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Don O’Neal has come up with a way to help thousands of Guatemalans. He and his wife live in Farmersville, Texas and fell in love with the people of Guatemala more than twenty years ago. While hiking with his wife, they met a native woman named Petronia . She invited them to her home. O’Neal saw the home was in shambles and in need of an overwhelming amount of repairs.

“That was kind of my “ah-ah” moment where I knew that something needed to be done and I could be a part of it,” said Don O’Neal.

O’Neal got a group together to go back to Guatemala to build Petronia a new home but his giving didn’t stop there. He developed a stove that is used in Guatemala that helps create a healthy and safe way to provide food and a way of life for their families.

“It has provided the meaning of life for us,” said O’Neal.

Every month between one and three thousand stoves are produced and find their way into homes in Guatemala. The stoves eliminate the risk of extreme burns and air pollution in the homes. O’Neal says the stove breaks barriers in the poverty stricken country posed by the extreme health risks.

“A baby learning to walk plops down on all fours and sticks its hands in a bed of coals,” said O’Neal. “Well that kid is ruined for life in that environment. He’s not able to make a living.”

The stoves continue to find their way into Guatemalan homes through one hundred and thirty non profit agencies including Helps International started by Dallas resident Stephen Miller. He also traveled to Guatemala and saw the extreme need for healthcare, education and financial improvement.

“It’s one of the most powerful things you will ever get involved with,” said Stephen Miller. “Both on a personal basis and on a community basis.”

Additions to Helps International like medical mission trips and the stove project are changing lives of the Guatemalan people but both Miller and O’Neal know there is still lots to be done.

“We see it work everyday and every year it’s getting better,” said Miller.

“You can work on one problem but unless you fix a lot of different problems simultaneously poverty will still be there,” said O’Neal.

Both Miller and O’Neal take trips back to Guatemala regularly seeing the vast improvements made to the country everyday and the opportunity for volunteers to dream and give big.

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