Women cook on a cement stove

When Stephanie Jean, a student in Humber’s International Development postgraduate program, finished up her 12-week internship in Vuelta Grande, Guatemala, one thing was clear: the community, who had been displaced from their indigenous territory after 30 years of civil war, was dealing with widespread respiratory disease. The likely cause: cooking over open fires.

The diverse Mayan community was already suffering from a loss of culture, language and traditional skills, and access to good jobs, education and healthcare was limited. And while these were serious challenges that would have to be addressed over the long term, Stephanie’s needs assessment determined that one thing was possible right away: providing families with inexpensive wood stoves could significantly reduce the amount of indoor pollution and prevent further respiratory illnesses.

Working with Fundación Corazones Libres, a Guatemalan non-profit who would purchase, distribute and install the stoves, Humber approached the Rotary Club of Etobicoke with a request to match the college’s donation of $5,555. Together, Humber and Rotary raised enough to purchase 55 stoves – making an immediate and significant difference to the community’s health and wellness.  Altogether, Rotary clubs across the world raised enough money to buy 100 stoves for Vuelta Grande’s families.

"While it's surrounded by a beautiful landscape, the community of Vuelta Grande has a number of fundamental challenges in the community that make day-to-day survival a hardship," says Kim Pavan, director of professional and continuing education with Humber School of Social and Community Services. "I had the privilege of accompanying Stephanie to Vuelta Grande and marveled at her ability to establish a great rapport with the community elders, conduct interviews and gather the information needed to produce a comprehensive needs assessment, which will hopefully be used to secure future development funding and projects."