Sometimes, in the heart of Utah County, with more and more smart homes and automated home processes, it’s easy to forget that many people in the world still cook their food on an open fire.
As part of the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation, and in partnership with Choice Humanitarian, doTERRA distributors and staff recently traveled to Guatemala and Nepal. Those areas are two of the places the company sources ingredients for its essential oils, and the work crew went there to help install vented brick stoves for families who are far from modern amenities like metal ovens, glass-topped stovetops and microwaves.
According to doTERRA officials, in countries like Guatemala, families use “three-stone fires” — open fires built in the middle of three stones with a metal plate laid over the top as a cooking surface. These open pits are located inside homes with no chimney or venting. Nearly three billion people in these developing countries are exposed to pollution from the inefficient stoves and open flames used to cook food.
“Most of the homes are one-room huts with a dirt floor and a grass or tin roof. The smoke from the open fire pit would just fill the home, and hang around inside,” said Tammy Pack, doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation director. “You’re in it, you’re breathing it. The families are there and the little ones are there, and you worry about them falling in.”
The stoves, measuring about four feet long by two feet wide and with a raised brick and metal cooking surface, cost less than $75 in materials, and were installed by the doTERRA group over the course of three days. An opening in the side allows the families to stoke the fire, and an attached pipe vents the cooking smoke outside the home. Additionally, the stoves require only about one third of the wood needed in an open fire, and the cooking surface heats evenly, and is larger than what families were using previously.
“It minimizes the gathering time, or the amount of money they must pay for the wood,” Pack said. “But still, the biggest benefit is getting the smoke out of the home.”
The project, while a life-changing value for the Guatemalan families, was also a cherished experience for the doTERRA workers — who paid their own way for the opportunity.
“It took me by surprise how much hard work we performed there. But it made it more memorable because we worked so hard,” said Kristen Jowers, wife of Kirk Jowers, the vice president of corporate relations at doTERRA.
The huts were on “remote gorgeous vistas that overlooked the mountains,” Kristen Jowers said. Kristen and Kirk Jowers and their three daughters worked alongside Pack and the Guatemalan families, carrying bricks and cinder blocks — sometimes one by one — from the dirt road staging area up the mountainside to the huts.
“That was probably the most difficult day. It was quite hot,” Pack said. “But we got to work with the families, and they were very involved, because they’ve been waiting a long time for these stoves. They were so gracious and kind, allowing us to help them.”
Even despite the language barrier, Jowers said she could feel the happiness and gratitude of the families, simply through the universal language of hugs and smiles.
“They are such a beautiful happy people, and it’s so awesome to be a part of a company and a project that appreciates their culture. It’s great to be involved with a company that cares that much about the area they are sourcing their product from, and doesn’t want to change their culture, but helps provide a viable economic structure,” Kristen Jowers said.
Another doTERRA Healing Hands crew just recently returned from Nepal, where they were building similar stoves. The group has more Nepal trips planned to build additional stoves.
“The best part of the story is what families are doing with their stoves,” said David Stirling, doTERRA founder and CEO Stirling, in a press release. “Now that they can cook more efficiently, women are using their stoves to cook additional tortillas and sell them, which helps provide an income for their family.”