group of North American volunteers that began working in response to a request for help from CEDEC, an indigenous non-profit group working in Guatemala's Altiplano (Western Highlands). CEDEC had identified the need for masonry cookstoves in the communities they serve, but residents lacked the human and material resources to build such stoves for themselves. The Guatemala Stove Project has been born out of this need.
Since those first six stoves in 1999, the Guatemala Stove Project has expanded rapidly, building 25 stoves in 2000, 195 in 2001, 535 in 2002. In the spring of 2003 the thousandth stove was built and now the number has passed 3000.
This means each morning over three thousand families firing up their stoves, three thousand women not risking blindness while cooking for their families; 18 thousand men women and children not filling their lungs with toxic smoke every day. Perhaps over 200 thousand years of life expectancy (when you multiply 10 to 15 years per person).
Because the stoves burn more efficiently villagers use only half as many trees for fire wood in an area that is already suffering from deforestation.
The Guatemala Stove Project documents its work extensively, photographing each stove and the receiving family.
Families who participate also commit labour and resources to a co-operative enterprise with other Guatemala Stove Project families in the area. Group initiatives such as a market gardens, egg production, or craft co-ops increase village self sufficiency and strengthen the local autonomy. Best of all, they are sustainable.
The stove building has been enhanced by complementary funding, which provides villages with medicine for treatable illnesses. We facilitate networking between the different villages and various medical and fair trade NGOs. The people see an immediate improvement in their health and well being.
At the Earth Summit 2002 in Johannesburg the sad fact that the air pollution from indoor cooking fires kills more people than any other form ( including the air pollution from car exhaust, emissions from coal fired power plants, etc.) was noted. Yet there was no commitment to allocate any resources to do anything to help lift the millions of poor out of their misery by making stoves available to even some of the people who need them. Our first hand experience of this terrible suffering caused by indoor fires is what drives us to reach out to Canadians for their support.
Volunteers and fundingEdit
Fortunately, we can directly help significant numbers of people in a lasting way (the stoves we build will easily last more than 20 years). During our first year, 1999, one volunteer was able to build 6 stoves. This year the small group of dedicated volunteers has been able to raise enough funds from generous North Americans to build over 500 stoves.
The majority of our donations have been made by individual Canadian and American families directly donating to Guatemalan families. In February we will be going back to Guatemala for five weeks and during that time will photograph another 500 families standing in front of their new stoves. These pictures along with the names and ages of the individuals in each Maya family will be presented to the 500 North Americans as a thank you for their generous donations. Many people frame these portraits and hang them in their homes so they can be reminded each day of the other family that is no longer filling their lungs with toxic smoke while cooking the day's tortillas. You can see an example on the Thank You page and some excellent photos on the Photo Album page.
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