Our third week at PSF was one of hard physical labour resulting in calloused hands, sore muscles and two very tired workers by week’s end.
Monday got off to a great start with Cam and his team beginning a new project near Pisco beach. Prior to the earthquake the beach front was an area of prime real estate, however it has since become a place where the poorest families live and the wealthier people have fled in fear of another quake and tsunami.
Victor, wife Pilar and their 3 children live in a 8m x 4m modular home on their section which also contains a half demolished brick home. When the earthquake occurred the family lost most of their (brick) home; only the front half remains with a roof and three walls.
At the time of the quake Victor’s family took refuge further inland while Victor stayed with the house to protect it from looters. Unfortunately the looters held him up at knife point - the kitchen sink and stove was stolen. Victor has a sick elderly mother who is currently in hospital recovering from a heart attack. When she is released from hospital she will need to live with Victor for full time care. Both parents work incredibly hard to make ends meet but work in Pisco is very limited. They have spent all their money on medical bills and cannot afford to make alterations to accommodate Victor’s mother.
Victor came to PSF asking for help to expand their home and approval for assistance was granted by PSF on Christmas eve. The plan is to relocate their current modular home onto a concrete pad and join this with the remainder of the house that still stands, creating a whole room for his mother to live.
Our first job was to level the sloping section and then pour a concrete pad (12m x 4m). Through moving 150 wheelbarrows of back-breaking fill we managed to level the ground and pour the concrete. Next week we will move the home and hopefully continue to make their home more liveable.
Although the work was hard it was an absolute pleasure for both of us to be on the project. They are the most lovely caring family that your heart just breaks to hear their story. Victor and his son Martin helped us each day along with the neighbours kids’ ranging in ages from 5-12. We were treated to an amazing feast each day for lunch which we sat down and enjoyed with his family. Speaking very clear Spanish we heard his story and learnt more about the Pisco area.
The last two days of our week were spent on other projects as we waited for the concrete pad to harden sufficiently. Cam was driver for the day which includes taking the clunky PSF truck around the city delivering people and equipment to various work sites. Driving here in Pisco is no mean feat; it takes incredible courage as there are no lanes, no speedlimit and instead the horn is used when approaching an intersection, merging or for any other purpose where we would expect a rule.
I took part in cooking again, our team of 3 very capable girls decided to go where no PSF cooking team has succeeded before and make pizza for 45 people. We have a budget of NZ$1.50 per person (which is not a lot even for here) and with one oven and limited pizza making ingredients available such as flour and cheese - many believed we were destined to fail. However, they were all wrong and we came through delivering a range of hot gourmet pizzas served on time and exactly on budget. A very satisfying day’s work indeed.
Our last day of the week was spent on the French School Project, which is a cafeteria and toilet block funded by a French organisation at a local school. Our task was to make form boards for concrete walls. Such fiddley work in ensuring the wall is straight, I will never look at a concrete wall the same way again. It was good experience for us both and I got to use a jackhammer. Excellent.
After our half-day of work on Saturday around 25 volunteers relocated ourselves to the beach in Paracas. The beach is stunning chilly blue waters boarded by stark golden sand cliffs and no sign of civilisation. As the sun set we put up our giant tarp tent, made a fire and cooked up delicious ratatouille and baked potatoes, followed by smores.
We woke to a baking hot day where we made the most of the cool Pacific, ate fresh muscles and generally relaxed our weary bodies. Unfortunately Cam spent most of the time between the tent and the porta-loo, the dreaded Pisco Belly was back with a vengeance.