Most Americans are in Kenya to make money, but Dr Coleen Stice came to reduce the sting of burns and respiratory problems caused by fires from open stone jikos.
Although Salama Stoves was founded in 2015 in Kenya, our story begins 30 years ago in South America, when Dr. Stice was asked by her mentors at Mayo clinic – where she was completing a fellowship – to accompany a medical team to Guatemala.
Here, she learned how damaging inadequate cooking solutions can be to the health of villagers and to the environment.
During her trip she witnessed firsthand the terrible burns, respiratory problems and eye disease caused by open fires, and understood the positive impact that an improved cooking solution could have on peoples’ lives.
Not only did these clean burning stoves reduce deforestation and minimize smoke inhalation, but they freed up time for family members who no longer had to go searching for wood; this meant that children had more time to go school and women could engage in income generating activities.
Inspired by her trip, Dr. Stice began International Medical Exchange in 1990 and since then has led medical groups to Guatemala, Russia and most recently – Kenya.
The primary focus of IME is to cooperate with local medical personnel on projects they think are important; in Kenya, it soon became obvious that diseases and injuries caused by open fires and traditional cooking methods were regarded by many local doctors as an ‘epidemic’.
On the back of her South American experience, Dr. Stice partnered with a team of local experts to come up with a solution: a stove that would minimize the risk of burns, whilst at the same time reduce fuel consumption, toxic emissions and cooking time.
“Our design makes the stove more efficient so it uses less wood but it traps more heat, cooking is easy and quicker, the stove is insultated so it’s safer making burns less likely.
Each stove is handmade with care in kenya by Kenyans, the water heater gives the family hot water for washing at no extra cost,” says Todd Wofchuckthe country director for Salama stoves.
Since then, Salama stoves has put together a team that comes from development, engineering and medical backgrounds to tackle the issue from all angles. The stove they have designed is durable, aspirational and easy to install.
Safe for children
Most importantly, the stove is safe for children, hence the name Salama, which means safe in Swahili.
Salama Stoves has partnered with Nakuru Regional Hospital and Dr. Stice returns every year to operate on children who have been burned in three stone fires.
The medical staff at the burns unit helps us select the families who would benefit the most from one of our Salama Stoves, usually families from very humble backgrounds who would otherwise have no choice but to continue using indoor fires.