In the late 1980s, HELPS International’s medical teams reported an alarming number of children being treated for burns and numerous respiratory problems. Engineer Don O’Neal, a medical team leader with HELPS, investigated and found that the problem was the traditional method of cooking: an open fire within the home. With no ventilation, causing families to inhale dangerous fumes causing Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI). 

Don O’Neal and HELPS developed the award-winning ONIL line of household products including the plancha stove. This stove reduces wood consumption by 70% resulting in a major economic benefit and a better quality of life for families with long-term benefits to the environment. Women gained the equivalent of two days a week in time saved from gathering wood, allowing them time for social and economic activities like cultivating a vegetable garden. Volunteer teams are sent out to install these stoves.

Affordable, effective health care is essential for families in poverty to build socially and economically productive lives. Unfortunately, millions of Guatemalans don’t have access to quality health care. With only one doctor for every thousand residents and severely limited medical care in rural areas, persistent health crises threaten the country’s progress. Maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, communicable diseases, parasites, and diabetes are high, especially in indigenous communities. 

That’s why HELPS International is working to fill the gaps in health care and bring hope to rural areas of Guatemala. With a network of U.S.-based volunteer medical teams, HELPS is providing preventive care, surgery, and community education to those who need it most. Each team is made up of several dozen physicians, nurses and support staff who travel with them to remote areas with severely limited access to health care.