Burners without Borders

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January 10th 2008
Published: January 10th 2008
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Following the rather eventful last few days in Pisco, it was certainly a relief to be out of the place. On that bus, about 6 hours later than we planned to leave due to an urgent appointment with an ultrasound machine and the nice Cuban doctors, I watched the sun set over the desert for the final time as the bus sped through the ruins of Ica province. Still in ruins, still so much to be done, but not by us. I've just found out that following Paul's little incident with a Peruvian and an "arma blanca" (what we think now is a fruit knife, not a screwdriver), there were more robberies at gun/knifepoint, and HandsOn have decided to pull out a month early from the project. In addition to that, Burners without Borders, who were meant to be taking over and finishing our construction jobs, are thinking of moving to a different city entirely.

Pisco used to have a really bad reputation for lawlessness even before the earthquake, as it seems to be one of the main centres of concaine in central Peru. For a while, our work, our reputation and probably the shock of what had happened on August 15th, meant that the gratitude of the locals protected us somewhat in the town. As the Padre said at Mass on Christmas Eve - "And before God, I would like to thank a group of young people who we all know, who everyone in Pisco knows, HandsOn, Manos en Accion, Manos a la Obra, whose work helping our city has shown us how to be neighbours". But it seems that the reputation alone is not enough to keep us safe. We're still rich gringos, and easy targets. It's a shame that our final memories of a place we have invested so much blood, sweat and tears (all three, quite accurately, especially the blood - the Health and Safety Executive would have a heart attack if they could see it...) is tainted by a few young kids who force us to stop helping, much as we want to carry on.

On the note about Burners without Borders, take a look at their website as I think I have some drawings on there and if anyone can find them let me know where they are! Burners is the voluntary organisation associated with the Burning Man festival in the States. In Pisco they are looking to start the reconstruction process in more permanent materials, and are focusing on sanitation as one of the most important problems to tackle in Pisco now. Debatably it should have been tackled a long time ago, especially as some sizeable refugee camps are built on past rubbish tips, but who by is the question...

Anyway, Sam, the leader of the merry band of Burners (and their pet monkey), has come up with an idea to create "sanitation starter modules", a solid concrete structure consisting of a water cistern above shower, WC and sink. The formwork for this would be reuseable (they're looking at spending a fortune - once - on some metal shuttering) and so lots and lots of these things could be put up, conveyor belt, Ford fashion throughout the region. Onto this module could be attached a tent, a transitional bamboo structure, and finally a solid concrete house when the family get the money together to rebuild, hence the "starter" bit. So I was asked to draw up some diagrams to present to mayors and local fatcats who could help fund this project, consisting of wee sketches showing how it could be inhabited, some plans and an axo. So take a look, and if you find it, let me know...


10th January 2008

Hands On did a good job
We did a sh*tload of good work, so don't let the crime be your parting memory of Pisco. Now I understand, though, why the locals were always so rabidly insistent on warning us about safety.

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