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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kind

Small changes make a BIG difference

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Magdalena is a 52 year old Tzutujil Maya and a single mother, who lives with her developmentally disabled, 36 year old son. She washes laundry in other people’s houses, for which she receives a pittance. Her home is a cement block and stone, 5’ x 10’ room with a leaky tin roof. Squeezed between two other buildings, there is no space outside the house to build a kitchen.

The mother sleeps on the floor upon a rush mat, rolling it up during the day to be able to move through the tiny space. In order not to hurt himself, the son needs to be restrained; he is tethered to a wall and spends his life on a wooden pallet in this very small space. They receive periodic visits from a social service organization in the community but can rarely afford to buy the medicines which are prescribed.

Magdalena cooked her food at a neighbor’s home because she could not have an open fire in the tiny space since her son would burn himself. Often, the cooking facilities were only available to her late at night, since she was the last one in line to use them. On these nights, she had to leave him closed in the room with no one to supervise him, while she went to cook their food.

Magdalena’s situation came to our attention. We offered to install, as our gift, an ONIL stove inside the tiny space, knowing that the enclosed fire within the cast cement walls of the stove would present no danger of burning the handicapped son. The stove could be positioned so that he could reach neither the fire box opening nor the chimney.

On our visit a few days after the stove was installed, Magdalena told us, with tears in her eyes, how grateful she is that now she does not have to leave her son alone while she prepares their food. With no smoke in the room from the ONIL stove, for the first time, they can have warmth in their cold room. The firewood she buys in small quantities disappeared quickly when used at her neighbor’s open fire…now it lasts three times as long. The ONIL stove has improved the quality of life for the mother and brings a smile to the face of the son when he sees his mother cooking.

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