Simple sun-cooker takes off as a way to help Darfuris
Grass-roots giving for the solar cooker, donated to women who fled Darfur, takes root in the US.
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"The Sudanese government is allowing the conditions in the camps to be one of their main mechanisms of genocide," says Adam Sterling, executive director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. "It is the type of grass-roots efforts like the solar cooker project supported by private donations that is sustaining [the refugees]."Skip to next paragraph
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The idea originated with Rabbi Harold Schulweis and activist/attorney Janice Kamenir-Reznick, who formed Jewish World Watch in 2004.
Since then, the organization has reached out to major churches and universities across the US, and says it seeks to "combat genocide" through community education and activism. So far, $750,000 has been raised in individual contributions of $30 – the cost of two solar cookers, training, and two pot holders, which support one family.
"In my 50 years as a rabbi, I have never seen an idea or project or program ignite so broadly or contagiously," says Mr. Schulweis. "This has been a moving experience for Jews by uniting different congregations who usually have their own separate projects … as well as for reaching out to other religions. It is an issue that has proven to transcend denominationalism."
After the JWW identified Darfur as a genocide, it began to support a small pilot project there led by KoZon, a Dutch organization that provides women in developing countries with inexpensive cooking techniques using the sun.
"The women were apprehensive at first, and couldn't believe you could really cook with the sun," says Ms. Andres. When JWW began to help the project, KoZon was testing the cookers with about 350 families. (A typical family consists of one woman as head of the household, two or three of her own children and one or two orphans, she says. Only 1 in 5 households has an adult male.)
"They tried the food, realized it tasted good, and that you didn't have to stand over a fire for hours," Andres says. The staples of such camps are millet, rice, and bean rations that are trucked in from long distances – and have to be cooked.
Fundraising efforts take off
Once the solar cooker project proved to be feasible, fundraising efforts spread to purchase the cookers, build manufacturing facilities on-site in neighboring Chad, and teach women to assemble them.
Shelby, the 11th-grader, heard about the solar cooker project from her father, and sold jewelry she made by hand or collected from friends and relatives. "The response by people is an immediate and solemn recognition about the horrors of racial strife and ethnic cleansing going on right now, in their own world," she says.
Shelby was motivated to raise money because she thought she could have an impact – even with a small donation. She now gives talks to school, civic, and church groups on the Darfur crisis.
"I thought if I just raised $100 and purchased three solar cookers, then that would really make a big difference for somebody," Shelby says. "People love the idea that no matter what age they are, how much money they have, that their small contribution will honestly make a difference to someone."
Jewish World Watch
Solar Cooker Project
16944 Ventura Blvd. Suite 1
Encino, CA 91316