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Essex: the dirty and rewarding work of building schools

Last Monday was a big day for Burners. For a while now we have been working in Chincha, a town about 40 minutes north of Pisco, in conjunction with a Spanish NGO. They have already funded and built a hostel in a very deprived area of Chincha for young women who have become pregnant as a result of sexual assault. The girls live at the hostel with their kids and receive help and assistance to adjust to being a Mum. The NGO is also funding the construction of a 6 classroom school for primary age kids in the area and Burners have been helping a Peruvian crew to get this done.

On Monday it was time for the roof to be poured on 3 of the classrooms, all other projects were put on hold for the day because every pair of hands were most definitely needed. Our day started at 7.30am with a large wooden ramp being made, and loads of oil cans being transformed into cement buckets. Two cement mixers were fired up and for once we were all grateful that the sun wasn’t showing its face. Two shoveling crews worked hard keeping the cement mixers constantly on the go, whilst those of us carrying the cement waited in line to get our bucket load to take up to the roof. This was a finally oiled machine, the cement was poured into troughs and so there was no waiting for a new mix and no rest for the wicked or even the not so wicked!!

Despite the cloud it was hard work, and muscles quickly tired. Each successive bucket felt heavier despite most of us asking for smaller loads as the day progressed. Everyone was soon covered in cement and each volunteer quickly discovered their favoured quantity of cement and the best method for carrying the buckets. I quickly rejected the shoulder carry as this definitely created a precarious walk up the ramp, so it was a bump off the thigh to a clasp to the stomach hold that I went for – safer – yes, more dirty- definitely!!!

Bucket by bucket the columns became filled and then the flat of the roof began to be covered and levelled out. By lunch time we were all physically exhausted but once a cement pour is started there’s no stopping, not even for grumbling tummies. So on we went until 8 hours and 224 bags of cement later the last bucket was poured with as much enthusiasm and cheering as we could at that point manage!! However, our high spirits soon returned with the provision of cold beer and an amazing barbqued feast!

Whew! The roof is finished!

It was certainly the hardest days work I’ve had so far and the aches and pains, bruises and cement burns suffered by the crew certainly back this up. But working on a job like that with everyone giving every ounce of energy they have in order to get it done, whilst knowing that you really are going to be making a difference is a truly incredible experience.



6 Responses to “Essex: the dirty and rewarding work of building schools”

  1. Dani! says:

    What a beautiful roof and what a full, accomplished day! Congrats on all of the bruises you lot earned = ) Keep kicking ass!

    See ya soon,

  2. Parsec says:

    I hope that one of these days I can come down and cook some good ole Texas BBQ. Your work is truly inspirational.

  3. Amii says:

    Fantastic job! Your hard work is appreciated by more than those who benefit from it. Thank you.

  4. Kaki says:

    I sure am kicking myself for leaving the day before!
    How jealous am I!!!!

  5. Robert Karlen says:

    Hey all you burning people!!

    I am an Australian fan of your work and want to let you know about the Woodford Folk Festival Fire Event.
    The Woodford Folk Festival is an amazing event running from December 26 to January 2nd at Woodford on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, and us firies (fire event volunteers) run the closing ceremony which is also known as the fire event. We make a beautiful show with hughe structures and lanterns, and at the end of the performance, all is burnt in a ceremonious way in a huge bonfire. Any of you who feel like coming to australia should really apply to volunteer for the fire event!!


    Robert Karlen. (email for more info)

  6. Bik says:

    Nice work! I’ll have to do a cross post on this one 😉