Last year, JSR profiled Project Cookstoves. Organized by nonprofit group Good Neighbors, which started in Korea in 1991, the project gives volunteers the opportunity to build cookstoves in Guatemala to address the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.
This summer, Good Neighbors again partnered with Ainos, a community service orchestra based in Orange County, to travel to the village of Patzicia, Guatemala. Volunteers, some who returned after previous trips, have begun to form bonds with the families in Guatemala and understand the importance of this volunteer trip to the children of these families.
Adriana Zyskowski, Ainos’ chaperone, stated, “Families cook their food and heat their homes with open fires – the toxic exhaust from this causes 1.9 million premature deaths annually. [A cookstove] allows an entire family to change the way they sleep at night, the way they eat, and allows children to get an education.”
The fumes that Zyskowski mentioned have brought terrible health consequences, causing lung disease in women who cook with fire and burns on children as they play around their homes.
Not only do the open fires bring physical harm, but according to Zyskowski, “Women and children have to spend a lot of their day walking miles to collect firewood. This means that children are not going to school, not getting an education, and not getting the opportunities they deserve to build better, stronger lives for themselves.”
The volunteers built sixteen cookstoves alongside several carpenters in Guatemala who partnered with Good Neighbors. This small group of students left the families with these beneficial cookstoves, and they took with them memories of their experiences with the people.
Lillian Yein Lee, a junior at Corona Del Mar High School, recalled, ”One day, while we were building the stove, one girl came to me and said ‘thank you’ in English. It really motivated me to work even harder.”
Others reflected on the living conditions of the villagers in Patzicia.
Jino Huh, a sophomore at Crean Lutheran High School, said, “I felt a dramatic difference in terms of living conditions and culture and I was grateful to be able to help people who were living in harsh conditions and learn how to be humble and thankful for my opportunities and gifts.”
Jennifer Yi, a junior at University High School, said, “I think the Good Neighbor Cookstove Project was great because it showed that help, even from a small group of teenagers, could help change a family’s life health situation drastically.”
A trip with Good Neighbors opened the eyes of its volunteers, sparking an interest in helping others. This interest has continuously been leading to a growth in the number of clubs run at high schools, such as El Toro High School, to help contribute to Good Neighbors’ goal.