project pisco

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South America » Peru » Ica » Pisco
October 9th 2007
Published: May 28th 2008
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As I write this, I have now been here in Pisco, Peru three days shy of a month (and as I send this, I am ONE day shy). Time has seriously flown, and even though I feel as if we have barely scratched the surface with the work that needs to get done in this town, when I look back at the first few days and compare it with what I know and what I see now, there is no doubt in my mind so much progress that has taken place here in Pisco.

We started out, like all the past deployments Hands On has been to, with basic rubble clearing. No special skills needed; just the willingness to work in hot, dirty and especially in the case of Pisco, extremely dusty conditions. Many of the houses are, or were, built with adobe bricks (can you say DIRT?), so when the earthquake hit, they naturally just toppled to the ground. Toppling adobe bricks create a lot of dust. Removing crumbled adobe bricks create a lot of dust. We spent the first two weeks solid just removing with shovels, hands and wheelbarrows all the debris from the lots where the locals' houses used to be. Lots of sledge hammering to break up the existing concrete and removing it from the occasional rebar support pillers. Of course, this was only done on the houses that could afford to even put up concrete to begin with! The roofs and often the walls are or were made from a reedy-type material called ___________. This is extremely durable and tough to remove from the job site, especially when the heavier stuff, such as the neighbor's wall, came crashing down on top of it! Raking it occasionally worked (ever thought about removing YOUR roof from under your NEIGHBOR'S wall with a RAKE? Yeah, only in Peru!), but regardless of how we removed the rubble, there was lots of racked up man and woman power behind it all. I can already feel my muscles beginning to bulge.

We were lucky in the beginning stages, as we were able to wheelbarrow all the debris to where the sidewalk met the street, dump the load and then go back for more. All day long. Every day, all day, with 1.5 hours for a lunch break, and numerous water and soda cracker stops throughout. Fortunately for us, there are numerous shops in the neighborhood selling Peruvian cookies and crackers, Coke for those who drink it and endless supplies of Inka Cola, the famed national drink, in all its bright yellow glory. We were -- and still are to some degree -- also blessed with numerous generous locals who brought us waters and cola (and Inka Cola…..), crackers and occasionally cooked meals for us. I have eaten some wonderful ceviche (raw fish dish "cooked" in lemon), arroz con leche (a wonderful sweet dessert or snack made with rice and milk, a bit like tapioca), noodle and potato dishes and even fried chicken. Even though the people are poor and have so little, they are extremely grateful for us being here in their community helping to get their lives back to some semblance of normalcy again, and they feel this is one way they can "help out." Volunteering can be rewarding in so many ways, and when food is offered, how can we resist!?

Other projects we have worked on include stuffing 2500 backpacks with various school supplies for the kids (we had to off load everything from a monster 40' truck first -- ALL HANDS ON DECK), we painted toys for other children, we spent endless days sorting through endless piles of donated clothes in a huge warehouse, playing with the kids (some aggressive and unruly, others were true gems).

We currently have over 60 volunteers in our small space (a converted restaurant, now our Hands On base), and have expanded to a wonderful new annex down the street. A generous local offered us her backyard space for our vols to sleep.

I encourage all of you to take a look at the website, and donate money or time if you are able. All money donated goes to the cause, to the people of Pisco and helping to get the residents back on their feet again.


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