This is not a trick question. When is cooking at home a potentially deadly activity? The answer, says Becky Straw is when you have to do it over an open fire. She says two million people in the developing world – mostly children -- die each year from the toxic smoke that wafts around them -- the equivalent of inhaling two packs of cigarettes a day. And that is just one of the facts of life that she is trying to change through The Adventure Project.
Becky Straw remembers her wake up call very clearly. She was in Haiti amid the devastation of the earthquake when she was approached by three big men. She was guarded, a bit fearful, assuming they were accosting her for a handout. Instead, they asked respectfully if she was hiring; if there was work that would allow them to provide for their families. That encounter was part of the catalyst for The Adventure Project, which Becky co-founded in 2010 with Jody Landers.
“I realized people all over the world want the same things,” says Becky.
“The opportunity to care for their families, send their kids to school and lead healthy lives.”
The Adventure Project helps people in developing countries do that, not by giving handouts, but by supporting grass roots social enterprises that give people the means to help themselves.
“Social enterprise is about investing in dignity. We support organizations that treat people as people — not ‘the poor.’ We believe in that.”
TAP channels donated funds strategically toward jobs that educate and train people as local entrepreneurs, lifting them out of poverty while transforming their local communities with life-saving services.
Says Becky, “We focus on the world's greatest issues affecting people living in poverty: the environment, health, hunger, and water. For instance, in rural India, one third of all drinking water wells are broken, often because no one knows how to fix them. When local workers are trained to repair these wells, everyone wins.
TAP also provides basic solutions to inveterate problems in developing countries. She says two million people a year die from the toxic smoke that emanates from cooking over open fires. TAP’s solution is to provide families with charcoal efficient stoves.
In Haiti, the stoves are made locally and sold by men and women in Port-au-Prince. Each stove saves a family 20% of their daily expenses, because they use 50% less charcoal per day. One stove saves six trees from being turned into charcoal each year.
Becky says since TAPs founding, it has put more than 700 people to work, serving close to one million people in four countries with better food, water, health and a cleaner environment.
“Now when someone stops me in a village and asks if we’re hiring, I get to smile and say, ‘Yes, we are.’”
Prior to The Adventure Project, Becky spent three years helping to launch charity: water, to bring drinking water to people in developing countries. Becky has consulted for UNICEF’s Division of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. She graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in International Social Welfare.