To many Americans, an oven is just another appliance, but to an undernourished community in Kenya, an oven, and a solar-powered one at that, is a way to provide fresh food and clean water to its growing orphan population.
After more than a year of efforts, the Truckee Sunrise Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Truckee, Rotary Club of Tahoe City and the Tahoe Truckee High School Interact Club raised more than $13,000 to purchase a Villager Solar Oven for the Kenya Orphans Rural Development Programme in the western Kenyan town of Webuye.
"Being able to provide a solar oven sounds nice, but the root came from the fact that they were unable to provide themselves with clean food," said Brent Ferrera, club service chair of the Sunrise Rotary. "Everything was contaminated; contaminated by flies, contaminated by animal feces."
Ferrera said one goal of a Rotary club is to take on an international project every year or at least every other year.
"It's about providing someone else with the ability to provide and grow for themselves," he said.
But even for all their good intentions, the solar oven project was not an easy one for the service groups. A process that should have taken close to nine months from start to finish took two full years, Ferrera said. Getting the oven out of the United States brought about typical purchasing and shipping issues, and progress went downhill fast once the oven hit ground in Africa.
"Our concern was that it had been stolen (at customs). There were some conflicting groups and we were afraid it had been highjacked in route," Ferrera said. "There were at least six months that the oven just disappeared from the radar, then we would get word that it was being released and things were happening, and then two months later it would be back in limbo."
Eventually the Rotary had to pay even more to buy their own oven out of customs in Kenya. But even with all the setbacks, Rotarians still say the project was worth the struggles.
"The solar oven means that people don't have to cut down trees that are holding the soil together or walk for miles to gather wood," said Sunrise Rotary president Steve Lieberman. "It's a way for the community to cooperate in meeting food needs instead of competing."
Last year, the Truckee Rotary clubs merged efforts for an international project that provided nearly 80 new wheelchairs to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico.