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Piscante House Project

One of the projects I have spent a couple of weeks working on is the Piscante House Project. Its about 15 minutes outside of Pisco, on a hill in a area called “Vista al Mar”. It’s a really poor area where most of the people live in bamboo shacks, including the Piscante family. They have dirt floors and no showers or toilets. Cooking is done over small burners and water is either retrieved from the river or there are a couple of people who are attached to the water line so barrels are filled up by hose from these houses. There’s also a “hole in the ground outhouse” kinda toilet a couple of fields back.

Whilst there was some damage to the few brick buildings in the community the Piscante didn´t have a brick house. However Jesus and Edith have a young daughter, Andrea, who is about 2 and was born with a condition which has meant she has to have a colostomy. As you can imagine, living in a one room shack with dirt floors and no sanitation leaves Andrea open to all kinds of infections. So Edith, hearing about the work Burners were doing, approached the organisation for help.

As a result funds were raised to lay a floor, build retaining walls, a shitter i.e. shower, toilet and kitchen sink unit and buy a modular 3 room house. The area is quite beautiful with views to the mountains one way and to the sea the other. A lot of the people are farmers, so fields full of cows surround the small community. My first job out there was to help build the retaining walls out of cement and river rocks. Wheelbarrows full of river rocks were moved and concrete mixed by hand on the cement floor. We also built a staircase in the same fashion,and the top step was the work of my own fair hands -I must say I was prety bloomin’ pleased with th result.

Jesus, Andrea’s Dad, now works as a security guard ,which is great as the job provides medical insurance so Andrea´s medical care and operations are taken care of. She’s currently in Lima and will be there for several months so it will be great that she’ll come home to a brand new house. Jesus is a complete star. Even after working 24 hour shifts he returns home and works with us, shoveling, mixing and lifting until we leave. Sometimes he looks like he’s going to fall asleep on his feet, but he won’t stop whilst we are working. We’ve also been working with Maestro, who is a master builder, friend of the family and absolutely hilarious. He gave up his time to help us out with rendering and building the walls and septic tank. He was always patient as he tried to teach us what he knew and amused us greatly with his dancing. Sod water breaks we always had at least several dance breaks a day!!!

Once we finished all the walls, we were incredibly excited that the house was going to be arriving the next day. Unfortunately, as in Thailand, building does not seem to be a precise art here in Peru and once the house arrived we discovered a minor problem. The measurements for the concrete floor were incorrect and the house didn’t fit!! However much we tried it soon became apparent that the only solution was to knock down one of the retaining walls, extend the floor and rebuild the wall. Not a good day!

On demolition day we were an all girl crew armed with sledge hammers, pick axes and lots of aggression, and an immense amount of swearing from me. The wall was all down by the end of the day. We were all totally knackered but kinda giddy and felt pretty damn proud of ourselves – I guess its lucky that none of us had built that original wall as I’m sure the feeling would have been quite different. But anyhow we’re all standing around washing up tools etc. and suddenly Jesus gets a mischievous look on his face and flicks water at us from the water barrel. As you can imagine before long a huge water fight has started and after emptying 5 gallon buckets over each of us I think I can safely say that Jesus won.

So after re-building the wall, the house went up, the shitter got plumbed and painted and the windows got fitted in the house. There was a small celebration when the sink ceased to leak and the toilet flushed. Jesus’ Mum cooked us all ceviche for lunch to say thank you and Jesus thanked us all and said we were welcome back anytime. It was kinda sad to be leaving as the project was such a joy to work on in so many ways. We had so much fun, and I’d like to think that we’ve really made a difference in their lives.

– Sarah Hughes, Essex, England


2 Responses to “Piscante House Project”

  1. Amii says:

    Thank you all so much. I’m there in spirit, which is easier to do with these wonderful reports.

  2. jim chow says:

    it’s a great feeling knowing you made a difference. i’ve built a few structures and whenever i go by one, i think to myself, wow i put that up! good job!

    Burn your email.