By living with a local family you really are making a difference to their life, not only in a financial aspect, but also in a learning experience. You can be guaranteed that the money for accommodation and food is going straight back into the local economy. Local families buy food produce from local providers, helping not only the host family but the whole community.
On the actual project you will be assisting the building of energy efficient stoves for cleaner air and less wood consumption for the local Mayan communities. Almost all Indigenous families use three-stone fires to cook. Due to the living conditions of the families, often in one room to cook, sleep and eat, wood burning is extremely detrimental to the health of the children and other family members. Also, burning wood on an open fire is a very inefficient way to cook and many trees are cut down each day. Our stoves are simple wood burning stoves made from cement, block and bricks that encase the fire and provide a chimney to vent smoke out of the home. They cut down the amount of smoke and carbon dioxide in the home by 70% and use 75% less firewood than three-stone fires thus saving resources and time used collecting firewood. Also, the use of less wood consumption promotes agriculture to provide bigger harvests and increased livestock rearing, whilst also reducing air pollution locally and globally. The Indigenous Maya in Guatemala make up a huge percentage of the population, many living off just $1 a day. We are currently working with two Indigenous communities, these being San Andrés Itzapa and Santa Maria de Jesus.
Our aims are first and foremost to improve the standard of living of 100’s of Indigenous families who live in often extreme poverty. We, with the full support of the Indigenous leaders of the communities, aim to tackle these issues in many different ways through basic funding of simple but essential physical sustainable projects. Once the initial starting phase has been funded and completed, it can be continued for many years without further funding, helping the families become self-sustainable and even start micro-businesses to increase the family income.
Past Aid schemes in the area (San Andres Itzapa):
In 2006, we introduced our short-term community construction projects, which include building energy efficient stoves, agriculture and livestock breeding. In 2007, we introduced the Plan Ancianos, a scheme to help and feed the older generation in the communities. Unfortunately, through economic constraints, they tend not to receive much food and care. We will regularly give out frijoles, maize, mosh powder, wheat powder, soap, shampoo, coffee, soups, sugar, milk powder and noodles to help them.
Also in 2007, due to poor harvests in 2006, we introduced the Seed Scheme, which involves lending out sufficient seeds for a family to be able to grow up to 3 crops a year, harvesting enough to feed their own families, sell produce in the market and have enough to buy more seeds to become self-sufficient in years to come. After a year, the exact quantity of seeds will be returned and distributed to a new set of families to continue the process. All our children receive scholarships to attend National School now, including Primary, Secondary and college education.
- Smoke in homes from cook stoves is the fourth greatest risk factor for death and disease in the world’s poorest countries.
- Worldwide, 1.6 million annual deaths, predominantly women and children, are caused by indoor air pollution, including one million children’s lives each year (more than malaria or AIDS).
- Children under the age of 5 account for 56% of deaths from Indoor Air Pollution.
- The main killer caused by indoor air pollution is called acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI). Pneumonia, serious burns and eye infections are other health risks. Many women go blind in their forties due to smoke from the cooking fires.
- Women typically spend between three and seven hours per day by the fire, longer when fires are also used for heating the home. Children under the age of five are also particularly at risk, because they spend most of their time with their mothers; often very young ones are strapped to their mother’s body. The impact this length of exposure has on small children is exacerbated by a number of factors:
- Children’s airways are smaller, therefore more susceptible to inflammation.
- Also, their immune systems are not fully developed – a process that may be further delayed by malnutrition. These facts mean that children absorb pollutants more readily than adults and also retain them in their system for longer.
- Another major problem from these cook stoves is depleting resources and the time necessary to collect the firewood.
- Up to 85% of the energy generated by a three-stone open fire is wasted, which is a real problem considering that poor families spend up to 20% of their income on solid fuels and/or spend one quarter of their time gathering wood.
- In most societies it is also the women’s responsibility to provide the biomass fuel. The time cost alone, in rural areas, can be extreme. Estimates range from two to twenty hours per week spent collecting fuel, and the distances covered over difficult terrain can be considerable. In Nepal, for example, women can walk over 20 km per journey in search of wood. This level of work not only reduces the amount of time women can spend on other activities, such as earning money or resting, but it contributes to a range of additional threats to health and wellbeing.
- Often, if the mother cannot collect the wood, it is the responsibility of one of the daughters in the family, thus taking away from time that could be spent in the school. We are dedicated to responsible tourism, and all of the projects that we support directly benefit the environment, the local community, or both. All projects are carefully chosen to offer our volunteers sustainable and responsible travel, with specific attention being paid to their involvement in the sustainability of all their practices / project goals.
All of our projects and expeditions issue the participants with clear guidelines on responsible tourism and ecotourism, all specific to the particular environment / region. These cover a number of issues, ranging from waste disposal in remote areas, recycling materials and buying from local businesses to not exploiting the area’s wildlife or harming the environment.
The owner of this company did a gap year trip in the early 90s which involved building a bandstand for a small village in Patagonia. While he was there, he realised the project was only helpful in developing the Western traveller as the village didn’t want a bandstand and only argued about who owned it. And so he set up a volunteer organisation which is useful to communities and provides them with resources and help with funding. Today, his projects offer travellers an opportunity to fully integrate into communities and to make a real long-term difference to the local people’s lifestyles.
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