HELPS International - Global Leadership Award

Since 1984, HELPS International has supported community development throughout Latin America. In a region where over 9 million families cook with open fires, the ONIL Stoves Project was created to address the health and deforestation issues associated with traditional three-stone fires. HELPS International has since developed a range of stove models that suit the needs of rural populations. The stoves reduce wood use by 70% and minimize exposure to carbon monoxide and particulates. HELPS International promotes local manufacturing, distribution, and social marketing among communities to ensure program sustainability and to best-serve their target population. Since 2001, HELPS has disseminated 67,000 stoves. Please read on for more information from Helps' Richard Grinnell.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
HELPS International has, from the start, been innovative in attacking IAP problems in Guatemala and now in other regions of Latin America. It has been very exciting to come up with novel ways to solve the problems that continue to emerge as the project continues over time, to create a REAL solution that is sustainable. At HELPS we believe that many people are not involved because they don’t know how to be involved in solving poverty issues, so generating and being part of the solution is a great feeling vs. being a by-stander.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I believe that HELPS has managed to change the way improved stove projects are focused. We have seen how many projects that began defending the “build one at a time in the home with local materials” way of implementation have understood the need for mass production and implementation if we are to start making a real impact in the problem of IAP. Additionally, we are proud that the ONIL Stove Project is the first stove project, to our understanding, to be sustainable, and has been for the past three and a half years.

How has PCIA helped you in your work?
PCIA has helped to developed materials to create awareness in communities, specifically the place based education program materials, and provided networking opportunities to share results, manufacturing materials and to disseminate information about HELPS’ activities.

What did you find most useful about the 2009 PCIA Forum?
The 2009 PCIA Forum in Kampala was very useful in seeing and understanding why different organizations are using different technologies and NOT using chimneys (cooking outdoors as I saw in the communities around Kampala). Better understanding the carbon financing process and procedure of acquiring certification was probably the highlight of the forum for HELPS, as we are currently seeking this to aid in expanding the distribution directly to the end user. Meeting other Latin America players was also very important to create a network that will enable to bring further attention and financing for projects in the region.

What mentoring or other opportunities have you had to share your successful approaches with others?
There were various groups from different parts of the world interested in learning more about the HELPS method of production and distribution, and had many interesting discussions on these topics. I believe we could, at some time, offer a project visit for organizations interested in seeing our operation first hand.

What are your program’s goals for the coming 1-2 years?
In the next couple of years HELPS is planning to expand further within Mexico, install a production site in Nicaragua and expand distribution to Honduras. HELPS plans to sell and distribute 216,000 stoves in the next 2 years. In the distribution, we plan to increase the Community Distributor system we have started to implement. It is our medium term goal to make this distribution system our main sales avenue, which will also be responsible for selling spare parts to make sure the stove continue to work over time. We are also working on an industrial scale plancha stove for commercial tortilla sales that should be finalized during 2009 and ready for distribution by 2010.