Today we started another round of stove building for many of the families here in Las Anonas, Guatemala. Today, we started Berta Victor’s stove. She has two children, Oscar and Jacqueline. They are about 8 and 6 years old respectively if I were to guess. She lives in a home of corrugated metal scraps, a dirt floor, outdoor bathroom, limited electricity all of which are pretty normal here.
Here is the photo of her “before” kitchen photo.
I love doing this for many reasons. First of all, it allows me to stay for an extended period in their home. This allows me to get to know them and vice versa. I get to know their children, and they quickly become my friends, my helpers and my shadow!
Also, I love working with Don Juan. We still have a large language gap between us, but we still manage just fine as we make jokes, laugh and learn from each other. I also love watching how the women go about their day. Not to sound “creepy” or anything, I learn so much by observing how difficult it is for them to live. They leave each morning with their small children and a machete and they trek off into the woods to cut the days supply of firewood. Then they return home and begin to prepare meals. This usually involves starting a fire and boiling beans. Then comes time to do dishes and or laundry. It’s done outside using a concrete scrub board (pila), and they scrub! The water runs out on the ground, where the chickens or the ducks enjoy the refreshment.
Today, I loved showing Don Juan many of the new tools that we were able to get by many generous donations. He was overjoyed! No more tape measures we can’t read, squares that aren’t square or levels that aren’t level. But I think the best thing was a headlamp that I bought him. We often work in very dark places and Don Juan honestly, just can’t see! I often had to use my phone and just hold it while he worked. But today, was different. After I had shown him how to use the headlamp, I demonstrated how he could adjust the light to shine of exactly where he was working, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him happier!
The other thing I loved about today were the kids. Oscar and Jacqueline were my constant companions. Jacqueline made fun of me most of the day because of my Spanish. I know I use the wrong tenses, I don’t conjugate my verbs correctly, and I probably sound to her like an infant…but that’s ok because she laughs at me!
Oscar, on the other hand, was seriously into what we were doing. He worked as hard as we did by cleaning tools, stacking, soaking bricks and just watching every move we made. At one point I was cutting bricks with a grinder, and he was so close to me our heads were touching. I had my safety glasses on, and I gave a pair to Oscar to wear as well. He loved it. After each brick I would cut, he would grab the scrap and take it inside his house.
However, the best part of today was at the end of the workday. We had mixed a little more concrete than we needed, so Don Juan told me to use it to fill a small dip in the dirt that led into their new cooking area. So, I prepared the concrete, dumped it and before I could do anything else, little Oscar had grabbed a concrete hand float and was troweling the concrete to a beautiful finish! I was amazed and incredibly proud of him at the same time.
But I was also humbled…
Oscar demonstrated to me what the essence of this stove building ministry SHOULD be about. It shouldn’t be about Bob getting to know and experience the daily life of Guatemalans. It should be about providing opportunities for Guatemalans to better their life! That could come in many forms. It could come from:
- Providing a stove that eliminates smoke as they cook.
- Providing a way to burn the wood they collect 66% more efficiently.
- Providing jobs for masons, like Don Juan.
- Providing training, hope and igniting the flame of future possibilities in young men like little Oscar.
This ministry is not about Bob. It’s about Bob teeing up an opportunity, getting the right people in place and then getting out of the way. That’s the model that will work…
I get it…finally…