HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – A Hastings man introduced environmentally-friendly stoves last week to the people of Haiti, which brings him one step closer to achieving his mission to help the country’s people and its environment.
David Stillman, a retired United Nations staff member, recently won a $5,000 grant from the Marigold Ideas For Good contest to help fund the project. Stillman and the Public-Private Alliance Foundation, with help and inspiration provided by Project Gaia International, developed the project, he said.
“We succeeded beyond our expectations,” Stillman said of the trip. “We were in the country for one week, but boy, did we make the best of it.”
The stoves are fueled by ethanol made from sugar cane husks and much of the trip was spent meeting with local people who could either make fuel or use the stoves, Stillman said.
“They’re very eager to be suppliers,” he said. “That would really be great if we had producers and customers in the same town.”
Stillman spent time in Jacmel, Haiti where he met with local artisans who create paper mache masks and decorations for a large festival held in the town in February. Normally, he said the artisans use charcoal stoves to heat the glue needed to make paper mache, resulting in a sooty, dangerous mess that is also detrimental to local forests, which are cut down to make charcoal. With the new ethanol stoves, Stillman said artisans will be able to cleanly produce goods without the dangers of charcoal.
In addition to being a cleaner heat source for the artisans, the new stoves also take what was once 45 minutes of work and reduce that to 15 minutes, Stillman said.
Stillman plans to return to Haiti in six weeks to continue the process of implementing the stoves into local towns. Once the program is established, Haitians can produce almost every part of the stove and fuel locally, boosting local economies and reducing the environmental footprint caused by importing materials, Stillman said.
“People live in really rough conditions in Haiti, but it’s not hopeless,” Stillman said. “People are working and pushing to make their lives better.”
The Public-Private Alliance will host a Partners Against Poverty Benefit for Haiti, featuring a silent auction, Oct. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Resource Furniture in New York City. For more information about the event, program or how to get involved, visit the Public-Private Alliance website.