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Redefining Clean Eating
by Kaci Calvaresi
Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Like many other moms in the world, I spend half my time in a grocery store reading labels and searching for “clean” items to feed my family. For me, the term “clean-eating” has always meant consuming the least processed, least added to, most organically grown foods. For families in Guatemala, the term has a completely different meaning.

The “three-stone fire”, the traditional method of cooking for an indigenous Mayan woman, takes place on an open pit that is located on the dirt floor of her home, with no ventilation. Mayan homes are filled with smoke. The carbon monoxide in their air often twenty-five times what is considered safe. The walls covered with soot. The Mayan women and children’s lungs pay the toll for living day after day in smoke-filled homes. Young children are often burned on their faces and hands from playing around the three-stone fires, the scars of the burns worn for a lifetime.

According to the World Health Organization, excessive smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in Guatemalan children under the age of 5. While the average life expectancy of a woman in the United States in 81 years, the average for a woman in Guatemala is only 69.

Adding to the health risks associated with cooking over the traditional stoves, are the financial and time burdens. The three-stone fires consume 18,000 pounds of wood per family each year. Women have two choices in supplying the wood. They either spend 75% of their day making long treks to gather it themselves, or they spend 40% of their family income to purchase the wood.

In the summer of 2014, an Orphan Outreach team became aware of the burdens and dangers Guatemalan families were enduring in association with the traditional method of cooking. They took action.


Orphan Outreach connected with HELPS International, and a beautiful, life-changing collaboration was born.  HELPS had the solution and Orphan Outreach had people willing and able to deliver that solution.

Engineer Don O’Neal, a medical team leader with HELPS, took into consideration both the cultural traditions of the Mayan people and the technological factors surrounding their traditional way of cooking in developing the ONIL stove. The ONIL stove allows Guatemalan women to safely and efficiently maintain their traditional methods of cooking.

Eleven cinder blocks, an insulated clay-fired firebox, and a rolled galvanized steel chimney; create a stove that virtually eliminates all smoke and carbon monoxide in the home. An ONIL stove installed in a home means longer life expectancy, safe child development, increased time and financial resources, and the true definition of “clean eating”.

stoves 2

This summer, through the Orphan Outreach/HELPS collaboration, 26 families have received ONIL stoves and water filtration systems. According to HELPS, these stoves and water filtration systems will forever change the lives of approximately 185 people that live in the garbage dump in Chimaltenango. The cost of change? Only $250.


While serving as an Orphan Outreach volunteer Lisa Browning had the privilege of installing ONIL stoves in several homes. Through smiles and tears, she was able to see hope on the faces of the receiving families. Dan Ucherek, long-term Orphan Outreach missionary to Guatemala, had the following to say about his experience with installing ONIL stoves…

“We have the amazing experience of these families allowing us into their homes to be able to talk and pray with them. We know that we can provide cleaner cooking and clean water for them but the real reason we are there is to be Jesus to them.”

What does it mean “to be Jesus to them”? The answer is pretty simple:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment: Love others the same way I have loved you.” ~ Jesus


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