Our team lovingly calls him ‘Little Val', due to his small stature. Our founder, putting on her MD hat, puts it this way: “He is 17 years old but very small size for his age, because they grew up malnourished.” It is his kindred spirit, his resilience, his hard work, and his thirst for learning and creatively implementing what he learned that conquered the hearts of our team.
Life has not been kind to Val. In the statistics it’s called “childbirth mortality”. For little Val it means his mother died the day he was born. Something that hangs over him ever since. He and his older siblings, 4 sisters and one brother, were raised by a single father. To make matters worse, his family does not own farmland in the village. To earn money to eat, he and his brother must work as day laborers for others in their community. Working most of his youth for others, he makes sure that his family has something to eat. But that came at a high personal cost: he did not have to luxury to attend the school in his village. As very hard workers, he and his older brother are in high demand.
While it is hard to imagine that in a poor village, some are even poorer than others, Val’s family is among them. But the cards he got dealt by fate did not break his spirit.
Val was a very active participant ever since our improved cookstove workshop in his village. As our founder put it: “He was one of those people who always stick around. But he did not just stick around and watch, like many do. He did ask a lot of questions and jumped in to lend a hand, when he saw a need, even if he is not ‘asked’ to help.”
Val mastered how to build an improved cookstove in no time. Richard, the improved cookstove’s inventor, started to call him ‘his assistant’, because he was a quick study. A role he filled splendidly, assisting in building the stove for the bakery to support to school in his village (website and/or project report).
But it is his creativity that amazed everybody. Or as Richard puts it: his ability to dream despite all odds. He made a cardboard model of his dream house. Bus as soon as he mastered to build cookstoves with clay, he took some of it to build his clay model of his dream house. The two houses he hopes to build one day for him and his future family. With staircase, two balconies and everything else.
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