I have officially completed one week in Peru! The current count: two stoves made, nails and wire installed around another six, 15 wheelbarrows-worth of heavy rocks moved, several documents edited, uncountable amounts of sawdust sifted. Making the stoves is the most fulfilling--and super fun...I mean, you get to play with mud!--activity that you can find, definitely! It's hard work, dirty work (I've come home every stove day absolutely plastered in mud and black from soot), but absolutely, beyond-words amazing. Just to see the stove grow brick by brick, layer of mud by layer of mud, the ceramic pieces aligned just so to make a level cooking surface, each chimney piece further directing the smoke out of the house and away from the lungs of the women and children who cook over them every day. And then, when you reach the end of a stove, having smoothed the last layer of covering mud flat, and you see the face of the happy new owner break into a smile as they try and feed you copious amounts of corn and eggs and peach juice. I love knowing that every stove we put in right away does something absolutely amazing.
But there are some problems with the stoves as well that Liz (the other stoves volunteer with me), Travis (one stoves leader), Jaime (another stoves leader), Kate (volunteer coordinator) and I are going to address in the next few months. ProPeru is pushing hard to get carbon credits for their stoves, and an inspector is coming out in November to test the real efficiency of their model. We need to return to every community, every house, where ProPeru volunteers have installed stoves and talk to the families to see if they really do work well for them. Some families are quite excted to receive a stove but then find that the back burner doesn't boil water as quickly as the front burner, which is vital for them because they need to cook quickly. As soon as they see this once, or even hear it from a neighbor, they revert back to the old stove model, taking away the health benefits of removing smoke from the house. Some families put too much wood in their stoves, which takes away their purpose for reducing wood use.
We want to make the most efficient, most cost effective, most environmentally friendly stoves that make the families happy, so we need to see what everyone thinks about our current model. Liz and I tested the boiling time of the current stove model yesterday and we found that it worked quite well to boil the two pots quickly and evenly as long as we pushed the wood back far enough in the stove so it was under both burners. But we're also thinking of a few other ideas for how to improve the design; maybe adding a second back door to increase air flow and allow for wood to be put directly under the back burner, or maybe using some bricks with channels to allow for greater oxygen to reach the flames. Lots still to explore!
Next post I'll give an update on my life besides stoves so far (which has been absolutely amazing!)