While waiting for my hike at the end of the week, Amber and I looked into volunteer opportunities near Xela. We went to a volunteer organization that matches volunteers to openings and we signed up to help with a clean stove project. The foreign-funded charity installs wood powered stoves with chimneys in Guatemalan village huts. Many indigenous villagers cook in their huts with wood fires causing numerous health problems including blindness and respiratory issues. The charity organization buys the materials and installs stoves with ventilation and identifies the neediest families that need them. We found out the day before that the day we picked was going to be a buying day and not an installation day which made for a less exciting day. Amber felt sick in the morning so I went with about 10 other people out to a village 3 hours away from Xela. I rode a chicken bus 5 hours and did manual labor for the day: moving large cinder blocks and bricks from a truck to different homes in one village. The villagers were appreciative and one family fed us a quick lunch: soup, tortillas, and a plantain tea. We provided materials for 7 stoves and got to see a finished product that was completed earlier. I was huffing and puffing at 9000 feet carrying bricks, but local women were also helping carry some of the materials and they were putting myself and the other volunteers to shame. I was carrying about 10 bricks at a time in my arms and the women would carry about 20 bricks in a bag strapped to their heads. We probably looked like pathetic weak foreigners but we were helping and everyone was really nice (except for the little boys that were playing soccer who flipped us the finger...with utmost diplomacy, I flipped them the bird right back.)
Loading the truck:
We walked through a market and saw this table of delectable treats - hooves, eyeballs, and brains. I took the picture and kept walking before I lost my appetite...
Me carrying some bricks to a village home:
Finished clean stove with burners, compartment for a wood fire, and the most important piece: the stove pipe that sends the smoke out of the hut:
I saw some real chickens on the chicken bus! The little box below was filled with fuzzy, yellow, chicks cheeping away:
It was a tough day, but it felt good to help a good cause with my time and energy.