Friday, October 31, 2014

Not Just a Stove

Stove Donated to FFF client in 2010 (photo credit: Shawn Packard)

This unassuming coffee pot sitting on an iron stove top seems almost artfully posed. With the fabricated wire handle and the brown tones of the wood to the right, the articles in the photograph could have been from the 1800's. This photograph was instead shot three weeks ago in rural Guatemala while we were visiting some of the mothers in our program and evaluating their needs.
The fact that Maria had this stove means that she is better off than millions of  women in the mountains of Guatemala.
When visiting the women in our program, we do home assessments with a check list in hand, marking off the items that tells us a particular mother has her basic needs met, most likely from donations from FFF. The list looks like this:
  • Beds
  • Blankets
  • Concrete floor
  • Pilia (Guatemalan outdoor sink)
  • Table,  Wooden Chairs
  • Intact roof
  • Stove
That is the list; nothing fancy by any means. No wardrobe to keep clothes organized, no couch, rugs, mirrors, wall art, bedsheets, refrigerator or microwave. In fact, if any of our clients had these items, they would be considered some of the wealthiest of citizens in their country and they would have no need for our services.

Of everything on the list, the stove is the most important; without one, our clients cook like Juana (below) used to: on an open fuel inefficient fire, while breathing noxious smoke while toddlers linger nearby, at risk for falling into the fire. 

Juana, cooking on open fire before her stove donation.
Petrona, with firewood at home

The wood required for open source cooking creates hours of hard labor weekly for Guatemalan women. Chopping; hauling; stacking; splitting. When we ask the women in our program what their biggest need is, firewood and a stove are one of the first things they mention. Stove donations reduce the need for firewood by almost 80%. 

In other words, a stove is not just a stove in Central America. It is a labor saving device, it is eco-friendly, a health prevention tool and it is often the only kitchen appliance a rural indigenous woman has in her possession. 
And possibly the most important.