In the late 1980′s, HELPS International’s medical teams reported an alarming number of children being treated for burns and numerous respiratory problems. Engineer Don O’Neal, a medical team leader with HELPS, investigated and found that the problem was the method of cooking used by the indigenous Mayan women in their homes. This centuries’ old tradition of cooking meals within the home using an open fire pit on the dirt floor known as a “three-stone fire”, had no ventilation, causing families to inhale dangerous fumes causing Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI). More specifically, Mr. O’Neal found:
- The high instances of facial and hand burns were due to children falling into these open fires when they were playing or learning to walk.
- According to the World Health Organization, excessive smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in Guatemalan children under the age of 5. In a HELPS study, the deadly gas carbon monoxide was found to be fifteen times greater than the EPA base level considered to be dangerous.
- The inefficient burning of wood for three-stone fires required the women and children to gather huge amounts of wood daily (18,000 lbs per family per year), contributing to Guatemala’s deforestation level of 2% per year. The safety issues for women plus the time lost to long treks to gather the wood, combined with the impact of carrying these heavy loads has detrimental health ramifications on women and their families.
- For families that purchased their firewood, this required spending up to 40% of their entire income simply to cook their food.
From this start with the ONIL stove, HELPS has developed the ONIL product line that changes the way families live and has become one of the “pillars” of HELPS poverty reduction efforts. Richard Grinnell, HELPS Vice President, with Don O’Neal and their team has implemented these solutions for families across Central America and Mexico.
Transforming the way a family lives in the home utilizing ONIL Products. Here are two major examples:
HELPS/ONIL Plancha Stove:
After consideration of the cultural as well as technological factors surrounding three-stone fires, Don O’Neal developed the “ONIL” Stove, a method of cooking that is compatible with traditional methods.
Today, thousands of rural Mayan families are using the ONIL Stove with the following benefits:
- The fire is contained in a clay-fired firebox in an insulated, durable stove that sits off the floor, thus minimizing the risk of burns to small children.
- Vented by a galvanized steel chimney, the stove uses an efficient burning technology, and virtually eliminates smoke and deadly carbon monoxide in the home. Using the ONIL stove means longer life expectancy, safer child development, and more time and energy for families.
- The ONIL stove reduces wood consumption by 70% resulting in a major economic benefit and a better quality of life for families with long-term benefit to the environment.
- Women who use the ONIL stove gained the equivalent of two days a week in time saved from gathering wood, allowing them time for social and economic activities like cultivating a vegetable garden.
HELPS/ONIL Water Filters:
HELPS designed its Gravity Water Filter as a practical solution to the need for safe drinking water, using quality components at a very accessible price. The water filter provides 10 gallons of safe drinking water in 24 hours. It is simple to use and the initial setup time is about 15 minutes.
Safe drinking water is often taken for granted, and provision in rural areas is seldom made for a safe backup supply. Bacteria-free water is an absolute necessity and experts advise that a person needs one gallon per day in an emergency. During emergency situations, a piped water supply may not be available. Even though one can survive weeks without food, one can only survive three days without safe drinking water. Water from rivers, streams, ponds, or rainwater may be the only sources of water for some rural villages in Guatemala and other parts of Latin America. The water may be murky, with an unpleasant odor and taste, and it could be a source of disease, since 60% of all diseases are water-borne. Even clear and apparently fresh water may be polluted with microspic disease-causing pathogens, and children are especially vulnerable.
The HELPS Gravity Water Filter is specifically designed to micro-filter a supply of safe drinking water using a simple two container system. A person simply pours the water into the top container where it then filters into the lower container and is purified, providing up to 10 gallons of safe drinking water every 24 hours.
HELPS Gravity Water Filtration systems are manufactured of food grade polyethylene and are hygienic, durable, and easy to clean, with a ceramic element that does not allow bacteria to grow because it is impregnated with environmentally safe silver, and never needs to be sterilized or boiled like other systems.
HELPS’ rigorous in-house and independent testing of its Gravity Walter Filter ensures 100% removal of parasites such as guinea worm and giardia, and 99.99% removal of pathogenic bacteria such as: cholera, e. coli, and shigella. The filtered water measures up to US standards of purification, and provides a safe backup system in times of emergency.
How to Help:
- Sponsor an ONIL Product
- Donate a stove, water filter or any other ONIL product (see a full list of ONIL’s full product selection) and generationally change a family. Each stove and water filter combination costs only $250 and can change the lives of generations of people. Each stove you donate will be installed in Guatemala by one of our staff or a volunteer mission team. They make excellent gifts, especially for birthdays or holidays! Click here to make a donation.
- Participate in a Stove Installation Team
- Join an existing HELPS stove team to install these products side by side with Guatemalan families inside their homes. Click here to fill out a volunteer application.
- Form your own stove team and bring your family, friends, or employees to work together on a project. Call us at 1-800-414-3577 or fill out our contact form to get started!