Guatemalan families prepare their meals in the same way as did their ancestors generations ago, using an open fire inside their homes. This requires approximately 18,000 pounds of firewood each year, the collection of which can be a daunting task for parents raising families. The use of this volume of firewood on the family level also leads to deforestation and resulting soil instability and landslides. Furthermore, the climate in eastern Guatemala is exceedingly hot most of the year so heat generated by open flame cooking makes living spaces nearly intolerable.
The walls in a typical home are blackened by smoke and covered with soot, giving us an indication of the damage being caused to inhabitants’ lungs. Smoke inhalation from open fire cooking indoors is being called the silent "killer in the kitchen" of Latin America, causing 1.5 million deaths per year. Firewood smoke contains over 200 highly toxic chemicals, which cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The only cure for this problem is prevention. Cooking with open fires also leads to burns, especially among small children.
OWH volunteers install vented cook stoves in the homes of villages we serve, making a tremendous impact in the health and well-being of the families. These stoves consume 65% less firewood than open fire cooking, and reduce excessive heat within the living space.
For more information on how this works, click on the diagram below titled “How It Works”.