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Nancy Hughes: Purpose Prize Winner

Her community service prevents injuries by bringing safe, low-cost stoves to thousands of villagers

When Nancy Hughes' husband died in 2001, she didn't need money. She needed inspiration. Her husband had been a physician, and Hughes felt drawn to perform community service through 10-day medical missions to Guatemala.

Of the thousands of Guatemalans who saw the visiting doctors each day, Hughes noticed, most by far were women and children whose problems stemmed from the open fires that families cooked over in unventilated homes — chronic coughs, burns and injuries from lugging loads of firewood.

See also: Nominate a 2012 Purpose Prize candidate.

Hughes, winner of a 2011 Purpose Prize, wanted to prevent such injuries rather than treat them.

In 2005 she led 15 people on long hikes to deliver 125 stoves to remote mountain villages in Guatemala. The stoves were enclosed to prevent burns and had chimneys to expel smoke. But they were also too heavy and expensive and the work too dangerous to sustain a long-term project.

Then the designer of the stove contacted her. He wanted to collaborate on designing a better prototype. They did. And then they found an entrepreneur in El Salvador who could manufacture the stoves with local labor and materials for about $50 retail, less than a third of the cost of the previous model.

Nancy Sanford Hughes 2011 Purpose Prize winner

Nancy Sanford Hughes, winner of a 2011 Purpose Prize. — Civic Ventures

Hughes founded StoveTeam International. The project has produced and sold more than 15,000 stoves in Central America and is helping to develop factories in Fiji, Ghana and Kenya.

To learn about the woman who inspired Hughes' passion to deliver stoves and how StoveTeam International continues to grow, watch the video in the player above.

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