To put a better fireplace into the heart of every home
Fire for Life – An Escea Not-For-Profit Project
Escea’s purpose is to create better fireplaces. Whether that’s a fireplace in your home here in New Zealand, or cooking fires in the developing world, to us the same philosophy applies.
We’re also committed to solving problems in innovative ways. And one of the problems Escea founder Nigel Bamford discovered was the impact that open fire cooking is having on displaced families around the world.
From health issues caused by smoke inhalation, to the cost and amount of fuel required to burn, open fire cooking is affecting millions of families every day.
Often made of clay, mud or rubbish, existing cooking methods in these communities are inefficient, hard to move around, and are often dangerous in difficult conditions.
So, we set out to do our bit to help solve these issues, in the way Escea knows best – by making better fires.
“Making innovative fireplaces is at the core of everything we do. So, when we saw an opportunity to improve the lives of people who only have an open fire to cook on, it was a no-brainer for us to get involved.”
– Nigel Bamford, Escea Fireplace Company Founder
The Fire for Life Stove
We made it our mission to help these communities by creating a safer, more efficient way for them to cook. Designed specifically with families like these in mind, we created the Fire for Life Cooking Stove - a portable light-weight cooking stove that can easily be moved around, is simple to light, keep burning, requires less fuel and burns cleaner. The stove would be safer too – both because less smoke was being produced that could be inhaled, and it would also contain the sparks and flames. While the efficiency of the new stove would save on the amount of fuel needed to burn, it would also be kinder on the environment. After several years, thousands of hours dedicated to research and development, and countless prototypes later, the team had accomplished their goal – they had created a safer, healthier, easier and more efficient cooking method for people who only have open fires to cook on. While the project originally started working with communities in Africa, we later came across an opportunity for use at displacement camps in Syria. Our cooking stoves proved useful here too, just in a different location to what we had first thought.
The Syrian Story
It was an appearance on the evening news that caught the attention of Escea CEO and founder Nigel Bamford. He watched as ReliefAid Founder Mike Seawright discussed the issues facing communities in the developing world, and the humanitarian work his organisation was undertaking in Syrian Displacement Camps to help alleviate these problems.
After listening to Mike, Nigel realised they both had similar concerns. He reached out to Mike to see if the Fire for Life stove would be helpful– to improve the way families cooked and prepared meals in a safer and more efficient way.
Mike had his team in Syria survey those in need and assess the scale of the problem. They found the biggest issue was their access to fuel – the scarcity of wood, the cost of it, or the time spent collecting it. Not only that, but the existing fires they were cooking on – mostly made of clay, mud or stones – weren’t efficient, nor were they safe or easy to use. They were also using too much fuel to burn – something that Nigel knew the stove could help with.
So Escea and ReliefAid teamed up to get what we expected to be the first of many shipments of stoves from our factory in Dunedin, to families in Syria. In order to get the stoves there, in the easiest and most economical way possible, the stove’s flat-pack design enabled them to be shipped in a flat pallet. Upon arrival, the ReliefAid team would assemble the stoves with a sheet metal roller (supplied by Escea), a hammer and plyers.
The stoves are cut on Escea’s laser machine from stainless steel.
The first shipment of stoves are transported into Syria. Each pallet this size contains the kit-sets to create 200 Fire for Life stoves.
Escea funds ReliefAid employees to assemble the stoves within Syria.
ReliefAid team distributes the stoves to families at a Syrian displacment camp
The fires were then distributed to camps, and in early 2021 we received the first reports of displaced families using the Escea Fire for Life Stoves. This initial shipment was very well received by the Syrian families, which was encouraging to both Escea and ReliefAid. Consequently, Escea and ReliefAid have agreed their partnership to deliver thousands more Fire for Life cooking stoves to those in need.
Umm Asmaa – User Experience
ReliefAid spoke with Umm Asmaa, who lives in a displacement camp with her three daughters, one who suffers from asthma, and her husband. Before arriving at the camp, she describes their life as ‘wonderful and happy’. They lived on land where they grew olive trees which was their stable source of income. But they were forced to leave their home due to the bombings. “We could no longer stay at all – even my husband was injured due the explosions,” she says.
Umm Asmaa and her three daughters have been living in this camp after being forced to flee their home.
They have been in the camp for nearly two years and have done their best to adjust to their new life. When it comes to cooking for her family though, Umm explains how challenging it can be. “We light a fire outside and collect olive sticks and cartons to light the fire… but we do not have firewood or a good stove for preparing food.” When it comes to safety, Umm continues “I am always afraid and put water next to me until I finish cooking, because I am afraid that the tent will burn, and this is difficult.”
Umm and her family received a Fire for Life Stove and explains how cooking and preparing meals for her family has changed.
“This stove is easier than the stove we used to use, and lighting the fire is also easier than before. Cooking in the new way is also better because the fire is good. As for the old method, we were afraid of igniting the tent. But now the fire remains inside the stove and we can cook safely.”
Umm prepares a family meal using her new Fire for Life stove
“The old method also consumed more fuel because it was open and large, so we needed more fuel. As for the new stove, it is small and does not consume much wood."
– Umm Asmaa, Fire For Life User
Umm says cooking on the Fire for Life stove is easier to use, light, safer and uses less fuel
While being placed in a temporary home – for some, so far from what they have been use to – the Fire for Life stove has given them one less thing to worry about.
It’s given them back a way to cook safely, and efficiently without using as much fuel – what money or time they are saving on wood, can now be spent on bread or other essentials.
The portability of the stove has given them more freedom than before. The light-weight design has not only helped get the stoves to the families in the first place, but they can also be lifted and moved around the camps with ease - depending on where the sun might be, or where the wind is blowing. And unlike a clay or stone fire, the Fire for Life stove doesn’t need to be re-designed and re-built every time they move, nor do they need to spend time foraging for new stones or materials to build the fires. Fire for Life is a simple solution to something that was another problem for those joining a displacement camp.
The simple design of the fire has also given them a better cooking experience too – it’s easy to build, light and heats faster, meaning less time is spent trying to get the fire going and food is ready sooner. Plus, some peace of mind has been restored for the families – the Fire for Life stove is a significantly safer way for them to cook than a smokey open cooking fire; there is less smoke being produced to inhale, and there’s less risk of nearby materials catching alight. For families like Umm’s, she can find some relief that her daughter suffering from asthma will be exposed to less smoke than their old cooking methods.
For families in these camps coming to terms with this new way of living, the Fire for Life Stove has made life just that little bit better.
We’re continuing to work with ReliefAid to get more stoves to where they’re needed most - and you can help too!
Find out more aboutReliefAidand how you can donate here.