Oct 20, 2020

New Technologies for Our Tz'utujil Communities

Tz'utujil woman using an ONIL stove
Tz'utujil woman using an ONIL stove

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, we were determined not to lose sight of our goals. The social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic could not be an excuse to postpone the transition to a cleaner and healthier future. On the contrary, we at Tui'k Ruch'Lew are convinced that we must see the global health crisis as an opportunity to mobilise for sustainable change and build resilience in communities particularly affected by environmental and health crises. 

COVID-19, Air Pollution and Open Fire Cooking is a Deadly Combination

The vast majority of our community in Santiago Atitlan cooks meals on open fires or inefficient stoves, filling their homes with eye-watering smoke. Exposure to these pollutants increases the vulnerability to the respiratory infection to the already socio-economically disadvantaged. Research showed that household air pollution from cooking increases the susceptibility to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and aggravates respiratory illnesses like asthma. Given the preconditions, people with or recovering from COVID-19 have diminished lung functions and are therefore at higher risk of long-term respiratory health effects. 

Our indigenous female clients spend 6-8 hours every day cooking on indoor open fires and are at high risk to suffer from severe consequences if they contract the virus. Governmental COVID-19 restrictions forbid home visits since March 2020, so our aim during this health crisis is to maintain the existing stoves so that our clients are not harmed by additional household air pollution. The heart of our project - the ONIL stove - is highly efficient and vents about 99.9% of toxic smoke outside, while saving about 70% of wood. 

Utilizing New Technologies 

Our clients have successfully integrated the innovative stove technology into their lives, but some still need help with repair and maintenance. We created self-help, instructional videos, which can be sent to clients via a smartphone. We have found that someone within our clients’ extended family or a nearby neighbour will have such a phone available or has access to social media - one of our channels of information dissemination.

Perhaps the up-side of COVID-19 is that it has brought even remote communities of Tz’utujil Maya into handling multi-media communication tools with ease -- a step forward into social inclusion for disadvantaged, marginalized people.

Stay safe,
The Tui’k Ruch’ Lew Team

Stay tuned - we’ve got amazing news in the pipeline :-)


Jun 18, 2020

TRL COVID-19 Update

Greetings from Tui’k Ruch’ Lew!  We hope that all of you, who have so generously supported TRL in the past, are safe and well.

Unfortunately, Santiago Atitlan, the community in which we are based, is one of two lake towns with registered cases of COVID-19. Presently there are 54 identified cases and 3 deaths. The national government has mandated strict protocols to protect the population and the local government is quarantining affected individuals and those who have been exposed. 

Our clients are particularly vulnerable to the negative outcomes of COVID-19. New research suggests those living in places that are exposed to air pollution are more likely to die from COVID-19. Our clients mostly live in densely populated areas with high potential for transmission of the virus. Moreover, they have limited access to healthcare services. With families forced to remain indoors, those with an ONIL stove are much better positioned. Eliminating the dangers of HAP is especially vital now more than ever.

In addition to the health threat, the economic consequences of lockdown orders have severely threatened the wellbeing of community members. The informal economy is a primary source of income for community members (e.g., selling roasted ears of corn harvested from one’s own cornfields or home-toasted peanuts, by the ounce, on the street). Now the sale of any edible on the street is prohibited. Tourism, another large source of income, is non-existent. Many of our female clients earned money from beadwork, weaving and embroidery -- artisan products sold directly on the street -- that are not necessarily linked to international or online markets. Without work and reliable income, many families are going hungry. TRL, like several groups in the area, has begun to distribute food aid with the support of the Rotary Club. 

The savings on daily wood fuel use made possible by an ONIL stove are key in a time like this.  In spite of the financial hardship, we still have a high volume of requests for stoves and replacement parts. 

As soon as the local government allows, we look forward to continuing our work and kindly appreciate any support you might be able to give. 

Feb 25, 2020

Update from Tuik Ruch Lew: Your Contribution's Impact

This is Micaela*, a mother of nine and a resident of San Antonio Chacayá, a small village just outside of Santiago Atitlán. Like many others in her community, her husband works as a field laborer in a finca, earning no more than $4 USD a day. This means their family finances depend on an abundant harvest, something no longer guaranteed as climate change brings unreliable crop-cycles. Her family cannot afford to buy the fuel she needs to cook, so they spend hours each week collecting firewood. 

Her sister-in-law, a proud owner of a TRL stove, had raved about the financial and health benefits. Micaela began thinking, how great would it be to have her own, so she wouldn’t be cooking on a fire on the floor. Unfortunately, she knew it was an expense her family could never afford. 

One day, her daughter spoke with Isa, our educadora. Isa explained that luckily, TRL had a unique opportunity: a donor wished to give ONIL stoves to impoverished families in the community. From there, Isa visited her home, explained the nature of our project, and registered Micaela in our program. Now, Micaela is thrilled to be cooking with an ONIL stove which means a lower risk of burns, eye problems and respiratory diseases for her and her children. Plus, her family is now doing their part to slow deforestation on the slopes of the nearby volcano, a biodiverse area home to prime habitat for quetzales and other threatened bird species. 

Because of donors like yourself, we are able to help families like Micaela’s. In 2020, we’ve installed over 50 ONIL stoves all because of YOUR support. On behalf of our community and the planet, we thank you for your generosity. 

Listen to Micaela tell her story at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuysdA06BXU 


*Name is changed for privacy


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