Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.


Timber Mart Lights Up Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala on December 12, 2018

Day 1: Monday, December 26, 2018

With Open Windows’ facility in dire need of a facelift, the Timbermart team jumped into action and put a fresh coat of paint on the bottom floor mezzanine area. The yellow finish added a glow of freshness and refinement to the previous surroundings. The team worked hard all day, but took some time to visit the local daycare and assess their environment. They were moved by the children’s happiness and overall carefree attitude – children are children no matter where you are. A stroll through San Miguel Dueñas brought home the conditions that people around the world live in…we truly are lucky to live in Canada. This stroll through the village was an eye-opener for many. The addition of having an active volcano a few short kilometers away put the circumstances in an entirely different perspective.

Gerry, DWC Team Leader
Guatemala, November 2018

Day 2: Tuesday December 27, 2018

Today was stove day. We split the team into two groups of five people to cover as much ground as possible, and the team met the challenge by installed 24 stoves (12 each) in six hours. All stoves this week will be installed in the town of San Miguel Alotanango at the foot of Mount Fuego. The goal is to install 50 stoves by Friday.
The biggest takeaway today was the kindness and openheartedness of the people that we were helping. Although they have very little to offer, they always offered a smile and a welcome. The general consensus among the team is that these families are content with what they have and have made a home for themselves that they can truly call home. This task, this “duty” is to have an impact on the lives less fortunate people, and our host, Open Windows, has done a marvelous job in selecting the right families to help.
In one particular instance, a 75 year old woman told us that she has never cooked on a stove; she has always cooked on an open fire. She was so elated that it brought her to tears, and her warm smile warmed the hearts of our volunteers.
We have a 14-year-old girl on the team and this was her first trip out of Canada. Her father brought her along to experience something different. He has been on volunteer trips before and wanted his daughter to feel what he feels on these trips. They didn’t want Disney, they wanted a real-life experience, and she got it. She was truly moved by her first couple of days in Guatemala.
It’s not about the volunteers, it’s about the people’s lives that we are changing… and there is no doubt that we are changing lives. The Eco stoves that we are installing burn 70% less fuel, and will reduce chronic and acute lung disease by directing the smoke out of the home. Children and adults alike will have healthier lives as a result. They will not need to travel out of the city limits to forage for firewood in the surrounding hills nearly as often, therefore children can spend more time in school. The directive is to change a family’s life in even the most minuscule way, but as a group, we feel that we are changing family’s lives in a huge way.

Gerry, DWC Team Leader
Guatemala, November 2018

Day 3: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
The Timber Mart team was on a roll installing 23 Eco-stoves in a 7-hour stretch. Visiting these 23 homes was a humbling experience for everyone involved, and the Eco-stoves provided much happiness for the recipients and the volunteers alike. The team got a cardio workout as well. The logistics and infrastructure of the hillside town of Alotenango made for unexpected treks up and down and then back up the streets. This picturesque town of about 15,000 inhabitants is situated across a valley from a very active Mount Fuego. The vistas are stunning, making the climb to homes a little bit easier. Mount Fuego is directly across a valley from town, which steals most of one’s attention, but there are other exceptional natural beautiful sights that also grabs your eye. However, the most beautiful sight was the smiles on the people’s faces that we were helping. Although they don’t have much by our standards, they seem to make the best of what they have.
The Timbermart groups worked as solid united teams with every person having their own designated task, but the biggest challenge with assembling Eco-stoves is putting the chimney through the roofs of the homes. Each roof is made of corrugated steel, or tin, which is very strong and difficult to cut through. The ridges in the steel panels also make it difficult to work with power tools. The traditional method of cutting through the roof is with the use of a machete as a cutting tool while banging the back spine of the machete with a hammer in an attempt to cut a six-inch diameter circle. Still, after the hole is made there is the daunting task of placing the rain cap on top of the chimney. Even though this in itself is a simple task, it involves some ingenuity from the team – some of the roofs must be accessed from a neighbor’s yard (some with barking dogs), or from thick overgrowth, or even from the edge of a cliff. And a solid ladder isn’t always available. These roofs are not sturdy, so you can’t just climb up and walk across them, so the placement of the stove must be well thought out so a chimney can be readily reached to place the cap. The final task is to silicon the opening where the chimney goes through the roof.
The Timber Mart crew brought two battery powered power drills with back up batteries to make the job easier and quicker, and what a difference these power tools made! Although it was still a struggle to get through some of the tougher tempered steel panels, and some of the double-layered panels, the time was cut down by less than half of the traditional method. This allowed for much quicker installation times, hence more stoves installed in a day.

Gerry, DWC Team Leader
Guatemala, November 2018

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