These solar cookers are very inexpensive to make, and yet their impact on Darfur’s families is immeasurable
Spreading compassion for all things and attending to the suffering of others is steeped in the Jewish tradition, in part as a result of deep scars left behind by the holocaust. Nor does this philosophy extend to Israel alone. British Jews are doing their part to reverse environmental damage, while Jews around the world pay their respects to the world’s sadness on Tisha B’Av. So when Rachel Andres traveled to Darfur and learned that women, who had already endured the unthinkable horrors of genocide, were being exposed to rape and attack while collecting firewood for cooking, she decided to do something about it.
Jewish Worldwatch was spearheaded in 2004 by Rabbi Harold M.Schulweis in response to the revelation of Darfur’s genocide. The motto is “Never Again,” and their mission threefold: education, advocacy, and refugee relief.
Rachel’s solar cooker project is just one arm of the bigger project, and aims to keep refugee women in camp as much as possible. Women who own solar cookers no longer have to travel to collect firewood. As a result, by 2008, rapes and attacks on wood-gatherers were reduced by 86%. Fueled by this success, Andres has campaigned tirelessly, inspiring young girls and women from around the world to support the cause.
In an interview with ynet news, Andres describes how her grandmother lost her entire family in the holocaust and how that influences her present work.
“Just as I promised my grandmother I would bear witness and tell our family’s story, I promised the women of Iridimi that we would bear witness to the stories of the 4,669 families in their camp. Nobody was there to save my family, but I hope to play a role in protecting these families,” she said.
The beauty of it is that it didn’t take a $1 million infusion of aid, or a fancy technology produced in the labs of MIT to create her product. Instead, the solar cookers are manufactured with foil-covered cardboard folded up as an open box, which beams solar energy on to a black, plastic covered pot. Andres strives to provide two pots per family: one to cook rice and one to cook the sauce.
Given that Sudan suffers from deforestation and desertification, and wood was being collected as a sole source of fuel, these cookers not only prevent attacks but also help to stave off further environmental degradation.
Living and learning
Women and children over 14 are also learning valuable new manufacturing and business skills in an otherwise depressingly idle environment lacking basic social services the rest of us take for granted.
Few initiatives combine such simplicity with far-reaching, practical, and life-saving ramifications. For this, Andres was awarded the 2008 Charles Bronfman Prize and presented to The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children of the International Rescue Committee, and the UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner in Geneva.
“To be recognized for my work is wonderful, yet I am even more pleased that the plight of the people of Darfur, the refugees, and Jewish World Watch will receive more attention. I can only hope this prestigious award will help bring more security to the women and girls and perhaps be a step towards peace in the region,” she told ynet.
For more information and to make your donation, visit the Solar Cooker Project online.
:: ynet news
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