On April 9, 2016, St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, Independence, capped off a six-week fundraising drive to purchase Chapina Stoves for Guatemala with a dinner and raffle.  Handmade items from Guatemala we raffled, Guatemalan food was served, and many came dressed in authentic clothing. The AMEN Group (Amazing Men Eating at Night) served the dinner which concluded with the cutting of beautifully decorated Tres Leches cakes. The event was a huge success and over $9,150 was donated by members and friends of the congregation, neighboring churches, and the community.

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Rev. Paul Emily, St. Luke’s Pastor, welcomed those attending the dinner including staff from Graceland University’s School of Nursing, families from MoGuat Adoption Community, McCoy Neighborhood representatives, and many members, families and friends from St. Luke’s. After the dinner, Linda Drown, a member of St. Luke’s, shared pictures and stories from her travels to this area of Guatemala and served as emcee for the evening.

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St. Luke’s partnered with People for Guatemala in this endeavor to provide safe and efficient stoves for the indigenous Mayan populations in the surrounding mountainous areas of San Martín Jilotepeque, located about 2 hours from Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala.  The people of this area comprise part of the 59% of
Guatemala’s population living below the poverty level, with the Mayan populations living in extreme poverty. Linda Drown has worked with People for Guatemala for many years and will be returning with staff from Graceland University’s School of Nursing, to Guatemala in May to help build and install these stoves. The money raised will purchase stoves for at least sixty-seven families.

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The homes of these people are for the most part, made of cornstalk walls or rough wood, adobe or rock foundations with dirt floors. The roofs are covered with thatch or tin. Many of the homes are just one room. The home contains the home-made stove made of clay and stone which does not have any ventilation to the outside. The inside of many homes have walls that have turned almost black, especially near the stove area, due to the many years of open fire burning within the house. To cook a meal, a lot of wood must be consumed. The average family consumes as many 120 tortillas each day which are made and “baked” over a sheet of metal placed over the open fire.

typical rural home - Guatemala   La Majada family in kitchen

As a result of these stoves, many family members suffer from respiratory illnesses, and are very susceptible to pneumonia. When medical care is available, it is usually to treat the respiratory conditions of the people. Also, the stoves are dangerous to small children who have been known to trip on the dirt floor and fall into the fire. Many of the rural clinics have had to deal with the burns caused by these kinds of injuries when treatment is available.

The safe alternative is the Chapina Stove, which was created by Amilcar Vielman, a native of Guatemala, who has made these stoves available at the cost of $135.00 each. The stove can be assembled in a few hours, and consumes only 3 small pieces of wood to prepare a meal for a family of eight. It is totally protected from accidental burns. Around the top of the stove is a wooden “apron” which also provides a place for the person preparing the food to put their cooking utensils. The stove is vented to the outside through a pipe leading from the back of the stove through the roof of the house. It is surrounded with chicken wire, to make a barrier around the pipe so that burns from the hot pipe are avoided. On the top of the stove is a cast iron flat cooking surface for the preparation of tortillas. There are two round removable discs that are used for the placing of pots and pans directly over the fire below for preparing other food.

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Chapina Stove

St. Luke’s partnered with the People for Guatemala organization to provide these stoves.  You can learn more about the People for Guatemala organization here.