By Michael Irvine
If there was ever any doubt of the importance of the work that StoveTeam International does, it can immediately be quelled by a visit to a children’s hospital in one of the countries they serve. I had such an opportunity in early August of this year on what was my sixth trip in ten years to El Salvador, including a 14-month stint when I lived in a rural village with a local family.
On this trip I was traveling with the founders of New Horizons El Salvador, of which I am a board member, as well as a couple of colleagues from El Salvador. Together we had the opportunity to visit the burn center of the Benjamin Bloom National Children’s Hospital in San Salvador, one of just a couple such centers in the region.
Having spent as much time in the region as I have, I was very familiar with the story of children getting burned by unattended fires, precarious cooking platforms, or even by falling into pots placed on the floor to cool, away from the hot coals of the fire.
Despite knowing these stories all to well, and even knowing a couple of victims of such tragedies personally, our visit to the Benjamin Bloom Burn Center was incredibly moving. Seeing these young, helpless children, many in tremendous pain or even with life altering injuries, one couldn’t help but want to do everything they could for them.
New Horizons El Salvador has been involved with the Burn Center at the Benjamin Bloom Children’s Hospital since before it opened its doors in 2011 and has helped to furnish the center with over $250,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies. On our most recent trip, we had the extreme pleasure of being able to hand deliver some much needed compression dressings as well as yards of the specialized fabric their seamstress could use to custom make other dressings they may need.
To be able to have an impact on these children in such pain and need is incredible, but at New Horizons El Salvador we also wanted to work toward lessening the number of burned children, which is how we became involved with StoveTeam International.
The three main focus areas of New Horizons El Salvador are health, education and the environment, and the program that we are preparing to undertake with StoveTeam International will address all three. In the area of health, the stoves will help decrease the number of burns as well as improving the indoor air quality as almost all of the families we plan on offering these stoves to cook inside the same one-room house where they sleep.
The environmental impact of this project is also an important one to us as our current project is a water distribution system and watershed. The Ecocina stoves from StoveTeam should also greatly decrease the number of trees cut down for cooking fuel. For the educational piece of this project we plan on working with the community school and StoveTeam’s local factory owner to provide a training program for the villagers on how to use the stoves properly and safely. We are very excited to undertake this project with StoveTeam and know that it will bring wonderful results to the communities we bring it to.