Pisco Sin Fronteras – PSF

Jasons Perspective…

We both had an amazing week at PSF! I cannot describe how great a group of people are working with this organization from all corners of the globe. Ashley and I worked on a few different projects throughout the week, so I will tell you a bit about my experience.

We arrived late Sunday night and got right to work Monday morning after a delicious breakfast prepared on the volunteer residence by Carolina. Each morning, there is a volunteer meeting in which you can select the project you would like to work on that day. This day, I chose a separate project from Ashley. Along with five other volunteers, I traveled a bit down the coastline to dig the initial trench for what is quickly becoming a house. We kicked but the first day and almost completed the trench. By the way, there are no machines available, only good ole elbow grease. We used pick axes and shovels to hack through hardened dirt, large rocks, and old concrete. The family whose house it will be provided us with an excellent lunch of rice, fish, and salad. It was great getting to know each volunteer as you work pretty closely with them each day. Many names to remember!

Tuesday, Ashley and I worked together with a large group of twenty other volunteers to pour a concrete roof for a large housing group. Again, the only machines available were two cement mixers (the hand driven kind). This means that since the piles of rock, sand, and bags of concrete were on the ground near one cornere of the building and the portion of roof being poured that day was on the opposite, volunteers poured the wet cement into five gallon buckets, passed them onto other volunteers standing on scaffolding, who in turn passed the buckets up to other volunteers standing on the partially existing roof. The volunteers on the roof then carried the cement-filled buckets about 60 yards to the corner being poured. The whole process took around five hours and everyone was quite exhausted and cement covered by the end of the day.

Afterwards, I helped out in what was deemed the iron works in the backyard of the volunteer residence bending and forming rebar beams that would become frames for bathrooms in an outlying community with no other bathroom infrastructure. We all enjoyed a nice cold beer afterwards as both projects together made for a very long day!

Wednesday, Ashley and I decided to try a different project refereed to as The Dirt Pile. The dirt pile is actually a two year old pile of dirt, grass, rocks, and trash that had hardened and interwound itself quite well. This means that instead of shoveling away dirt as was first expected, we spent the day pick axing away at a pile that seemed never to move. The pile of dirt was being moved so a prefabricated housing unit could be put in its place. We finished on a high note, deemed the Power Hour by one of our fellow volunteers in which we cleared quite a bit of rubble-dirt.

Thursday I went back out to the same place as the first day, but for the next step in the project. The trench had been finished and we were building rebar frames for the intial portion of the house. All in all, I bent about 154 rebar cuplings and the rest of the crew assembled four large rebar pillars. It was nice to be able to see the next step in the project and feel like we were making real progress. The family again provided a very nice lunch for us. It is great to see members of the family that can come out and help and this was one of the best families for that. Their direct involvement makes you want to help that much more and makes the day go by a little quicker.

Friday, I got a different view of the inner workings of the organization as I went out with Roger (Dragon Fly) and Jim to do assessments for future projects to see if they are viable and necessary. This basically consisted of us walking around the neighborhood, stopping by some previously identified locations. Examples of projects requested are a concrete walkway to a house, leveling and laying concrete for a play area at a local school, clearing rubble still left from the quake, and others. One special thing we got to do was meet a community of people with disabilities – yes I did say community. Here in Peru, people with disablities are not very well liked and not treated with respect. After the earthquake, they were more or less forced to the outskirts of town with no water access and no land ownership. We went to see where they lived and there is not a place in the U.S. that could compare. The community, if you can call it that, is located on a small portion of government land that is basically a pot-holed desert. They have no water or restroom access or means of trash removal. They are just downwind of a fish processing plant (not the kind of fish you eat, the bits that go into low grade dog food) so you can imagine how it smelled. Their dwellings were built of pieces of scrap that were lashed together to create makeshift walls with open air ceilings. When they leave for the day to go to work or to go into town to get food, their places are raided and cots or other belongings are stolen. Each family who lives there has at least one person with a disability. To give you an example of how the people are treated, our taxi from town to their living area was supposed to be 10 soles (that was what they originally said), but when the taxi drivers showed up and saw who we were going with, they doubled the price to 20 soles each. We let them have it (verbally) for that, but there is not much you can do in Peru at the current moment. What is the most interesting, however, is that the community is beginning a more cohesive group to push for more rights, better opportunities, and more safety. More to come a little later in the week…

Saturday morning both Ashley and I went back to the dirt pile and our group kicked (pardon my french) its ass! We picked and hauled for all we were worth and soon the pile was no longer. That afternoon we assembled a small group of volunteers (two native speakers and two others) during our off hours and went back to meet the community with disabilities. We had arranged the day before to meet at a community meeting hall so Ash and I could offer physical therapy advice and whatever else we could do. The day turned out to be perfect. We set up two stations (ash, a translator, and another volunteer, and the same with mine) and had families or individuals come to us as they came in. We met people with everything from Down Syndrome to Arthritis, and from Amputations to paralysis. After 3 1-2 hours, we saw everyone and they were thrilled to have us.

It was an amazing week overall and I only wish we had more time to comitt to the project as it is well worth while. If you have any ambition to volunteer abroad, check out the information on our Links page! They are also in great need of money and resources and you can be assured that they all go to very good use! www.piscosinfronteras.org.

One Response to “Pisco Sin Fronteras – PSF”

  1. Barbara Rojas says:

    Hi again! The PSF chapter brought tears to my eyes! And by the way, whenever you come back through Costa Rica, I have a bottle of pisco that my Peruvian friends brought me, and I have no occasion to drink it! And Costa Ricans don’t even know what it is, much less how to make a pisco sour, so there’s no point in giving it away. So if you don’t tarry too long, I’ll keep it for your return — provided you guys make the pisco sours, cause I don’t know how.

    Enjoy your holiday in Hawaii!

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