With the generous help of the Overlook Foundation in San Francisco, we established a program for 7th and 8th grade students to travel to Honduras as volunteers for Proyecto Mirador in their cook stove design and building program. Working with the eighth grade science teacher, Rich Lehrer, from the Brookwood School, this was an opportunity for local students to work on their Spanish, learn about carbon emissions and credits, and, more importantly, experience a third world culture and help devise solutions to some of their day-to-day challenges.
Conceived by Overlook in response to basic individual and environmental needs of the impoverished regions of Central America, the program seeks to improve upon existing cooking techniques which revolve around open fires within homes. Problems range from excessive health problems from poor ventilation to accelerating deforestation in this sensitive environment. Based around the city of San Pedro Sula, Proyecto Mirador began by building about 200 Dos por Tres stoves in 2004, and by 2012 they were building 25,000 new stoves. Saving approximately 2.73 metric tons of CO2 per stove each year and using about half the firewood of traditional stoves, Proyecto Mirador applied for and received certification for carbon credits from the Gold Standard, helping finance future projects. Results are tracked through a GPS mapping system where each stove is recorded and monitored using smart phone technology. Our students were asked to help in the training of this technology to the Honduran staff.
With our first trip scheduled for the spring of 2012, we soon ascertained that local conditions were deteriorating rapidly. Murder and kidnapping of foreigners had spiked to alarmingly high levels, prompting the Peace Corps and CDC to pull out their staff. We could no longer justify bringing 13 year old students into that environment. Other schools followed suit with their programs in Honduras which is often the sad reality of third world work. We keep that option open for a future trip, however.
The program went ahead locally under the direction of science teacher, Rich Lehrer. Liasing via Skype with other schools in Rwanda and Brazil as well as the D-Lab at MIT, students built a Dos por Tres cook stove with parts sent to us from Honduras by our friends at Overlook.
Since that first stove, the program continues to evolve and grow with grade school students working with the MIT D-Lab in design competitions, linking the program into other schools in the US and internationally, and involvement with the Aprovecho Stove Seminars on efficient stove design.