A week at Ground Zero

Music beats from moto-taxis entangle with the distant barks of dogs in another warm Peruvian summer night. Just a few hours ago, we have watched a breathtakingly beautiful sunset at the penthouse of the Pisco Sin Fronteras (PSF) compound, which we have called home for five days. As the sun slowly rolled up its golden veil from the town of Pisco to the Pacific Ocean, it was difficult to believe that such wonder and tranquility can be found a place in which an enormous earthquake has wrecked less than five years ago. Though the catastrophe has left jarring scars in some communities, it is undeniable that Pisco is well under its way to recovery. From the bustling market place to the spacious playgrounds, the atmosphere here is saturated with vibrancy.

We are exhilarated to have joined Pisco on its journey of development.

As volunteers of PSF, our group has taken part in various projects that serve the local communities, including the construction of spacious modular houses for destitute families that have been living in meager shelters since the earthquake, to the designing of a beach-side park as a recreational centre for both the young and old from the neighbourhood. Personally, I have become involved in “Ludoteca” – a PSF-led sustainability project of child development and youth engagement since its initiation by UNICEF upon the disaster. Ludoteca aims to provide a safe and positive space for children aged from three up to fourteen years, where they would improve communications skills, develop teamwork spirit, cultivate environmental sensitivity, as well as reinforce health behaviours. The centre achieves the aforementioned goals by leading language lessons, group recycled art projects, physical activities, and nutritional and psychological counseling, among many other programs. A vital component to the sustainability of the centre is the engagement of a local woman trained by UNICEF, who is encouraged to take on the leadership position to design and implement the best programs that suit the needs of the community. For me, it has been an extremely fulfilling experience to assist in Ludoteca´s programs and to see that they have enabled the children to deepen their knowledge and have fun at the same time. Even as a non-Spanish speaker, I feel that I have connected so easily with these children, who have showed me what hospitality and humbleness truly means. Their bright smiles, which transcend language and national borders, will always be like rays of sunshine on my mind.

Now, as our week of volunteering with PSF is drawing a conclusion, we are all reluctant to leave. What are we going to do without having the friendly Pisconians and the dedicated volunteers from all across the world in our lives?! Plus, it is now extremely difficult to imagine returning to a sedentary lifestyle again, waiting for instructions to be given; information to be fed. Nevertheless, I am confident that we are taking away more than just the trade or teaching skills; the days with PSF have taught as what a difference volunteers can make from engaging the community, committing to the project, and considering others above oneself. We are returning home with a changed perspective in international development, and we cannot wait to apply what we have learned to make more contributions to this field of great need.

Siqi – Toronto, Canada