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Boise Resident Introduces Solar Cooking to Small Communities in Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2009 - Peace Corps Volunteer Sonya Greegor of Boise, Idaho, is making a difference in small communities throughout Mexico with her solar cooking initiative. Through this project, Greegor hopes to train 72 local women from five communities in the use of solar HotPots, encouraging women to incorporate solar cooking into their daily routines.

Greegor's project will educate women on the benefits of using solar energy for cooking, rather than wood or gas, which have widespread risks. According to The National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City, up to 90 percent of households in rural areas of developing countries depend on biomass for cooking and heating, a practice that has been linked to respiratory health problems such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. Alternatively, solar cooking is completely healthy for women and for the environment as well, reducing the removal of trees from forests and increasing opportunities for biodiversity. Solar cooking also requires less effort, leaving women with extra time to spend as they choosein the garden, on their small businesses, or with their families.

To ensure a sustainable impact, Greegor will spend several weeks living and cooking with women in their villages to learn more about how traditional recipes can be adapted for solar cooking. In each village, she will train two female "advocates' who will promote the use of solar cooking among their peers, and provide trainings for other women in their villages. The project will also facilitate the distribution of HotPots to those who receive the initial training.

"Having community advocates and taking the time needed to train the women in the use of the solar systems are critical steps for sustainability," said Greegor. 'Prior to solar HotPots, there was no truly economically and environmentally friendly option for cooking. Now, women will have the opportunity to choose a more sustainable alternative."

This project was funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which allows individuals or groups to donate funds to specific Peace Corps projects. The Partnership Program works to create true partnerships with the communities it serves. In order to receive funding through the program, a community must make at least a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost, as well as outline "success indicators" for the project. This helps to ensure community buy-in and project sustainability.

One-hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation goes toward a development project. In-kind contributions, such as computers and school supplies, can also provide valuable support. To learn more about the Partnership Program or to see other projects currently in need of funds, visit www.peacecorps.gov/contribute.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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