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Parishes aid developing nations building, marketing solar ovens

by Dawn Gibeau
The Catholic SPIRIT, Vol. 8, No. 6, February 6, 2002

Fifty-two percent of trees cut globally are used as fuel to cook food, Untied Nations figures report.

Women in Third World countries who cook with wood inhale as much smoke as if they smoked 10 to 20 packs of cigarettes a day. As a result, they suffer from lung and eye diseases.

In Kenya, women walk two to four hours each day to collect firewood for cooking.

A Minneapolis couple, however, is working to change all that. St. Peter Claver parish in St. Paul is among the churches and organizations helping them.

Mike and Martha Port, members of the Summit Avenue Assembly of God in St. Paul, had been praying to find an activity they could do together to help people.

Their answer came when they visited Mike’s father in northern Minnesota at Christmas 1988. While there, they read about two men going to Guatemala to teach people to cook with cardboard solar cookers.

They met with one of the men, Bill Sperber of the Pillsbury Co., who taught them how to build and cook on the cardboard cooker. The Ports took it to Haiti for people there to try. During the next several years, they experimented with various ovens—cardboard ovens, plywood ovens, metal ovens—and surveyed interest in them in developing countries. . . .

With the help of friends and other volunteers, the Ports make solar ovens, but not flimsy cardboard ones that moisture can disintegrate and not cookers with metal exteriors likely to burn anyone who touches them.

Their ovens—the SOS Sport model—use sturdy but inexpensive materials, including an outer shell and inner collar made from recycled soft drink bottles. Foam insulation is held in place and protected by an aluminum liner.

Dark-colored pots placed within the cooker absorb sunlight to cook food. A clear, plastic lid covers the oven.

Anthony Eneanya of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul has big plans to bring solar ovens to Nigeria and from there throughout Africa.

Eneanya, who had a previous interest in solar panels, saw the solar ovens as a “great idea,” especially for Nigeria, where electricity is not dependable.

He plans to return to Nigeria to live with his family in a year or two and to set up assembly plants for the solar ovens. Retired 3M engineers designed precise jigs to facilitate assembly without electricity. Eneanya expressed enthusiasm about taking jobs to Nigeria and thereby providing employment as well as a safe, economical means of cooking.

An important feature used with the oven is the “wapi” or water pasteurization indicator, designed by retired 3M engineers.

The WAPI . . . is a “special purpose thermometer with a memory.”

When the little WAPI is immersed in water in a pot within the solar oven, the wax melts and drops to its bottom when water is heated enough to be safe to drink.

That, the designers contend, is a significant contribution to make water free from disease organisms. “The WAPI is major,” Martha Port said, “because children die from impure water.”

Martha Port, Unsung Hero Award
By Monica Wright
Mpls St. Paul; September 2004

Parishes aid developing nations
by Dawn Gibeau
The Catholic SPIRIT; February 6, 2002

SOS Founder Lauded as Unsung Hero
By Roxanne Van Duzee Fulong
Women's Business Minnesota, September 2004

Solar Oven Society hopes to make a difference
By Mary Losure
MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) produced; picked up by NPR (National Public Radio) May 27, 2003

Solar Oven Society Harnessing creation's energy to feed the hungry
by Neal St. Anthony
Minneapolis Star Tribune

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