As part of my service period in Belize we would choose a special project to carry out in the community where we by then had lived for 5 months. After long consideration I decided that I want to dedicate this part of the period to building firewood saving stoves.
What is a firewood saving stove exactly?
A well-built firewood saving stove can use as little as half the firewood used by a traditional stove. By using a firewood-saving stove, people who purchase firewood save money, while those who collect firewood save time and effort. Firewood saving stoves also have a positive environmental impact, by protecting trees and saving
wood. The stove described in the manual reduces the amount of smoke in the kitchen, and thus improves the health of the people who cook (inhaling smoke from a stove is as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes). The stove also reduces the likelihood that children and others will burn themselves, and improves hygiene in the kitchen. Pots used on the stove are easier to clean than those used on an open fire.
Ever since I came to Belize it was obvious to me that people don’t have much knowledge about the effect of smoke in and around the house. Children are playing inside the house while their mother is cooking on an old fashioned stove. I simply wanted to inform them about the bad effects of this and show them how it can be done differently. I chose three families who we would build a firewood saving stove with and for. Two of the families needed this very much because of the poor situation in which they are living. And I chose the other family because they are very active in the community, and I wanted to show them appreciation. At first I gave the families information on why it is better to use a firewood saving stove, and why using a regular stove is not only bad for them but also for the environment.
I would like to go a little bit deeper in the situation of one of the families close to my heart, a Guatemalan family of 9. They traveled from Guatemala seeking for a more meaningful existence. Sadly they still have big problems keeping their heads above water, but despite all their sorrows they were always offering me to eat with them even though that sometimes meant that their children had almost no food. This is extremely challenging for me, so I tried to share my food when with the children if the parents were not watching. This extreme kind behavior is not uncommon in Belize, the people are welcoming and love your company.
After getting all the requirements we started to build the firewood saving stoves together with the families and Don Santos (an employee of Humana). It is a project that is only possible in steps, at first the cement needs to dry then the clay needs to dry etc. But the result was that we finished the three firewood saving stoves, and I managed to see the families using them on my last day in Belize. It filled me with satisfaction and joy to see that there was no longer smoke inside the house of these families, thanks to a chimney that directs the smoke outside. It is only a start, but I am glad we were able to help at least three families in this matter.
Yannick ten Dolle – Fighting with The Poor Team Oct 2013
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