At times I want to fly home. This urge to return to the friends I love and give up living on a dollar-a-day has begun to hit me in ever increasing waves. This week has been especially difficult but it was the warmth and kindness of our neighbors, Antony and Rosa, that left no doubt in my mind of why I am here. On Wednesday we were invited to their house for lunch on the condition that we would cook for them in return. We had continually reiterated that they should only serve us a simple meal but when we arrived we were greeted with the incredible aroma of a traditional dish they call Pulik. While it may have been one of the best meals of my life it was what it was cooked on and how they got it that made a huge impact on me. 

Three years ago Antony and Rosa´s family was cooking on an indoor fire on the ground. With the help of a microfinance loan they were able to purchase a Plancha stove for Q500. This stove both cuts down on the short term cost of firewood and has been shown to have major long term health benefits. The stove pipes the smoke from the fire outside which dramatically reduces the amount of smoke exposure for the family. According to the World Health Organization, “thick acrid smoke rising from stoves and fires inside homes is associated with around 1.6 million deaths per year in developing countries – that’s one life lost every 20 seconds to the killer in the kitchen.” The deaths are especially prevalent with women and children who spend many hours each day cooking or playing near the fire. A study done in a Guatemala showed that Plancha stoves, like the one in Rosa´s kitchen, dramatically reduce smoke exposure.

Not only are Third World kitchens a threat to people’s health but have been shown to be major contributors to global warming. Just before I left for Guatemala I happened to read a New Yorker article on the subject. According to the article, “The average cooking fire produces about as much carbon dioxide as a car, and a great deal more soot, or black carbon. Cleaning up these emissions may be the fastest, cheapest way to cool the planet.” While we can continue to develop better stoves for families like Rosa and Antony that have the capabilities to protect their health and the environment, it is microfinance that can get them into their homes. 

Our interactions with the community of Peña Blanca through research or just being friendly neighbors continue to amaze me. I have included the summary of the introductory interview of Rosa and Antony´s family below.

Rosa and Antony - Peña Blanca June 28, 2010 

Rosa is 20 years old and is married to Antony who is 24. They have been married for six years and have three children (4, 2.4 and 8 months). Eight people live in the house that they built with the help of their parents (Parents, children and aunt).  Rosa´s first loan from Grameen was for 1,200Q in 200 and has received six more, one each six months. With the first loan she bought radish and onion seeds. With the additional loans she bought more seeds and fixed up the house with new floors, windows and the plancha stove. The most recent loan of Q4,000 was used to buy more land to grow their crops. 

  Anthony has a part time job in Panajachel working for a hotel. He also helps his father and Rosa with the agriculture work.
The family did not suffer any damage in the last storm. Rosa was extremely willing to talk with us and has a good command of Spanish. She invited us back for a second interview with cameras.  
9/1/2010 01:19:26 pm

When two people are in love, they are eager to have more sweet kisses. But why they are in quarrel, they are hurting each other by the mouths that once used for kissing? Every time when I was upset or tired, I can only kiss by myself.

5/10/2012 01:37:31 pm

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