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Notes from a humanitarian reconstruction expedition in Pisco, Peru

I have been in Pisco for almost 2 weeks now and have been settling in well. It was very strange to come back when I have so many great memories from last year but the overall vibe is the same which is as much I could have hoped for, everybody’s very welcoming and hard working and dedicated to continuing the PSF spirit.

After arriving in Lima (and spending a long time sleeping) I met with the dean of the catholic university (PUCP), Marcial Blondet to discuss his work in the Pisco in the field of reinforcing adobe structures to withstand future earthquakes. After a very interesting chat he put me in touch with another charity working in the field and in Pisco and I am hoping to make a connection between them and PSF while I am here to involve this aspect of reconstruction into the methods undertaken here.

After the 4 hour bus ride from Lima, I arrived at PSF last Wednesday and was a little overwhelmed to be back in Pisco but I still feel like I found a home here last year so it was a very happy experience to turn up again at the big blue doors of the volunteers house. The town is pretty much how I remember it, there are dogs everywhere (especially on peoples roofs…..don’t ask) and the reconstruction process has received little further governmental funding therefore the myriad temporary shacks which were everywhere last summer are more or less unchanged. The volunteers house is certainly basic – there are only hay matresses, a few bathrooms and very simple dormitory-style bedrooms. There are a  few people here with typhoid and dysentry at the moment which might be expected with so many people sharing the same spaces. However, this isn’t the sort of place you would come to work and feel constantly guilty about your own privelige, I don’t think anybody here would want one extra pound (or sole) spent on our own house when there are so many Pisquenians in need of so much more. The atmosphere here is so welcoming, I can’t imagine anybody coming here and not being sucked into the PSF mindset and way of life.

Last year I worked on the architectural and structural drawings for a school building project, and because of a number of delays and problems, it is still being constructed now. So for the last few weeks I have been working on the same school and it’s great to see everything coming together. I can’t quite believe I have been away for so long already, hence no updates on the blog…. but the last few weeks have involved a LOT of digging, concrete pouring, wheelbarrow-ing and learning very obscure Spanish words for tools and construction materials. My Spanish is definitely improving, largely thanks to the patience of the Peruvian maestro (construction expert) leading the school project I am working on (Como se dice……) and the other volunteers.  The project is coming together well, the walls, roof and now the floor are all complete  so it shouldnt be too long until the kids can move in and actually have a hygenic place to eat during school hours.

There are about 80 international volunteers here at the moment from all over the world, including the UK, Ireland, USA, Canda, France, Germany, Israel, Australia and Sweden. It’s fantastic and pretty indescribable to be back amongst such dedicated, hardworking and adventurous people and I’m so glad I have a long time left here. The social aspect and the moral support from the fellow volunteers is so uplifting whilst working in a very challenging environment and, at times, very sad place.   After 3 days here I had already sent an enquiry to KLM to see if my flights could be delayed until the day before my next university term…..however that’s a no go so I’ll be back when I was expected!

My aspirations and expectations for this experience have already changed – I left the UK with a particular focus on reconstruction methods and the architectural aspects of the charity, however the diversity of the projects undertaken here is, I believe, absolutely essential in achieveing a sustainable and non-reliant form of reconstruction and rehabilitation in Pisco. PSF is developing English classes for local kids, fishermen and adults and creating a recycling awareness campaign to help to preserve the local landscape and prevent the huge amounts of rubbish which are dumped in the streets every day. There are community centres, schools, houses and sanitation projects all under construction and there are a number of volunteers who dedicate their time here to helping in the volunteers house on various tasks to ensure the smooth running of the charity.

All in all, I am settling in well, have made some great friends am really enjoying the hard work and will upload some photos of Pisco, the volunteers house and work on site soon. Very, very happy to be back.

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