In Haiti it is not uncommon to see children, sometimes as young as two, bringing mom the chefs knife. Those kids are often found at the cook fire helping out, and like all kids if there is a muddy puddle, you are sure to find them there. It’s definitely different for us who live in a highly safety conscious world.
I wondered what might happen if we shared mud, machetes and fire with kids here in Canada.
We decided to build a stove in a local school
Something is Cooking at Vic West Elementary School.
Thanks to the incredible librarian Rachel , principal Marla Margetts and the grade 4-5 Teachers, we were able to share a stove build with 80 students.
I am sure you can imagine how much fun it was … but we wanted to share some of the story and pics with you.
The first week
Week one we let everyone know where Haiti was located on a map. It took some time to locate the small island nation. Then we had the opportunity to talk about how so many people around the world need to breathe in the smoke of open cook fires to make their meals. This smoke kills more people than HIV/AIDS and Malaria combined and is the #1 cause of death for a babies and kids under 5 in Haiti.
We took all of the kids outside and everyone jumped in to mix mud to build the bricks for a stove.
You should have seen both the incredible mess and the amazing delight the kids took in the project.
I literally had to tell kids they were cut off and had to go for lunch they were so engaged.
We took those bricks into the school boiler room to dry as we definitely don’t live in sunny Haiti!
Two Weeks Later
After the bricks dried, I headed back for the round two.
During our second time together we were impressed at how much the kids remembered from our first session. They had great questions and leapt at the opportunity to participate again.
It was so much fun!
This time around, we talked about deforestation in Haiti. It’s so easy to come up with simplistic solutions from a distance, but I have never been put in the position where I would need to decide between cutting down a tree or feeding my family. Honestly, I know what I would do. My family would come first.
We headed outside and took the now dried bricks and built ourselves TWO stoves. Scott and Mark from the school district each took charge. Although neither had ever even seen a stove in action before, both of them looked super skilled as they helped the kids make some amazing stoves.
Thanks in particular to Brad, the assistant chief of the Victoria FD, who was there to make sure we were safe – a bunch of his team showed up in their firetruck a little later for the kids.
Also during our build we were visited by Shaw Direct Satellite TV who is doing a story on this event. We will certainly share with you know when it comes out!
The moment of truth
45 minutes later we each finished our build. The stoves didn’t look as nice as the people make them in Haiti, but we built a fire in each stove, and after a minute or so … SUCCESS. We had 2 roaring fires going.
Right away we started some Haitian tea.
As the fires burned hot, we continued our time in the school gym by talking about the solutions for really complex problems like deforestation and smoke.
The stove is not the solution!
The long-term solution is never a technology. It’s always people. We were proud to share the stories of Haitian families who are actively making a change in their communities. They are the heroes of our stories.
A few minutes later we were back outside to drink the tea. Kids kept coming back for 3rds, 4ths … one kid let me know he had six cups. (Sorry to his mom and dad for sending him home jacked on sugar!)
It truly was an incredible opportunity and I am grateful to the staff Vic West Elementary for letting us share.
You should check out the video of our time here:
If you are part of the school, see who you recognize in these photos! Share them with a friend, and please LIKE our facebook page New Hope Schools Society
Want to get your hands dirty?
If you are interested in having a program like this at your school, church, community centre or business – get in touch with Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you want to make a lasting difference in the lives of Haitian families – would you consider making a $30 donation to put one stove in to help one family. It means so much:
The kids all made it! Once it was over I certainly did breathe a sigh of relief