Project Pisco is just over one month old, yet Hands On Disaster Response has already established a strong presence and accomplished significant progress in our work here. In four short weeks, we’ve ramped up to an amazing variety of projects, powered by the energy and creativity of 130+ volunteers (60 currently on-site) from 21 different countries.
The former restaurant at 636 Jose Balta has been transformed into a bustling home with rebuilt walls, new bunk beds, and 4 hot-water showers! The volunteer response has demanded that we make our first expansion into the upper level, followed by a space 3 doors down, and most recently the property across the street, which includes a house as well as a large lot perfect for tool storage, tenting, and cricket!
Knock it Down, Scoop it Up
The primary goal of our fieldwork has been to clear a space for the former homeowners. This will allow for placement of an emergency shelter or construction of a transitional home. The work is strenuous and dirty but our volunteers realize the benefit and love it! It’s also a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with the community, hearing their stories, meeting their families, and sharing smiles and laughter. Special thanks to all the volunteers who have stepped up as part of our assessment team, refining our intake process while lining up work for our ravenous rubble crews.
A Day at the Beach
The beachfront community of San Andres was not only damaged by the earthquake but also suffered from a storm surge that devastated the beach and coastal wetlands. HODR volunteers turn out in numbers on a weekly basis to plant palm trees, replace damaged irrigation lines, re-establish a footpath, and clear debris left by the water. Appreciative residents (avian and human) are starting to return and enjoy this beautiful area.
San Andres School (that’s Peru not Philippines)
Many of the schools in the region have been destroyed or damaged by the earthquake. We are currently in the demolition phase of a project at the Abraham Valdelomar School in San Andres. Within a few weeks, we hope to begin construction on preliminary classroom space.
Mt. Clothing (Sorting at Paracas Port)
Working in conjunction with INDECI, the Peruvian national civil defense, our volunteers have been sorting donations stockpiled (actually a mountain of clothes!) at the nearby port in Paracas. It is our goal to install a system of not only organizing the supplies but also helping to facilitate the distribution.
Our volunteers have also been visiting the local albergue (shelter) and providing “safe space” play activities for children. After we began our own grassroots program at the albergue down the street, we teamed up with UNICEF to help staff their ludotecas at 5 different camps in Pisco. Now volunteers assist the expert staff of the ludotecas as they observe and support the children in their continuing recovery from this event. While it’s a big change of pace from rubble, it’s no simple task – volunteers report being physically tired, emotionally touched, and completely charmed by the children.
UNICEF also has a weekend “2 for 1” program, in which the games and activities involve parents and their children. Our volunteers have been on hand, reaching out to both adults and kids in their healing process.
Back(pack) to School
As the children of Pisco slowly resume classes, many families are scrambling to replace school supplies lost in the disaster. UNICEF mobilized 12,000 backpacks and sets of supplies for different age groups of children, but faced the daunting task of assembling the disparate items into a ready-to-distribute pack. In true Hands On spirit, our volunteers offloaded a semi-truck (lorry) of materials and blasted through 6000 backpacks in four days. A second delivery of 6000 backpacks and supplies will arrive at the end of this week, and we’ll be there to help sort, stuff, and distribute.
It’s nowhere near Christmas, but the HODR house garden has been transformed into a colourful toy-painting workshop! As part of their variety of programs, UNICEF asked HODR to paint and decorate hundreds of simple wooden block toys. Volunteers demonstrated amazing creativity in the rainbow of trucks, boats, helicopters, and menagerie of animals that have taken over our tables, basking and drying in the sun.
Terre des Hommes
NGO Terre Des Hommes has been doing water/sanitation and food distribution work in the region, and HODR volunteers have been helping. We started the collaboration by assisting the Terre des Hommes technical team break down, transport, and set up a water system at a San Clemente albergue, and also helped to install a latrine at the shelter. Following the success of this project, Terre des Hommes invited us to help them break down and sort food packets for individual families into bulk packages for the ollas communes, or communal kitchens, still feeding large populations in Pisco. The HODR team pounded through tons of food while playing with and entertaining the children at the school where the sorting took place.
Street Teams, Peruvian Style (Pisco Medical Support)
HODR always encourages our volunteers to seek out and develop their own program ideas. A few volunteers with medical backgrounds sought out the devastated San Juan de Dios hospital of Pisco and looked for ways they could help. Our volunteers assisted with checkups at the hospital, and also travelled to local shelters with vaccination and health education teams.
Water of Life (Cañete Irrigation Canal Project)
Last week, a group of 10 HODR volunteers completed a satellite Hands On project in Ramadilla-Con Con, a tiny rural village in the neighbouring province of Cañete. Alongside the local men and women, the team rebuilt a 200m section of irrigation canal. (Read the full report here.) This project is a beautiful collaboration between HODR, Peruvian NGO YCPA, and the municipality of Cañete.
This week, 12 HODR volunteers travelled to Con Con to begin work on the second 300m stretch of canal. Their work is critically important to these families who earn their sole income off of the crops they grow.
Sharing the Love
The victims (our neighbors) have shown an outpouring of love for our hardworking volunteers. It is common for crews of volunteers to not return to our base for lunch, because they are dining on ceviche at the insistence of the family whose home they have been working on! The offers have included not only food but laundry service, accommodations, dinners, and party invitations.
I want to send a very personal and heartfelt “thank-you” to the following group of people. They have been instrumental in helping HODR establish a presence in Pisco, thus helping their own community. My job would have been far more difficult without their kindness:
Thank you Lalo. Lalo took a chance on the idea of having us stay in his restaurant. A beautiful act of kindness and a great start for Project Pisco.
Harold Zevallos , translator/guide and resident of Pisco Playa
Joel Jara Werlem, our first translator/guide
Pilar Castro and Juan Bericat at Posada Hispana
Alejandro and Gypsy at Hostal San Isidro
Hands On Disaster Response
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