Amigos for Christ

01. February 2016 From the Field 0

1131 - Apalonia Alejandra Vargas MejiaDuring recent Sunday morning breakfast, my mother said there were “some things” we needed to discuss. I put down my cereal spoon and sighed loudly. As she’s gotten older, the phrase “some things to discuss” has become a euphemism for “estate planning.” Seeing my lack of enthusiasm, my Mom quoted Ecclesiastes 7:11 – a tactic that always wins this particular argument.

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. There’s never a good time to discuss this but it’s important,” she told me.

As usual, she was right. Every parent has the “what happens after” conversation with their child at some point.

The following Monday at work, I learned about another mother who’d recently had a similar conversation with her children – except 71-year-old Apalonia’s estate planning was centered on something most of us take for granted: a new kitchen.

Apalonia, her eight children and two grandchildren live in a home made from scrap materials and iron sheets. The family struggled with malnutrition, inadequate sanitation, parasites and the lack of a clean place to prepare a meal. During the dry season, they cooked over an open fire outside, exposing them to heat, dust and smoke. When it rained, they cooked on an indoor, wood-burning “stove” turning their home into a death trap of carbon monoxide and ash.

Toxic levels of carbon monoxide cause respiratory infections that kill 300 children annually in Nicaragua and leaves adults, primarily women, with chronic lung diseases and cancer. Builders rarely had safety features in mind so houses weren’t constructed with tile countertops. Instead, meats and fresh vegetables mix on hard-to-clean concrete or wooden countertops, and meals can easily be tainted by e. coli and salmonella.

After a relative died and left her a small inheritance, Apalonia finally had enough for the $40 investment to participate in Amigos for Christ’s “Clean Air Kitchen” project.  Amigos for Christ is one of our ministry partner in Nicaragua, and its Clean Air Kitchen project is an outreach we help support by subsidizing the bulk of the program’s costs.

Engaging in the project, Apalonia worked alongside masons to build a clean air stove and tiled cooktop and now – for the first time in her life – her home is smoke-free. Ask her to describe the experience and she’s almost speechless.

“I never imagined anything like this would ever be possible for us,” she said. This is the legacy I am leaving my family.”

Apalonia’s new stove is a physical blessing and an inheritance for her children, ensuring they will no longer face the toxic conditions they endured growing up. It serves as a tangible reminder for future generations that God does, indeed, hear our cries and is faithful to meet our needs – sometimes impacting both the poor and generations to come.

– Fayola S.


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