By Krista Van Tassel,
Director, Corporate Communications, AMN Healthcare
AMN volunteer Misty Hill explains the process of cleaning and installing an ecofilter to a local family.
In teams of four, AMN Healthcare and International Esperanza Project (IEP) volunteers took off each morning to install
stoves for families scattered along the hillsides of Guatemala. Each team had a
mission to install four stoves each day and often walked muddy paths or drove
winding roads to make it to their destinations.
Installing stoves is part of IEP’s community work and really
counts as preventative medicine for the families that invest in and receive
these new inventions. For many families in Guatemala, cooking can be a
dangerous and time-consuming proposition, as it is often done on open fires
inside small homes. These open fires are not properly ventilated or contained,
causing both smoke inhalation and burn hazards for young children who breathe
the air and may fall into the flames. In addition to the health hazards, maintaining
open fires requires a lot of fuel, and the task of gathering wood often falls
on the women and girls of the family, taking time away from school or play.
AMN stovers Jamil Sipes and Noah Zimmerman haul the stove box up a muddy hill after a rainstorm to help a family.
Removing the risks associated with open fires is one of the
goals of IEP’s community work. The organization partners with local
entrepreneurs like David
Evitt to install Dona Dora
stoves. Each stove costs $250 and is funded in part by the family that receives
it, and the rest is subsidized by donations. In fact, team members at AMN
Healthcare helped purchase 50 stoves for this trip, running office fundraisers
and contests to buy the stoves. In Guatemala, many communities of women will
work together to raise funding and help install stoves for each other.
The stoves are installed by volunteers in about two hours.
Once up and running, the stoves offer several options for cooking, including a
griddle for tortillas, a contained flame for quick boil, and various levels of
heat. But even better than the cooking versatility is the fact that each stove
ventilates all smoke out of the home to ensure cleaner indoor air quality, and
contains the fire to reduce flame hazards.
In addition to the stoves, each family also receives an
EcoFilter, which efficiently filters local water to ensure a clean and safe
drinking supply. The filters are easy to use and long-lasting, which is
especially important for families that live in very remote and rural areas.
The results of the new stoves can be felt immediately and
often children will run out of the house to see just where the smoke is going.
Families are provided a demonstration on how to properly use and clean the
stove. The final test of readiness is to see if the stove can cook poporopo,
the Guatemalan word for popcorn. With much fanfare, the stovers prepare Jiffy
Pop for the family, often under the watchful eyes of the children. Anticipation
rises in line with the expanding foil until the poporopo is ready to be served.
All eyes on the poporopo as several stover “assistants” check in on the progress of the stove.
While installing the stoves can be hard work, all of the
volunteers find it incredibly rewarding. Sometimes stovers can take turns
distracting the children with games and toys while the stove is being
installed. And for most, the gratitude of the families who receive the stoves
provides immeasurable returns.
Said second-time stover and AMN team member Caleb Stewart,
“When we do this work, we don’t just install a stove – we create a lasting
impact for these families that can help make their lives healthier. This is one
of the many reasons I am thankful to be a part of this trip.”
You can learn more about our volunteers, the stoves and the
families we are serving through Facebook #AMNGivesBack.
NOTE: Photo credits for Charlie Neuman