María Santos lives with her family in El Rejón, a town in the department of Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She and her husband have four children who are 6, 4, 3, and 11 months. Like most people in El Rejón, María’s husband works in the fields during growing season, which lasts from March through October. In addition to helping in the fields, María takes care of the children and does all of the cooking for her family.
Like most of the produce in Guatemala, the fruit and vegetables grown in El Rejón that are considered to be the best are sent to the United States to be sold in grocery stores, while what is leftover is sold in Guatemalan markets. During Guatemala’s dry season, which lasts from November to March, there is little to know work in El Rejón, so families do whatever they can make money–from selling firewood to tortillas. Because of a lack of job opportunities, families live day-to-day and it is difficult, if not impossible, to save money for the future. For these reasons, partnering with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala is a way for families to improve their quality of life.
Before partnering with Habitat Guatemala, María cooked over an open fire on the floor of her kitchen. When María talks about her smokeless stove, one of this first things she says is: “The stove is high off the ground so my daughter can’t fall into the fire!” María elaborates on the other ways that the smokeless stove benefits her and her family: “We save wood, I can cook multiple dishes at a time, and the smoke doesn’t bother me anymore!”