Monday, January 21, 2013

Stove Project: Part One

Brick delivery!
About eight months ago I decided I wanted to take on a popular project: fuel efficient, less smoke producing, permanent  stoves. They are actually pretty bad ass. I visited a fellow volunteers site and saw her project and how people in her community were clamoring for these stoves. She could not get the funds fast enough to hand out these stoves. That coupled with watching Melida and her girls breathing in black smoke produced from their current stove was enough to motivate me to start the solicitation process to bring this project to my community. If only I had known what lay ahead of me.

The first step is to solicit the NGO, Trees Water People, as they are the ones who supply the training and the more expensive materials. So I wrote up the solicitude (in Spanish), got it signed by all of the members of my communities council and submitted it to TWP. After I got confirmation from them that I would be able to get the materials for the 30 stoves that my community wanted to build, I applied for a grant with ECPA (Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas). The grant was approved through a branch of Peace Corps El Salvador that deals directly with ECPA. This is where I received the majority of the funds for the materials that TWP were not providing. I received those funds in August.

Pile of sand and barrel of molasses
The steps mentioned above were the easy part. It has been more than a struggle to find a mason that needed work, to purchase all of the materials necessary and to get Trees Water People to come out to bring me the rest of the materials and train my mason. All of that has taken six months. Oy. I have been simultaneously stressed out and very calm about how all of this was going to go down.  Here is a brief run down of how it all went and the lessons I have learned to date:

I have really great, supportive friends. They have been so helpful and understanding in my quest to find the best materials for the lowest prices. They have gone house to house with me in search of a suitable mason. They have brought materials to my house in their cars. That part has been awesome.

Put Dad to work on his trip down here
Some of the materials needed for the project were a bit hard to find. For example the chimneys are concrete tubes with a 4in diameter. These are not stocked in most hardware stores, you have to call ahead and have them ordered. Bricks and sand must be ordered and delivered to the house. The sand was especially hard to get a hold of. The company said they would deliver it one day and it did not actually show up until three days later. Another challenge was the getting the molasses that is mixed in and used to hold some of the materials together. There are only a couple of places that sell this molasses, I needed a giant barrel to hold it all in, and it has to be transferred in a truck that does not have a downward swinging door to the pickup bed.

Very specific sized, hard to find tubes for the chimneys
And then there were Trees, Water People. They have been less than helpful through out this whole process. They told me that in order for them to come out a train my mason on how to make these stoves and make the example stove, I needed to collect the names and identification numbers of all of the people who were going to want a stove in my community. So I took one of my host sisters and went house to house. I got all of the information I needed and I scanned it and e-mailed it all in. They said ok, but it was going to have to wait. They were busy this week, and next week they had another training and the week after was Christmas and the week after that was New Years, but call us after the new year and we will see what we can schedule. Ugh. New Years came and went, and I dropped my Dad and Bella off at the airport. On my way home, I was with another volunteer and she gets a text from the main guy at TWP. I was starting to think this guy was avoiding me. So then and there I called him.

That phone call and the others that I had with this guy over the next few days grew more and more heated. He said he wanted to do the training in a different volunteers site. I knew for a fact that this volunteer solicited for this project after me and that she had not collected any of the materials for the stoves yet. I confirmed this with her and I called TWP back. I told them that I was ready. I had a family who had everything ready to go right then. He relented and said he would come and do the training in my site. But he told me that he would only bring the materials for the one stove. That I did not understand, I mean I thought the whole point of my getting the list of community members together was so that he could bring me enough materials for many stoves. He said this trip was just to do the example stove. I thought I might cry. This project was never going to get started, let alone finished before my service came to an end.

Will this project ever finish? Only time will tell! Stay tuned for parts 2 through 1,000!

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