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Simple sun-cooker takes off as a way to help Darfuris

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Two solar cookers can save a ton of wood per year, according to JWW. They free women from tending fires to do other tasks, and provide income for female refugees because the cookers are manufactured on-site. Envision foil-covered cardboard (about four feet by two feet) folded upward to direct sun's rays on a black pot, placed in the center, and covered in a plastic bag. Millet, rice, eggs, and other ingredients are put in the pot, surrounded by the water-moistened plastic bag that provides softening condensation.

Why project is unique

The solar cooker project is unique in the annals of global aid efforts, say international aid experts and individual fundraisers.

For one thing, the United States and humanitarian groups have declared the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan a genocide. More than 350,000 people have died. Second, the Sudanese government puts restrictions on humanitarian aid workers, making grass-roots groups and private donations, especially to those in refugee camps, more important.

"The Sudanese government is allowing the conditions in the camps to be one of their main mechanisms of genocide," says Adam Sterling, executive director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. "It is the type of grass-roots efforts like the solar cooker project supported by private donations that is sustaining [the refugees]."

The idea originated with Rabbi Harold Schulweis and activist/attorney Janice Kamenir-Reznick, who formed Jewish World Watch in 2004.

Since then, the organization has reached out to major churches and universities across the US, and says it seeks to "combat genocide" through community education and activism. So far, $750,000 has been raised in individual contributions of $30 – the cost of two solar cookers, training, and two pot holders, which support one family.

"In my 50 years as a rabbi, I have never seen an idea or project or program ignite so broadly or contagiously," says Mr. Schulweis. "This has been a moving experience for Jews by uniting different congregations who usually have their own separate projects … as well as for reaching out to other religions. It is an issue that has proven to transcend denominationalism."

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