Nancy Hughes, executive director of StoveTeam International, recalled what it was like for her growing up in a “Rotary family”. She recalls her dad joining the local Rotary group and she remembers being involved in various philanthropic activities like bake sales and the giving of food boxes during the holidays. She recalls her uncle joining and then later, stood by her husband’s side when he was in Rotary.

When Nancy’s husband died, Southtowne asked Nancy to join and kept harassing her until she reluctantly joined, needing something to do. So she joined Cascade Medical Team and went to Guatamala. They took 120 doctors, nurses, and support personnel to assist with the indigenous population. It was a 15 hour bus drive after the long flight. They were working on a former military base.

In Guatemala, there were 24 different languages. They sent someone out on a motorcycle with a megaphone announcing free medical care. Nancy worked in the kitchen from 5am-midnight every day. She even slept in the kitchen. She recalls a brother with a wooden chair strapped to his back. He’d had his sister sit there and carried her 3 days with a ruptured appendix to get care.

Nancy went back several times. She met a woman who had burnt her hands on an open fire in her home. She came back to the Rotary club and approached Dick Briggs about funding and grant writing. They wrote a grant and worked to raise funds for fuel efficient cookstoves. On her next trip, they installed 120 cookstoves.

But the need was for 6 million.

Ken Goyer (the leading designer of cookstoves) and Larry Winarski came to Nancy and told her she couldn’t quit. Ken gave her a book called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…” and began working with her on a portable stove that people could afford and could make locally. But Nancy still wasn’t committed 100% until she received a check from Carlos Santana and a call from Larry who found someone to build the new design in El Salvador.

So she went back with a few other Southtowners and started meeting with government officials. Nancy was presented with support for setting up the factory and they made it a goal to make 1000 stoves. They ended up selling 1400 in the first year. From there, more funds were raised, more grants applied for, and another factory was set up in Guatemala.

There are now factories in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico and StoveTeam became a non-profit in 2008. There are a minimum of 4 trips a year of volunteers. StoveTeam has sold enough stoves to impact a half a million people throughout Latin America and they are still growing.

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