Sunday, May 10, 2009

47/55 stoves done . . .Finally nearing the end

Olga with her new stove
I never thought that I would be able to say this, but the improved stoves project which was my main focus during this last year and a half, is finally coming to a close! No more hauling bricks, no more dirty fingernails that never get clean! Initially, the project was to make 36 stoves. But because the mayor ended up contributing more money than originally planned and because some materials were cheaper than what we budgeted, we were able to make 55 stoves in total. (With another 20,000 Lempiras left over!! This extra money, is going towards making six public latrines in Otolaca, an area in Nueva Esperanza where the farmers are experimenting with new horticulture, and towards making a greenhouse to grow horticulture seeds, a project World Vision is helping out with as well (another story).

The women of the stoves project and I have come a LONG way. While every challenge and stressful situation was tough at the time and there were countless moments when I felt like I was tumbling uncontrollably into a black hole of failure and I didn’t know what I was doing, it makes this moment so much sweeter. My pride for the women and what they have accomplished is beyond words. I remember how, in the first meeting in November of 2007, the women were reluctant to participate in a self-esteem game where we stood in a circle and said one thing about ourselves that we were proud of. In this first meeting, most of the women were shocked when I explained they were going to be constructing the stoves and told me construction was “man’s work”. Now, at the completion of this project, there will be 55 new stoves in Nueva Esperanza made by 55 trained women.

And that’s just in Nueva Esperanza! The women have also been sought out to make the stoves outside of the community. One group of women was paid to go to another town an hour and a half away to make the stove in the home of a man who was interested in the design. Imagine four women taking a man to a hardware store to tell him what he needs to buy and then him paying THEM for their construction work! Another woman told me she is planning on making the stove in another town where her family lives.

Many women who, on the first day of construction, were hesitant to pick up a machete and start building, by the end had developed greater self-esteem and confidence that they were offering to help make the stoves for others outside of their group. The requirement for each woman was to help build three stoves, but most helped out with 5 or 6, one helped out with as many as 11! At the school parents’ meeting, the president of the board (who happens to be a man) asked that the women who knew how to make the stoves come to make one in the school.

And of course, as a Protected Areas Management volunteer, the environmental component of the project is just as important. José Paz Orellana, the husband of one of the beneficiaries of the project, told me, “This was a good project because it mobilized the community in a way that has never happened before here. The women have never been organized in groups before and they have never worked together as they did for this project.” He also told me that, “Every three days, I had to bring home a load of firewood which is a lot of time spent hauling a heavy cargo because our stove before used a lot. Now, the same load of firewood is good for the whole month, so I only have to bring a load once a month and because of that I have more time to be doing other things like working in the fields or being with my family.”

Let’s hear a big hooray for the women!!

The women in action

The women (and men and children) who helped out

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