Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stove Project: La Segunda Parte

One of the best parts of the stove project has been my ability to see how awesome my Spanish has become. I am able to not only get my point across, but I can persuade people to do what I want. For example, as I mentioned when I left off in my last post, when I was planning the stove training in my community the TWP guy only wanted to bring me the materials for one stove. (I should mention that TWP contributes a specific type of brick, the cover that sits on top of the chimney, a small grate the wood sits on when it is burning and the plancha where you cook. These materials would cost over $100 if you were to buy them on their own.) I was outraged, to say the least. What was the point of going house to house to get people to sign up if he was only building the example stove? He told me that he would not come up to build any stoves until I had the thirty people signed up. I felt like I was missing something.

The table where the stove will be built
So I called TWP up and told them that I had the interest, they could see that by looking at the names and id numbers I had scanned and emailed to them. I told them they needed to bring me the materials for more than just an example stove. We went round and round on the phone. Him telling me they usually just come up and do the example stove and if there is interest after that they would bring me more materials, and me asking him why he would not come up to my site to build the example stove until I had all of the names of the people who wanted the stove if they were not planning on giving me more materials. It was confusing and frustrating, but in the end I convinced TWP to bring me the materials for 10 stoves. Check mate, I win.

So we set a date for the training. I arranged it so my host mom, Melida, would get the first stove. Women come to her house everyday to grind their corn for tortillas so I figured the stove would get some good publicity there. The project seemed to be settling down, we had a training date set, they were bringing me materials for 1/3 of my project and I had everything needed to make the first 10 stoves. If only I knew what lay ahead.

Please note the smoke stained black walls
A big part of why I love the idea of this project is because it creates a job. TWP comes into the community and trains a local mason in how to make these stoves. It is not a permanent job, but it pays well and facilitates new skills. I found a mason in my community who was excited about the work, we will call him Paco. This was back in September, right after I got the grant money. Anyways as the weeks passed and I was waiting on TWP to get their act together, Paco found other work. I cannot blame him but it was a blow to the project. Paco dropped out right as the bean and corn harvest was picking up. Now many people have professions, like masonry, but they also have fields they plant with beans and corn. Because the project was taking off during harvest time, no one wanted the work because they were too busy.

Melida with her new stove
Luckily for me another volunteer, Alex Boy, who lives just up the road from me was also starting this project at the same time as me and had two masons working with him. He asked them if either of them wanted the extra work in my community. One agreed to build my stoves for me. Thank god. So TWP came up to my community, the masons came down from Alex's site and the first stove got made. It took a full day to make that first stove, but I could not have been happier. The next day TWP came back and built another stove in Alex's site.

The next week Alex and I were going to both be out of site at our close of service conference. I told Alex that the masons could work up in his site that week as I wanted to be present for the first stoves built in my community. This was mostly because the mason that agreed to work in my site was not from my community and I wanted the people in my community to be as comfortable as possible. So the masons built 5 stoves up in Alex's site that week and were done by Thursday. Alex said the mason wanted to come down and work in my site Friday and Saturday, but I did not have people ready until the next Monday. Through a series of miscommunications between Alex, myself and the mason, the mason thought we were not making more stoves and took a different job. What a blow. Alex still had another mason, but this second mason did not want to work in my community as he felt it was not worth his time to come down everyday.

Stay tuned for part three in which the project really takes off!

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