This #GivingTuesday, we wanted to highlight our HomeStove work abroad, which is enabled by your purchases at the BioLite Shop. Here's how our business model works:
We invest the revenue generated by our outdoor recreation business to build long-term, scalable solutions to alleviate poverty and respiratory disease in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Your purchases fund the initial costs of building HomeStove operations in these markets. And HomeStove market-building is no small undertaking: it requires hiring a team of business professionals in places like Orissa, India and Kampala, Uganda; partnering with professionally-run, locally-embedded distributors; training local sales staff and customers; raising awareness of the health consequences of household air pollution in order to garner local community support; developing marketing and training materials in dozens of local languages; managing transport logistics (e.g, how do you strap HomeStoves to the back of a motorcycle?); providing fast product service and maintenance to thousands of remote villages; and following up with every customer to make sure they’re satisfied by their purchase and using the stove regularly. Each challenge, be it small or large, requires time and resources - and your purchase helps make those resources available. This is where real change can happen.
We're proud to share updates from the field from our local program managers - here are just a few ways your support is helping to create lasting impact.
1. Creating local jobs: (em)powering a father to support his family
One of the ways we create impact abroad is by employing and training a team of HomeStove Sales Promoters in rural India. Each person completes a hands-on training process teaching trainees the three key responsibilities of Sales Promoters : (1) how to best operate the HomeStove, (2) conduct a village demo, and (3) complete after-sale service. In total, BioLite has 50 hands on deck conducting demos and closing sales. Selling BioLite HomeStoves provides an additional source of income to help these men support their families while educating people in their communities about the health benefits and energy access the HomeStove provides.
Meet Vishwajit. Vishwahit is the BioLite Sales Promoter in the Mayurbhanj District of India. By day, he demos the BioLite HomeStove at local haats, or markets, where he meets new people and revels in their awe over fire creating electricity. At night, Vishwajit returns home to his 3 ½ year old daughter, Hanshika.
Vishwajit bursts with pride as he speaks about his daughter. Hanshika is a very smart young girl on track to speaking the local language of Oriya as well as Hindi and English. Vishwajit and Hanshika often return back to the market after work to treat themselves to ice cream. Vishwajit’s says he enjoys being both a sales promoter and a father for the adventure and excitement they bring to his life.
2. Health impact: Intervening to Improve Birth Weight and Infant Respiratory Health in Rural Ghana
In Ghana, we are working with the Ghanaian government's public pre-natal healthcare system to provide pregnant women with HomeStoves that will reduce toxic indoor smoke and hopefully lead to the reduction of both pre-natal and infant respiratory disease. The process began in 2013 with recruitment of study participants and the first stoves were distributed in October of that year. Over the past 13 months, there have been over 100 babies born among mothers within the study.
According to Columbia University Health Sciences, "smoke from biomass combustion leads to approximately 1.6 million excess annual deaths and a substantial share of the global burden of disease, due in large part to increased risk of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in children under age five. Recent evidence also suggests that exposures to cook smoke during pregnancy may be associated with reduced birth weight." This newest trial, which has been designed by Columbia University and funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), is the largest Randomized Controlled Health Trial (RCT) ever conducted to demonstrate the effects of reduced indoor smoke on pregnant women and new-born babies.
3. Access to Electricity: Enabling connection and communication
In many areas of the world, reliable access to electricity is not a reality. This affects access to light, refrigeration, and communication to name just a few activities. Evelyn received a HomeStove from her child that enables not just her, but her whole community to stay connected.
"I no longer walk to town to charge -- my neighbors come to me to plug in their phone." - Evelyn Mayanja
Evelyn Mayanja is a 75-year-old widow living in a very remote village in central Uganda. Four out of five of her children have moved to bigger towns outside of the area making communication challenging for the family. Until recently, Evelyn walked more than one kilometer each way to the nearest town every week to charge her phone so that her children could reach her.
One of her older children saw a HomeStove demo in the city and purchased it to bring to his mother’s village. For the first time in her life, Evelyn had a source of energy in her home. Now she not only charges her own phone at home, but also the phones of her neighbors. With the extra money Evelyn saves from her weekly trips to town, she purchases one of the few things they don't have available in her village: milk.
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