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Notes from a humanitarian reconstruction expedition in Pisco, Peru

SO since my last update, the Jesus bathrooms project has been completed which is a great feeling! It is really going to make such a difference in the community where Ive only found one family to have any form of sanitation in their own home, and that was extremely basic. Now there are 2 toilets and 2 showers available for use as soon as the municipality finish installing the sewage pipes through the neighbourhood. They dug up the deep trenches for these a few weeks ago and have since been frequented by small children playing, and street dogs thrown in my small children. It was a week of working very long hours to get it finished but we completed the last of the tiling last Saturday and were all very proud of it, it was a rather emotional goodbye trying to get the kids to understand that the gringos really werent coming back on Monday.

If my original plan was adhered to, I should be flying home to Glasgow in a few weeks, but thanks to the generosity of the Jessica Jennifer Cohen Foundation, I am able to stay here for an extra month via additional grant funding. I am so proud to call myself a volutneer at PSF I really couldnt imagine leaving so soon and I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to stay working in Pisco for longer.

Last week was Peruvian Independence Day, which involved a long weekend off work. A few of us visited a nearby beach town called Cerro Azul for a few days which was lovely but I think most of us didnt really know what to do with all the free time. Since then I have taken on a project leader role for a new project at PSF –  It is the construction of a small womens health clinic in a hospital in the neighbourhood of Tupac Amaru. Im slightly daunted by the prospect of being responsible for the construction, especially since it has been decided that we dont have the budget to hire a maestro (local building expert) except for 2 half days a week. It feels great to get really stuck into a project from the very start though, it has a projected length of 3-4 months so I wont see it through unfortunately, but I hope I can finish all the construciton works and hand over to a different volunteer to take on the tiling, painting etc. Although it is getting a lot better, I reckon my Spanish is going to have to rapidly improve over the next few weeks for the role! The clinic has only been on site for 5 days now, and we have most of the (very deep) foundations dug out and the ground levelled (manually of course). After a few weeks of rather intricate bricklaying, tiling and finishing work it it great to be on a physically demanding project again even if I am needing 10 hours sleep a night to recover from it!

I had a few sad days last week when some good friends hit the road to continue travelling or go home, which is unfortunately part of life at PSF where the volunteer turnover is high enough that my 3 month stay will make me one of the longest serving volunteers by the time I leave. Its never more than a few nights between fundraisers and social events though, and the friends I have made here are more than enough to make it all worthwhile.

The 15th of August marks the 4th anniversary of the earthquake which destroyed Pisco, and its made me think a lot about the role of PSF and an individual volunteer here. We cant really call ourselves a disaster response organization any more, as too much time has passed and its moved more into the field of poverty relief. However, there have been so many people left behind throughout this transition -there are families still living in the canvas tents distributed by the US army in the week after the earthquake – it seems like an even bigger challenge to raise the standards for people who no longer even hope for help from their government or other organizations. PSF has been making real steps towards community development projects, as opposed to aiding individual families – for example the Jesus Bathrooms project in Jesus de Nazareth, and I believe this is the best way an organization as small as PSF can touch the lives of as many people in Pisco as possible.

Unfortunately, working every day in the desert has taken its toll on my camera and it has stopped working, so I will try to update the photos on the blog using someone elses. Having an incredible experience, so happy to be staying until late September.

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