Edit Blog Post
Published: October 7th 2007
So Week One is finished. So I´ve only worked Thursday to Saturday, but my back certainly feels like it´s experienced a lifetime of hard graft on a Siberian work camp. I arrived on Thursday, having been warned by a knife-wielding man in the hostel in Lima that I would be raped and murdered and hidden in a ruin in bandit-country Pisco (that was before he tried to get me to be his "Partner" on an archaeological dig in the Nazca Desert), and started to paint 500 toys for UNICEF. Easy enough, spray-painting high. Architecture degree put to the service of others.
It seems safe enough out here, and people are really friendly especially when they know that we´re from Hands-On. We´re working in Pisco Playa, almost overlooking the Pacfic (if you look over the rubble and tents), helping this community clear their houses and get their lives back into some sort of normality. Everyone here has lost someone. Everyone here has had to destroy significant parts of their own home, to make it secure enough to hold a tent or a temporary shelter. When you first walk into a rubble-filled house - children´s toys buried, old notes still hanging on the walls, topless moedl calendars of Miss Pisco 2003 - and look at the amount of work you have to do, it seems an insurmountable task. But with 5 people, all brandishing pickaxes, spades and mallets, it seems to get done in a day or two.
There are a lot of projects going on, from providing a safe place for kids to play while their parents sort out shelter, to roaming rubble and demolition, to the construction of temporary shelters out of salvaged bamboo (from collapsed roofs) joined with electrical wire, and donated tarpaulins. I´m hoping to get involved with a new-build school in a month or so, but we´re trying to raise funds for the structural materials before that can go ahead. If you want to donate - and please, PLEASE do, however much - go to www.hodr.org and donate there, specifying the school project in Pisco. And take a look at the photos on Facebook. I´ll get them up here when I can.
As for daily routine, we´re up at 7 to get on site at 8, and work through to 5 (when it starts to get dark and very cold) with an hour for lunch in between. We´re given a bed (or a floor space for those unlucky souls...it´s a dog eat dog world in the ruthless race for comfort), though no mattress, and we have 2 meals cooked for us a day, consisting usually of rice, potato and quinoa in a carb-fest that sends us to sleep rapidly at night as we sit around the camp fire, or gets us moving for the second half of the day. There are 50 of us here, and I´m in a dorm (top bunk, no less) with 20 others. Things are always changing though, as people come and leave, each committing to a couple of days, a couple of weeks or, in my case, 3 months on the job, but I hope that I´ll get a good group of "long-termers" (as I´m already being referred to, even though it´s only been 3 days).
We had a party organised for us last night, in a plush hotel that escaped any significant damage. How lucky for us to be able to "gain a great volunteering opporunity", get to switch off at night after a shower with running water adn chill out round a camp fire, and return home with a unique experience and an interesting CV. How nice to be able to get a hire bus to take us to an alcohol session "to get out of the house". Things get put into perspective when you have to walk through makeshift tents in the ruins of a town to get to the party place. Guilt, I suppose, is one feeling. When you knock down someone´s house and get a good day´s work done clearing rubble, the sense of achievement is so great that you just high-five everyone and shout. You tend to forget that the guy sitting over in the corner has just seen his house reduced to dust and has to start all over again. Joy at a good day´s work is not what he´s feeling, grateful as he might be that he´s had some help to clear what would have taken him weeks.
Well, that´s the first week done. Bruised, calloused and probably developing tetanus, but it´s been incredible. I´m going to the mountains for a week on Monday, to help build an irrigation system in a rural village with a population of 30, so out of contact for a while.
Tot: 2.134s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 9; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0388s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.3mb