This week, a mission group from St. John’s Lutheran Church installed stoves in four families’ homes. The families, whose children attend Escuela Integrada, previously relied on inefficient wood stoves without a vent system. Exposure to smoke can cause respiratory illness and additional health problems.
“The smoke isn’t good for our lungs,” said Hermalinda Salama, through an interpreter. “We won’t have to use as much wood. It’s going to be easier to cook.”
Salama’s son William is in ninth grade at Escuela Integrada. She provides for William and his older brother by selling children’s clothing and other items out of the front room of her home high on the hill in San Felipe. Her husband died four years ago, leaving Salama with the responsibility of working and caring for her two boys alone.
“You need food to survive,” said Spencer Everhart, 16 and a member of St. John’s mission group. “By giving them a stove, we are giving them the opportunity to cook for themselves and provide for their families.”
Everhart and other mission group members worked as a team to carry stove pieces up steep hills and around obstacles. The main piece of the stove made of cement and brick is very heavy, requiring three, sometimes four, people to carry it from one place to another.
“The hardest part was getting the stoves into the houses,” said Everhart. “The pieces are really heavy. We also had to get a ladder, move some of the roof and drill a hole for the chimney.”
The new stoves, manufactured by Guatemalan company ECOCOMAL, are made of cement blocks, mortar, bricks and a simple iron griddle for cooking. They use a vent system and a chimney to distribute smoke outside of the home, and contain the embers, which helps prevent burns and fire danger in the home. Additionally, they reduce wood consumption by 40 percent and CO2 and carbon particles by 95 to 99 percent.
“Today is William’s birthday,” said Salama. “The stove is a great gift for his birthday. Thank you for the stove, the water filter and the blessings of the school.”
Salama gave each team member a cup of Pepsi to show her appreciation.