HELPS International's line of low-cost, high-quality products is making hundreds of thousands of homes safer and healthier in rural Guatemala and beyond. 


In the late 1980s, HELPS International’s medical teams reported an alarming number of children being treated for burns and numerous respiratory problems. Don O’Neal, a medical team leader with HELPS, investigated and found that the problem was the traditional method of cooking. Families were cooking over open fires within their homes, which offered no protection from burns and no ventilation, causing families to inhale dangerous fumes causing acute respiratory infections. More research found:

  • The high instances of facial and hand burns were due to children falling into these open fires when they were playing or learning to walk.

  • According to the World Health Organization, excessive smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in Guatemalan children under the age of 5. In a HELPS study, the deadly gas carbon monoxide was found to be fifteen times greater than the EPA base level considered to be dangerous.

  • The inefficient burning of wood for three-stone fires required the women and children to gather huge amounts of wood daily (18,000 lbs per family per year), contributing to Guatemala’s deforestation level of 2% per year. The safety issues for women and the time lost to long treks to gather the wood, combined with the impact of carrying these heavy loads, have detrimental effects on the health and economic well-being of women and their families.

  • For families that purchased their firewood, this required spending up to 40% of their entire income simply to cook their food.

HELPS International and Don O'Neal developed the award-winning ONIL line of household products, including the ONIL cookstove, water filter, and more. The ONIL line is one of the pillars of our poverty reduction efforts, changing the way families live in their homes and creating new economic and social opportunities, especially for women and girls.  


HELPS volunteers from Guatemala and around the world install the products, working side by side with families and community members who have contributed part of the cost of the product. 


The results have been outstanding:

  • The ONIL stove reduces wood consumption by 70% resulting in a major economic benefit and a better quality of life for families with long-term benefit to the environment.

  • Women who use the ONIL stove gained the equivalent of two days a week in time saved from gathering wood or $300 per year.  The time and money they save gives them the freedom to dedicate themselves to other social and economic activities like launching a small business or cultivating a vegetable garden.

  • HELPS’ rigorous in-house and independent testing of its Gravity Walter Filter ensures 100% removal of parasites such as guinea worm and giardia, and 99.99% removal of pathogenic bacteria such as: cholera, e. coli, and shigella.

  • More than 225,000 stoves have been installed. With each stove saving one commercial tree per month, the ONIL cookstoves are saving enough trees to cover the area of Manhattan more than three times, every year.

  • The ONIL products have received international acclaim for their contribution toward making homes safer and healthier in Guatemala, with the ONIL stove recognized as one of the world's best biomass cookstoves.


In addition to volunteer teams who install the ONIL products as part of our Community Development program, other NGOs and civic groups may purchase the ONIL products. 





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