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PROJECTS BLOG 02/28/2008

Nick Heyming- Notes from the Field

The first house in front of me couldn’t have been more different than the one next to it. It was white, gleaming, freshly built, with a brand new floor and no doors or windows. Next door, the neighbors lived in a tent surrounded by a wall made from a long sheet of bamboo tied together with pieces of cardboard, plastic, plywood, scrap wood, and old doors. Inside a baby coughed.

Sra. Lucia needed us to help her clean the huge piles of garbage that the government contractors left behind when they cleaned the beach. Just half a block away lies the beach, with once placid lagoons now festering with the sewage and waste that has accumulated in them since the earthquake. The military has been working around the clock with huge machines to clear the rubble that they put on the beach in the chaos after the earthquake. Concerns like rescuing people from collapsed buildings tend to create a “lifeboat ethics” that surpass values of convenience like conservation.

Unfortunately for Lucia and her family, their back yard (where their house used to be) is now full of the rubble and trash from all the neighborhood houses. Her 2 month old grandson has developed a chronic cough from the dust and god knows what else, so she’s taking him to the hospital for the next few days.

Sanitation and health are just a few of the huge issues looming over the people of Pisco and Paracas. From half the city becoming homeless, to the security situation, to the environmental catastrophe caused by the ocean surge, to the schools that were all destroyed, the people of Pisco have alot of problems to tackle. On top of that, we can’t even imagine the spiritual crisis they faced watching their churches crumble around them, killing hundreds in a town where everyone is family, and leaving survivors dazed and confused.

Its been over six months since the earthquake, and thanks to the many volunteer organizations that have worked here since then the locals are finally able to take a breath and look around. Most have been moved into temporary modules, and many have reopened their damaged businesses. Just putting food on the table is generally a seven day a week job, and saving up for construction supplies in a hyper-inflated post-disaster market is tough.

But still, the people of Pisco manage to scrape together the cash to pay for the materials for floors, kitchens, and foundations. We usually work side by side with the people we’re helping and their neighbors, we almost demand it when they ask for help. We’re rapidly recruiting local volunteers, and last night I took ten of the Pisquenos who’ve been working with us for months to dinner.

I mentioned that we needed them to step up as leaders and help other locals that want to volunteer by explaining what we discuss in our morning meetings to them. They told us that they want to found a non-profit here in Pisco that will continue the work we’re starting, and we discussed plans for the intercambio, diversifying the skills exchange and improving communication with the community.

Its great to see so many locals helping out on our crews, and neighbors that once sat and gawked at us are now grabbing tools and pitching in. Between the meeting we had recently discussing vector control with the director of health (which is now a project being run full time by the local club Jovenes Playinos), working with dozens of local volunteers to get the schools ready in time for classes in a couple weeks, the town hall meeting that community leaders across Pisco are putting together, and BWB’s Build a Cornerstone Project that addresses a fundamental need with an innovative sanitation module, things are starting to look bright here in Pisco.

There’s still a lot of work to be done though. A multinational crew with members from the USA, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru is cleaning and leveling Sra. Lucia’s lot right now, and we’re finally finishing the roof on our school project in San Andres. If we continue working and learning with the locals, as well as developing our relationships with the neighborhood clubs and schools, we’ll be constructing something more durable than any building.


“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” -Ralph Crawshaw


One Response to “Nick Heyming- Notes from the Field”

  1. Natasha says:

    Wow. I want to help in more ways than one. I am an aspiring English teacher and am always seeking ways to teach people(anybody) about this wonderful, misused and misunderstood language of ours. How can i become a part of this amazing effort to reconnect these children with a beautiful world? Please someone contact me or post a response on the board. I will check it in a few days.