Addictive volunteer work in an earthquake zone
Trip Start May 10, 2009
48Trip End Nov 02, 2009
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This was totally unscheduled and we planned to stay a week. We ended up staying 2 weeks and would love to stay longer but have to move on unfortunately.
Pisco Sin Fronteras (PSF) is a volunteer organisation set up to carry on the work of rebuilding and repairing Pisco and the surrounding areas after the earthquake. Around 600 people lost their lives that evening, including 300 inside the cathedral who were attending a mass. Sadly, this region (from what we understand) got no funding or support from the Peruvian government and much of the funding that arrived from outside was stolen and never made it to the town. 100,000+ people were left to pick up the pieces on their own and this is where PSF comes in. Basically the organisation provides people to do unskilled manual labour for people that cannot afford to pay others to do it. This involves demolishing old foundations and floors to build new houses, mixing and pouring cement, bricklaying, digging foundations etc. (For any other travellers wanting to get invloved, here is the address: http://www.piscosinfronteras.org/)
The houses worked like a little community - every morning we'd meet for breakfast to hear what jobs were on for the day and volunteer for what you wanted to do. There were people going out to do work and some who stayed behind to clean the houses and bathrooms, do dishes, cook dinner for 60 people, help with the administration and do maintenance on the equipment. Everyone chipped in what they could and it all worked so well.
They also have a project making bio-diesel. They do this by going to the restaurants in town and collecting their used cooking oil and mix it with some basic chemicals you can buy in a hardware store in a machine that was totally home made (looks a bit like a geyser with some more pipes and tanks) and produce clean diesel that is used in the PSF truck and any other diesel cars. Its such a simple idea and soon they will be selling it to raise money for the organisation.
There is also a spirit of getting the community invloved and one small example was 'cake lady'! A lady around the corner started making and selling the most amazing cakes to the PSF volunteers after they saw her walking with cake to a funeral and insisted she start selling them! Everyday we stopped by for some incredible chocolate cake for only 1.50 soles (30p a slice!)!
One night some of the guys arranged a concert in the garden of the house, using the truck as a stage and many people got up to play guitar, sing, do tricks and dance! There were some really cool talents on show as well!
There was also a social side to the experience and we spent a weekend in nearby Huacachina which is a small oasis near the city of Ica. It was really pretty and we had a great night partying with everyone!
So sadly we have to leave having made some special friends but get to take with us some great new memories and have learned some great new things:
1) we know the most efficient way to break cement floors
2) operating a jackhammer is a lot of fun
3) resting in a wheelbarrow is quite comfy
4) we know how to mix cement and operate a cement mixer
5) giving your time to help others is the most rewarding thing you can do.
This blog cannot show the real feelings we have and how special these memories will be, but leaving has been one of the hardest things we have done. We will miss this place...
Onwards and upwards now as we head to Lima this afternoon and our few final stops in northern Peru...
Where I stayed