Family aims to change lives in Guatemala
February 21, 2013|By
Meredith Jean Morris, Special to the Forum
The next time you buy a cup of tea in College Park, you might unknowingly
help change the life of a person across the world, by providing glasses,
education or even safer living conditions.
Each of these opportunities is a project started in Guatemala by Brad and
Christina Cowherd, a College Park couple with a passion for helping
The Cowherds own Infusion Tea,1600 Edgewater Drive, and for more than a
decade, they have been changing lives in the Guatemalan village of San Antonio
Ilotenango through their nonprofit mission, Faith Project International.
"Christina and I were in the Peace Corps from 2001 to 2004, and when our time
was up, we still felt like there was more for us to do there," Brad Cowherd
While in the Peace Corps, Christina Cowherd worked to educate village women
about reproductive health, while Brad Cowherd worked to build wood-burning
stoves for the people's homes. They are continuing this work through their
"The region we were in is a third-world country, and the people are
indigenous Mayan people," he said. "The women's lifespan is about 50 years,
which is about 20 years less than the lifespan of the men."
Brad Cowherd said the reason for the difference is the women's lifestyle.
"These women spend their entire lives cooking three times a day for families
averaging 14 people," he said. "Their way of cooking is over an open flame from
a pit in the ground. They spend their lives breathing in the smoke, and it's
dangerous for the children and others who might get too close to the fire."
By building efficient wood-burning stoves, women can cook without breathing
in smoke, the process is safer, and rapid deforestation is prevented.
"There have been probably 10,000 stoves built since we started," Brad Cowherd
said. "We would teach a woman how to build one, and she would teach others, and
This spread of knowledge through women has a great impact on the culture,
Christina Cowherd said. "It's a very man-centered society, so it's meaningful
when the women accomplish something," she said. "It proves something to others,
and lets them think better of themselves."
Another way the Cowherds are helping women in Guatemala is through their
This program provides direct assistance to families of girls ages 12 to 25 to
pay for sixth grade to college, as education is public through fifth grade. The
families often cannot afford to send every child to school, and boys usually get
the privilege, Christina Cowherd said.
Many of the girls who go to college return to their villages as teachers or
to work in nonprofits because of a desire to help their community.
During the last decade, the Cowherds, who have three children, have split
their time between the United State and Guatemala. They currently are expanding
their mission compound to allow more people from the United States to visit as
"We partner with local churches, who send volunteers several times during the
year," said Brad Cowherd, whose family are members at First United Methodist
Church of Orlando. "We did have just a building for men to stay and a building
for women to stay. We know that a lot of families go on mission trips together,
so we are building a place for husbands and wives to stay together."
The Cowherds also recently helped provide a playground for children in the
Guatemalan village. With support from their contacts in the United States and a
percentage of the profits from Infusion Tea, they hope to continue projects like
"I'd invite people to come on a trip and see for yourself how you can help
others," Brad Cowherd said. "Every little bit helps. Fifty dollars sends a girl
to school for a month. If you eat lunch at Infusion every day for two weeks, you
will have given someone a stove and changed their life."