Friday, October 29, 2010

Dispatches - CBC - Designing a Smokeless Stove

Smoke-related illness from cooking fires is killing over a million people a year. It is the second-biggest source of global warming, so it's also attracting some high-tech commercial interest.The quest just got a big boost from a sixty-million-dollar initiative recently announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Click on the heading to listen to CBC's Dispatches with Rick MacInnes-Rae where he interviews American journalist Burkhard Bilger, who's written about  it in The New Yorker Magazine. 

This fall the ICO team in San Antonio and Santa Catarina is gearing up  to install 100 ONIL STOVES that are very efficiently burning 70% less wood than traditional open cooking fires and have chimneys to direct the smoke away from eyes and lungs. And more will be installed in the winter thanks to your generous donations for all or part of a $110 stove.


Kathy's second letter from San Antonio Palopo

Thursday, October 28
5 full days later.  Little by little I am taking in all the damage done - the hardest being what I hear in people's voices as I listen to their mudslide stories, and what I see in their eyes.  I've been out in a boat and counted up to 14 slides of varying sizes in the surrounding hills - just around San Antonio.  Santa Catarina has fewer but there is one major one - pretty scary.

On the 'up' side is the work that was just beginning to take shape as I left in April last spring.  We rented a space and hired 2 women.  One nearly full time and one part time, and working along with a 'board of directors' they began a 'social centre' called Associacion Qa Winak' (nuestra gente or our people).  The purpose was multifold.  To work with women to help them improve their Spanish, to learn more about health, hygiene, family planning, raising children, self esteem, and the environment and to work with  children in many different areas.  Some just come for some caring recreation, activities and games often related to a particular theme, to do handwork like drawing and painting and to work with various materials.  They are separated into 2 groups according to age, necessary because there are so many.  And then there are young students who come on the weekends to study mathematics and learn better studying techniques.  The women are really excited about the centre and have worked out some of the kinks.  Felipa, who is working as coordinator, says it was a challenge for her to be in charge (Jefe) as she has always just worked for other people. Brenda is enjoying it so much she has volunteered well beyond the hours she's paid for.  Felipa's husband Francisco is very involved on a volunteer basis.  I will visit all the activities in the next 2 or 3 days. We had a short meeting last evening and discussed ideas for the next 2 months, I got much more detail about what they have been doing so far, and look forward to getting students we have sponsored involved during their holidays.  Perhaps also expanding the children's program during this time.  Saturday morning Brenda and a sponsored student volunteer, Maria del Carmen, are going to make kites with the children.... many of whom can't afford them.

Right now there are kites flying whenever the wind comes up in practice for Monday and Tuesday - All Saints Day and The Day of the Dead.  It is just lovely to see them dancing in the sky. Evidently last year there was no wind on those days.  It looks pretty good for this year!

And I must stop here and go visit some folks I haven't seen yet.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your incredible support.

Warm regards, Kathy

Letter from Kathy in San Antonio Palopó

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Greetings to all,

I arrived in Guatemala on the 20th and spent 3 nights in Antigua, recovering from an overnight flight and the tail end of a cold.  The weather is lovely, quite hot in the daytime, cooling in the evening.  Everything is green and comparatively dust free (usually I am here in our winter – the dry season, or summer, here).  Today I made the trip to San Antonio Palopó.

Most of you know that Guatemala was hit by  tropical storm Agatha last May and it apparently rained every day until the 4th of September when there was an unusual deluge that lasted 18 hours.  All this rain caused an awful lot of damage in the country.  Today I first saw the highway damage where quite often 4 lanes were diverted into 2 lanes and there were incredible gouges and drop-offs or mountains of dirt piled up.  Most credit it to bad engineering… where the roadway was cut into the mountainside the bank wasn't stepped but left sheer and the amount of rain finally made it give way.  One good thing is that there wasn't much traffic.  And right now it is dry although I do hear there is another storm coming.

Once we got to Sololá the descent into Panajachel turned into a one-way road where enormous boulders had fallen at one sharp corner near a waterfall.  In Panajachel when we crossed the river on our way to San Antonio, there were many buildings in odd positions and the road surface was deplorable.  All the way there were areas that were obviously washouts but have been cleaned up somewhat.  More huge boulders, piles of dirt, mudslides, etc. Occasionally, where there had been streams coming down the mountainside to the lake there are now huge boulder-strewn gullies. All very disconcertingly different from last April when I left.  The vegetation is so verdant and lush right now that it made the road seem much narrower!
Finally I arrived in San Antonio and it felt like the tide had come in!  The lake is about 7 to 8 feet higher.  It is odd to hear it lapping so close to the road and the hotel. San Antonio was perhaps the hardest hit village in Guatemala with 2 mudslides that damaged many homes, commercial buildings, roads, footpaths, waterlines, electric lines, and drainage pipes.  Even the new little sports field that the schools were using has been reclaimed by the lake. I am trying to take it in bit by bit.  Furthermore, people are living in fear of more of the mountain coming down.  It is a very changed place that is trying to get back to normal.  There are no tourists.  The Lake is still beautiful, although the algae is beginning to come back, I´ve been told, though this is not evident right here. 

After dark tonight I walked around the village and was warmly greeted by a few people I know; so wonderful to see them safe.  Shelter Box is much in evidence with their grey tents dotting the hillside.

I have a feeling my time here is going to be very full.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scarves for Survival

Here's where you can buy these beautiful handwoven scarves shown below - they make perfect Christmas gifts:
Crystal Singers Craft Fair - Sat., November 13, 1 - 3 pm, St. Peters Anglican Church Hall (off Quadra Street) in Victoria BC
Just Christmas Fair – Sun., November 21, 11:30 am - 3:00 pm, St. Aidan's United Church (near the corner of Richmond and Cedar Hill X Road) in Victoria
VIDEA Fair Trade Fair - Sat., November 27, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, First Metropolitan United Church Hall, 932 Balmoral Road off Quadra, in Victoria.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scarf labelling

The ICO Atitlán group banded together in Victoria this week to label and price the scarves hand woven in communities around Lake Atitlán. The sale of these scarves will help the villagers of San Antonio and Santa Catarina recover from the devastating mudslides.
Above: Susan, Jacqueline, Kathy and Linda at work on the tagging. Mary arrived to help a little later.
Photos by the newest member of the team, Tricia.