Stories of Change

The old (top) and new (bottom) stoves at Hoa Trung school.

New stoves for a school in northern Vietnam

Hoang Thi Vien and Quan Thi Tham have a big job ahead of them every day: cooking two meals for more than 200 students!

The women work at the Hoa Trung primary school, which is a boarding school for ethnic minority children who travel to a central village for school. The students live in remote mountain villages, where only some parents see the value in making sure their children get an education.

“It’s not an easy job to cook for 210 students every day,” Vien says. “Our kitchen used to have five wood-burning stoves, and cooking the rice was the hardest work because we used three huge pots on three of the five stoves to cook about 30 pounds of rice in each pot for each meal.” The women started at 6:30 each morning to get the water boiling and cook the rice. It was a three-hour process – with so much rice in each pot, they scooped burning coals from the stove onto the pot lid to also cook the rice from the top. Not only was this difficult and a bit dangerous, but it also led to ash ending up inside the pot and spoiling some of the rice. Plus, it used a LOT of firewood.

As part of our program to support schools in this part of Vietnam, CWS helped build two new, larger stoves in the kitchen instead. Vien’s response? “It’s amazing! So convenient!”

“It’s now very easy and quick to light up a fire in the morning, because the stove is still a little warm from the last use. And now it takes only 20 minutes for the water to boil, and then only 90 minutes for all three rice pots to be cooked through the same,” she said. Tham added, “Now we do not have to put wood coals on the lid anymore, so our risk of burning ourselves is gone, and, even better, there is no ash in the rice – and no smoke at all in the kitchen. Most importantly, it saves a lot of wood. Before, we used four bundles of firewood, but now it’s only one and a half. We use less than half as much now!”

The time saved each day has a special benefit for Vien: “Now we don’t have to go to work so early, so I have time to take my son to his school before coming here.”