Recipe for Success: The Impact of Safe Cooking on Family Health and Prosperity

Recipe for Success: The Impact of Safe Cooking on Family Health and Prosperity

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Paso a Paso creates income opportunities for women and craftsmen while also reducing upper respiratory infections in women and children. 83% of Guatemalans use wood to cook meals, most in open pit fires. Unvented fires causes health risks from carbon monoxide/noxious fumes which are typically 500 times the allowable limits. The WHO reports that upper respiratory infection is the # 1 killer of Guatemalan women and 1 out of 5 children die due to respiratory illnesses before age 5. Replacing fireplaces/pits with modern, insulated and efficient wood burning stoves reduces respiratory illness and injuries. Additionally, jobs are created through training craftsmen to construct the stoves while incomes are made by women using the stoves to cook and sell surplus food such as tortillas.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The two communities currently served are home to approximately-4000 individuals. Sixty percent of the adult male population is absent from the homes and engaged in work outside the country or working significant distances from the home. Women are the primary caregivers and in many instances, the primary income producers. Almost all homes are built on steep hills or mountainsides with difficult accessibility. Since education is not compulsory, 60% of the children are employed within the family unit to provide labor to collect fuel, tend to crops or to provide child care for younger siblings. The residents are deeply religious but are infused with many beliefs, practices and traditions that contribute to poor education, health and welfare. We partner with the local and international, faith based institutions to provide education assistance which contributes to a greater success in overcoming traditional barriers to promoting stove construction and fire safety. Initial results have proven successful on a small scale with promises of a greater impact if replicated region wide.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

While installation of a stove in a home is a simple and cost effective way to increase economic opportunities, the stoves also increase the quality of a family's life by removing harmful smoke from the home. Exposure to smoke poses health hazards to women and children that include: burns and scalds; asthma, tuberculosis and pneumonia; cancer and stunted growth in children. Also, children and women are plagued with eye irritations, infections, cataracts and blindness. Paso a Paso seeks not only to improve the economic fabric of the family, but also seeks to encourage awareness and practices towards health conscious behavior within the communities Paso a Paso serves. For the local populace to embrace the concept of constructing and using a safe stove, Paso a Paso recognizes a need to educate and demonstrate the benefits a safe stove provides. Paso a Paso has begun a pilot program aimed at 1000 households where the potential of acceptance to a new stove is greater. These households will receive simple printed materials, counseling and instructions aimed at overcoming barriers towards the use of safe stoves, fire safety and potential economic opportunities. Much of this work will be conducted, one-on-one in the potential recipient’s home. Current recipients will be recruited as examples, demonstrating proof of program success. While these efforts are on-going, Paso a Paso will begin conducting PSA’s concerning fire safety and how a new stove will contribute to a healthier home environment for families.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

First, an assessment occurs to identify households using indoor pits or fireplaces to cook meals. Next, candidate households are personally engaged in discussions to raise awareness about the positive impact of safer cooking stoves. Third, through individual donations of labor, materials or the cash to purchase materials, local craftsmen are trained to build specially designed, inexpensive and vented stoves for receptive households willing to make the change. Each site is assessed to ensure there is a stable platform for the stove and if needed, one is constructed. It typically takes 4-5 days to prepare the site and craft and install the stove. Finally the stove is initiated with the first family meal. Not only do the women cook family meals on the new stoves they are also counseled in the opportunities to use the stoves as a source of income; through cooking and selling food stuffs such as tortillas. The current installations have produced 5 skilled craftsmen who will continue to construct stoves for Paso a Paso while new economic opportunities have opened for 8 self-employed women selling cooked food using the stoves. Additionally, because the stoves are more fuel efficient, families can save approximately $150 annually; enough to send a child to school for a year.
About You
Paso a Paso, Step by Step
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Paso a Paso, Step by Step

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Five (5) years ago Stephanie began her Guatemala Mission in the community of Barrio La Cruz. Desiring to help women and children of Mayan decent, Stephanie visited the local communities and observed serious health issues where children and women suffered from respiratory and burn injuries. Her investigation revealed, illnesses and injuries were mostly due to poorly constructed fireplaces/fire pits. The cooking fires were located in unvented rooms constructed from corn stalks and tin for roofs. 80% of fire places used for cooking have no barriers to prevent inadvertent contact with the fire or un-insulated cooking or heating surfaces.
Stephanie researched several potential solutions and discovered a stove design with multiple benefits. Most importantly, the design encompassed superior protection from burns and inhalation of smoke. The stove design also presented a potential for improved household income as the men could be trained to craft and install the stoves and the women could use the stoves to safely prepare baked goods to sell at local markets.
When Stephanie launched the stove program, she often encountered families who were unaware of fire safety and the benefits associated with vented and insulated stoves. Prevailing attitudes and practices towards current fireplaces contributed to difficulties in gaining acceptance of the benefits a new stove would provide for the family. Stephanie adapted to this realization by developing an education program and collaborative partnerships to overcome these barriers. This helped contributed to the success of the program.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Paso a Paso has raised awareness among the 40% of the population it serves about vented stoves benefits in terms of family health, safety and self-sufficiency. The children in rural Guatemala have significant disadvantages, but those easiest to overcome are; preventing respiratory ailments within the home through improved fireplace/fire pit ventilation. Additionally, the high rate of burn injuries among children can be prevented.
Paso a Paso's efforts to provide structurally sound, insulated, ventilated and fuel efficient stoves has observed a 90% decrease in smoke within the homes where stoves have been installed which in turn has had a dramatic and positive impact upon the women and children. Unexpected results for the family and children were; children spending less time searching for and securing fuel for the stoves; significantly better attendance rates in school due to less absenteeism from illnesses; and increased family prosperity due to the stove's recipient’s ability to cook and sell surplus food.
Paso a Paso found that there were long standing tolerances for a lack of stove and fire safety as well as traditions and beliefs which contributed to lowered acceptance standards for fire safety. To temper these traditions and beliefs; stove recipients’ receive education regarding fire and environmental precautions as well as stove and fire safety instruction. We are able to provide this education through the distribution of published materials/handouts and one-on-one classes.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

This project requires partnering with local and international faith based institutions to provide financial, education, technical and labor resources. Defeating barriers imposed by a lack of knowledge of stove and fire safety presents challenges that can be overcome by education and local families serving as trusted spokespeople for completed, successful projects. Recently a second community learned of the efforts of Paso a Paso and requested the same programs. These efforts have begun and promise to be just as successful as they are currently in Barrio La Cruz. Paso a Paso plans to provide services to a total of 4 communities within 3 years with the potential to impact over 9000 community members.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barriers to success include poorly developed site locations for the stoves, resources for securing materials need to construct the stoves and a lack of skilled craftsmen. Additional barriers include a lack of economic and health benefits knowledge an installed stove will provide a family. Paso a Paso realizes that long term success requires a "feet on the ground" approach. While initial efforts and progress were conducted through repeated 1-2 month visits several times each year by the founder, Paso a Paso has recently been able to secure designated gifts which occasionally provide for a small stipend to 3 full-time volunteers in Guatemala. The full-time volunteer staff contributes to opportunities that aid in developing individual and organizational support, securing resources in support of the mission, developing site planning and construction labor pools and conducting educational awareness. Further efforts to increase the presence of Paso a Paso’s missions in the community require; continual volunteer recruiting while motivating volunteerism within the local populace and the international volunteer corps.

Tell us about your partnerships

Along with the founder’s visits and the local volunteer staff, awareness of Paso a Paso within its home community has increased regionally. Proof of this occurred when Paso a Paso was asked to begin providing services within the community of El Rejon. Paso-a Paso has a dedicated team of stateside volunteers who have made repeated visits in support of Paso a Paso's various missions and efforts. Paso a Paso’s website details many of these visits. These volunteers continue to provide financial assistance, labor resources, materials and education to those that Paso a Paso serves.
In addition, Paso a Paso has recruited volunteers who maintain the organizations web site and who also are able to provide marketing, grant writing and fundraising support.
Paso a Paso is actively seeking partnerships with new faith based organizations as well as maintaining the current relationships with corporate sponsors while also seeking new corporate partners. Currently, a commercial partner in Antigua, Guatemala provides labor to aid in building packages containing school supplies for children participating in the school supplies and tuition assistance reward program.
Building similar relationships in support of the stove construction and site development programs are in their infancy stages. Barriers to Paso a Paso's success at training and securing skilled craftsmen to construct the stoves are hampered by the ability to provide consistent work resulting in the craftsmen leaving the area for work elsewhere, including immigrating to the United States. However, with increased awareness and by default, increased installations along with the examples of having built several stoves, Paso a Paso has observed an increase in participation demand within the building trades’ community whose members are lending technical knowhow towards site development of planned stove installations.

Explain your selections

Paso a Paso became organized with the help of family and friends who were supportive of the Founders vision and initial efforts within Guatemala. With outreach and marketing, Paso a Paso has formed relationships with 6 faith based organizations that support Paso a Paso with financial donations of $20,000.00 annually. Three years ago, Paso a Paso started a fund within the Foundation for Community Partnerships ( to aid in fund raising and awareness of the organizations missions. Through its website, Paso a Paso also offers, fair trade crafts made by residents of Barrio La Cruz. Through the sales and profits of these items, further support is generated. Continuing efforts will be made to secure additional funding through grants and awards.
In the fall of 2011, Paso a Paso will begin a capital campaign to secure funding for the building of a bunkhouse and office for volunteers to reside in, short term, while engaged in active support of the various missions conducted by Paso a Paso. The cost is estimated at $100,000.00.
Paso a Paso recognizes the impact the local and international business community will play in the prevention of health related injuries caused by poor fireplace/stove use. Paso a Paso will continue to seek the support of the business community through donations and in-kind services with a goal of collecting $40,000.00 annually. Current recipients of stove installations will be encouraged to communicate the positive impact these installations have made personally for their families, within their community and regionally.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

With a simple and cost-effective solution of substituting a safe stove for an indoor fire pit, Paso a Paso can significantly improve the quality of life for 500 poor Guatemalan families in the next 3 years. Paso a Paso's initial success has been through the result of building and maintaining relationships with supporters/donors. As a result of these efforts, Paso a Paso has been successful in reaching out to other interested parties and securing 15% of our financial need. Through a combination of personal marketing efforts by supporters and donors and a proven success record on the ground in the communities served by Paso a Paso, new faith based institutions have sought out Paso a Paso. Recently, a grant writing professional has volunteered her services to assist Paso a Paso in securing funding. Paso a Paso recognizes, that for it to continue to provide stoves to Guatemalans, requires actively educating the local populace about the economic and health benefits of the stoves and general fire safety while simultaneously educating businesses and the local and national government to become active participants in these programs. There are many incentives for local, national and international businesses and governmental stakeholders to realize favorable financial benefits as a result of a stove installation and fire safety education programs. It is expected they will observe from the best practices and lessons learned that the programs contribute to a family’s lessened burden on existing governmental assistance programs and the services and costs associated with providing them.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of visibility and investment


Need for regulatory/policy support


Lack of efficiency

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

For the local populace to embrace the concept of constructing and using a safe stove, Paso a Paso recognizes the continuing need to educate and demonstrate the benefits. Paso a Paso’s pilot program is aimed at 1000 households who will receive simple printed materials, counseling and instructions aimed at overcoming barriers towards the use of safe stoves, Safety and potential economic opportunities. Much of this work will be conducted, one-on-one in the potential recipient’s home.
Current recipients have been recruited as spokespersons, demonstrating proof of program success. Paso a Paso will provide communities with Stove and Fire PSA's. Paso a Paso will continue to recruit and train local craftsmen to construct the stoves thus creating further economic impact within the community.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

With the continued support from existing and new donors, volunteers, in-kind service providers as well as the current cadre of craftsmen and business allies, Paso a Paso intends to enlist additional complimentary support through local, national and international businesses. Paso a Paso is currently engaged in the communities of Barrio La Cruz and El Rejon with expectations of adding 2 more communities within 3 years. Paso a Paso intends to install 3 stoves per month in the next 3 years for a total of 108 stoves. Central to these installations is the on-going stove and fire safety education program to raise income potential awareness the stoves provide as well as instantly improving family health through the elimination of smoke in the kitchen and home.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Through the combination of a functioning awareness education program and the examples of actual stoves in operation, Paso a Paso believes new faith based and volunteer organizations, commercial enterprises and local/national governments will become involved. Paso a Paso will encourage these entities and organizations to provide economic and material support through direct donations, grants and awards.
Paso a Paso has received support and guidance from web site developers as a marketing tool for communicating with donors, potential donors and those desiring information about Paso a Paso and its missions.
Paso a Paso also opened and has maintained a $5000.00 fund within the "Foundation for Community Partnerships" to facilitate securing tax deductible donations, support and marketing.