No more “smoke gets in your eyes” for Peruvian villagers

A group of volunteers from Durham University at Globalteer’s Volunteer Peru Community Project has helped radically change the lives of villagers near the city of Cusco by installing innovative new stoves in their traditional adobe (mud-brick) homes.

The installation of stoves into five homes will have an immediate impact on the lives of the villagers of Oropesa, location of the Globalteer project, Picaflor House.

No fire without smoke

Most families use traditional wood burning stoves without a chimney, which means that whenever they cook their homes quickly become filled with harmful wood smoke.  Many women in rural Peru spend large parts of the day cooking so the effects of the smoke over time can be very serious, leading to an increased risk of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and even eye problems such as cataracts in later life.

The new stoves have an in-built chimney, which drastically cuts down the amount of smoke in the home and are specially designed to require less wood to work effectively. Along with the health benefits, this also means instant savings on fuel costs, as well as reducing carbon emissions and ultimately deforestation.

Durham University volunteers lend a hand

The group of thirteen volunteers from “DUCK” or Durham University Charities Kommittee took it in turns to install the new stoves, and alternated the strenuous and sometimes dirty work with their duties at Picaflor House where they helped to teach English, art and sport to the children at the project. All admitted to being shocked at the conditions the villagers lived in and were only too glad to do whatever they could to help.

Student Max Webster (above, right) explained why the work was so important to everyone involved,

“I was really excited at the opportunity to install the stoves in Oropesa as it meant after a few hours of work we had created something real that would have a significant impact on the lives of the families”.

Fellow volunteer Rob Thomas (above, centre) added,

“This was also a personal experience as we installed stoves in the homes of children from Picaflor House…this was one of my favourite moments volunteering with Globalteer.”

As well as finding the work very rewarding, Rachel Williams (above, left), who worked together with Max and Rob, also managed to see the funny side of installing cookers next to typically Peruvian domestic livestock…

“The stove building was a really great and humbling experience, as I've never built anything before, but loved seeing how our efforts were useful to a local family. It was very surreal to see the pens of guinea pigs squeaking right next to us when we were working! I think they may have known what the stove was going to be used for.”

The importance of "cleaner burning stoves"

Eliza Wethey, Globalteer’s Development Manager for South America who masterminded the stove installation initiative explained why it will make such a difference to the families of Oropesa:

“The family we visited yesterday lived in a one room home which was divided into living and sleeping areas by a sheet. The kitchen was in a separate makeshift room with no running water and the walls were made of corrugated tin. The mother used to cook for the family of four on a small ceramic stove on the floor with 2 tiny burners. They have access to a gas stove but only use it to heat up food since the gas is so expensive.

“The families are extremely excited about having their new stoves since they will have a much larger area to cook on and a more secure surface. The new stoves are also taller which will reduce posture problems that many of the women face from leaning down to the typical stoves on the dirt floor of their kitchen. And of course they are really looking forward to cooking in an environment free from smoke.”

How you can help

If you would like to come and help improve the lives of the children of Oropesa and their families, please visit our Volunteer Peru Community Project website pages for details of how to volunteer with us in Cusco. For more information about Picaflor House, please visit the Picaflor House website.