By Carlo Lorenzo Garcia
LIOTE! [leo-tay] That’s Tzotzil for Hello!
Happy New Year Everyone! I’m excited to back in Chicago, I had an amazing trip to Chiapas, Mexico over Christmas break. It was a truly wonderful experience.
To provide a quick wrap up, we built a 6 classroom school house plus a basketball, and installed 40 wood burning stoves in the homes of those most in need in the village of Nichnamtic.
I spent most of my time working on the stove project this year, because it allowed me more time to meet with the people of Nichnamtic, to get to know them, to learn about how they live, work, cook, and eat.
The stove project was especially dear to me, my fundraising efforts and some of your donations covered the cost for 18 of the 40 stoves! So, I wanted to make sure they were installed properly, that the women knew how they worked and would put them to good use.
So, why install stoves?
In most of the homes, the cooking is done over an open fire pit which tends to fill the kitchen or living space with smoke and carbon monoxide. This slow carbon monoxide poisoning can have a great effect on the development and health of the families and children in the home. Learning disabilities and respiratory problems can have an adverse effect on student’s abilities to concentrate and learn in school. The hope is that the mothers will use the new stoves that vent the smoke out of the house or kitchens.
Will it work?
My host family Crescencia (23) and Pedro (24) live on a very small plot of land with a humble living space and separate kitchen. They have 3 children Freddy, Juan David, and Irma. They lived in the States for one year before moving back to their home in Nichnamtic. Pedro’s work consists of migrating to Northern Mexico from March to November to cut calabazas (squash) for 40-50 pesos a day. That’s about $3-4 US dollars a day. The winter months are definitely the hardest, as it is too cold for their small crops, so money and food is tight. When I first arrived, their second oldest Juan David (2) was following his mother around as she would prepare food or coffee. The first thing I noticed was the smoke in the kitchen and Juan David’s pronounced cough, it sounded pretty bad, aggravated by the smoke.
This is a very common scene across Chiapas, children spend their time with their mother when not in school, gathering wood, watching their mother’s cook, breathing in smoke. My team and I installed our stove, Pedro actually moved their big fire pit that they were using for cooking outside! That was a good sign! We came back later that night after installing more stoves and Pedro was happy to make room for us to sleep on the concrete floor of their house.
The next morning, I spent some quality time with Pedro learning about his life, his family, his work, his land. Meanwhile, Crescencia used the new stove to make us coffee and handmade tortillas, a good sign that she would continue to use the stove. On the last day, the poignant moment for me was noticing how the new stove was already helping Juan David, as we sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and eating tortillas, this little guy did not cough once! I knew in that moment, that this project would have a simple, yet profound effect.
By the end of our expedition, the school was built and all forty stoves were installed and I was extremely proud of the team and work we accomplished together, over 60 volunteers from the US and 40+ volunteers in Chiapas came together for a great cause.
I want to thank Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Anonymous donor Cyper for their $1,000 donations, and every donor who helped fund this expedition! You are amazing and your contributions made an impact!
For more information about Foundation Escalera, please visit: http://foundationescalera.org/landing.html
For more photos, check out the Living Philanthropic page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/livingphilanthropic