Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.


Lighting Up Guatemala for healthier families

Posted in Guatemala on October 29, 2019

Day 1

What an incredible “day one” of our Light Up Guatemala DWC trip!

Guatemala is distinguished by steep volcanoes, vast rainforests and ancient Mayan sites.

A team of 18 has come together from North American West coast and East coast to build Eco-stoves for the less fortunate! Helping them increase their life span by living a healthier life.

Today was our cultural day! We explored the beautiful town of Antigua via ATV’s for 6 hours. From driving through the cobble stone streets to visiting a chocolate plantation to a winery. Then seeing the amazing sights from one mountain to another.

The volcano did not let us down by giving us a show through the clouds!

Despite locked up brakes to over heating brakes plus one tip over (we won’t mention who! Lol), safety first was achieved!!

A day full of incredible views, great history, beautiful welcoming from Guatemalan families as we pasted their homes to tasting their amazing locally produced coffee, chocolate and wine!

Great friendships being developed and so many laughs shared by all!

Tomorrow our exciting work will begin! We will  work with Open Windows Foundation in San Miguel Duenas, an agricultural community of about 12,000 people who live 15 kilometres from the tourist city of Antigua.

Despite being located so close to the tourism industry, many San Miguel families barely get by.

Most of the people who live in and around San Miguel Duenas are subsistence farm workers living in tin and cindercrete block houses.

These stoves might not seem like much, but families that can’t afford them end up using open fires in their homes for cooking. Those fires fill the houses with smoke throughout the day.

Due to this, everyone from babies to elders ends up breathing in the smoke and Guatemala has a high rate of respiratory illnesses as a result. A stove also uses far less firewood than open fires, so that means families can spend less money on bundles of wood or less time collecting it from the forests. This results in the stoves helping to reduce deforestation.

We look forward to sharing our adventures this week with you all!

 Marianne, DWC Team Leader

Day 2

A very exciting and memorable first day of stove installations!!

Our day began with visiting the Eco-Stove manufacturer. A tour that never eases to amaze us. The owners of this business continues to invest in the manufacturing processes and innovating to ensure the highest quality and longest lasting product life. We learned not only how the stove is manufactured, how it is installed and most importantly why the significant need for this product.

Globally, nearly three billion people use polluting, inefficient stoves or open flame to cook their food. The smoke kills approximately 4.3 million people every year and the need for firewood contributes to deforestation.

In Guatemala, more than half of families rely on open fires to cook. This causes the smoke to fill their homes and results in severe health problems.

Years of smoke exposure can cause pneumonia, cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Respiratory infections are among the leading causes of death in Guatemala, particularly for women and children who spend a lot of time around the fires. This is why we unveiled Light Up Guatemala.

Guatemala loses up to 2,460 hectares of tree cover annually. As a result, deforestation brings soil erosion, loss of animal habitat, and fewer oxygen-producing trees. Approximately, one ton of firewood per person per year is used for cooking and heat. Collecting that much firewood takes time and energy or costs money. However, due to the high rate of consumption, forests and trees become increasingly scarce, and villagers must travel even further to find wood.

They are better for:

Family health – the stove filters and channels smoke outside the home. As a result, women and children are no longer exposed to polluted air for long periods of time.

The environment – the stove uses 70% less firewood than open fires. That’s a drastic drop in the number of trees cut down, as well as a reduction of other harmful effects of deforestation. As well, the stove uses local porous stone to filter out the toxic chemicals typically are released into the air during burning.

Family resources – the stove uses far less wood, so it also uses far less of a family’s income, time and energy.

We had the opportunity to visit our local host partner Open Windows for lunch and a tour of the school. Sadly it was a school holiday today and we were unable to see the children in class.

Open Windows provides community education and development through a variety of programs, including teaching subjects such as reading and math, our computer lab, scholarships, a health clinic, house construction, and ecostoves.

Focusing their programs on children who have behavioral issues or learning disabilities that prevent them from attending school.

A quote that is painted on their walls that has such significant meaning “The more you will read, the more you will know, the more you will learn , the more you will go”.

We were able to install our first 15 stoves of the week today. Our goal for the week is 75 however there is a lot talk about achieving a weekly record of 100! Let’s go team go! We can do it!!

When in Guatemala you just never know what kind of traffic you are passing on the dirt roads and this afternoon we had to ‘mooove it on over’ to make room for the cows!

When reflecting on our day during dinner in our villa, the team shared how appreciative the families were for receiving their stoves. Even though they live with metal corrugated walls and roofs, they were offering avocados to juice as a token of their appreciation.

The best moments of the day came from each of the families smiles upon our arrival and again once the stoves were completed. They were excited to cook on their new stoves. For the women, cooking consumers multiple hours in a day. The new stoves provide them the opportunity for two burners vs one pot on a open fire.

Our stove installations today all went relatively well. Level floors and ease of cutting the 4” holes for the chimney stove pipe!

Tomorrow will be a full day of stove installing and our fingers are crossed for the same conditions to achieving our weekly goal!

Marianne, DWC Team Leader

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