Monthly Archives: May 2024
I got called sentimental recently. It was a charge levelled in good humour by friends and it was in relation to the post I wrote about saying goodbye to my friend Rupert. About sharing some Old Pulteney 12yo with him during the moto ride to the bus station. You can judge for yourselves here. On reflection I think I probably am prone to sentimentality. It is hard not to be in the wake of such emotional circumstance. So these thoughts are very much in my mind this week since I left Pisco Sin Fronteras this Tuesday. I can’t promise I won’t be sentimental about it.
Thays and Laura, two of the hardest working friends I met at PSF.
I’ve often alluded to the difficulty in trying to sum up feelings about something like PSF. It is a life changing experience to spend time somewhere like that. At the moment it is still so raw and close that objectivity remains a struggle. I don’t know how my attitude towards it all will flesh out in the coming months and years, what will come to stand out and signify that overflowing four and a half months. A Tardisesque spec of time, with its hidden depths and corners stuffed so full of experience that it seems now scarcely real. The feeling of having awoken from a dream floats around me as I’m stuck here in Puno, waiting for a bus to take me the rest of the way to La Paz.
Maartje and Tim at the ‘Ultimate Ninja’ tournament.
However there are images, spectres in those dreamy visions that spring to mind. When I think of PSF I think of cement dust, I think of the shattering whine of circular saws. I think of warm beer and standing in line for dinner. I think of an old woman and her disabled daughter. I think of electric shocks in the shower. I think of impact drivers and run down batteries. I think of people crying under the weight of emotion. I think of maddened laughter and drunkenness. I think of sweat. I think of sunburn. I think of goodbyes. I think of a desert with many faces. I think of a young girl called Georgette, sent back to her mother in Lima without a goodbye. I think of wood. I think of wood reconstructed in a myriad of new forms. I think of modular panels and I think of earthbags. I think of hunger and of money. I think of my own family far away. I think of Stephen, Rupert, Laura, Alex, Thays, Maartje, Carson, Andrew, Frank, Lucy, Suzanne, Lisa, Dylan, Kathryn, Pete, Jimmy, Lynn, Robin, Christian, Anna, Brodie, Sabrina, Amanda, Tim, Ariel, Jack, Jen, David, Leo, Bevan, Mel, Kareen, Nessa, Coleen, Naveen, Heather, Patrick, Natasha, Kent, Leen, Will, Shannon, Alec, Quentin, Brian, Jaffa, Beccy, North, Eileen, Imran, Magnus, Kitty, Liam, Ross, Marley, Dakota, Claudi and many more.
Georgette, a young girl who lived on our project site for a while. She was seemingly allergic to good behavior.
When I left I gave into my own sentimentality and shared, yet again, a whisky in the back seat of a mototaxi with another truly great friend, Alex. It went down well over the fading sting of the previous nights Climax session. Myself and fellow long termer Laura left at the same time and were accompanied by Alex and Thays to the bus station. I’ve known Alex for the full four and a half months I’ve been at PSF. He is Scottish and we shared much common experience of Glasgow and its University. We were the only two Scots there for most of the time and made short work of expressing this through endless thematic banter. However we only just discovered in the last two days that we shared a mutual best friend and had met on several occasions over the past few years. Especially when we went paintballing together and attended the same ‘silly hat party’. We both agreed that it is indeed ‘a small world’.
I don’t know how I’ll come to measure PSF in the future, but this much I know for certain. I made the best friends I ever knew there and it was the best thing I did in my life so far. Bad things can only be undone and changed in inches, and with the help of many people better than me, I helped to change a few more inches. I hope the process continues beyond the borders of PSF, I hope the feeling of PSF is an infection that spreads, one that I’ll never shake as I continue that endless journey they call ‘growing up’. Maybe that’s sentimental, but I find myself without the presence of mind to worry about such things these days.
It’s been just over a month since I arrived in Pisco, Peru to volunteer with PSF. Once one arrives and begins working, it quickly becomes an addiction…one can’t get enough of it. I hear people say it all the time “I came here for two weeks and stayed two months” or “I was here before and I decided to return”. In fact, I am a repeat offender too—I volunteered with PSP back in August 2009 and decided to come back. I knew the day that I left PSF back then that my work was not done and that I would return. Finally, a year and a half later, I am back and it feels muy buen .
During my leave of absence from PSF there has been so much progress within the organization. Volunteer intake has grown to the point where PSF has secured a new property to accommodate the much larger population. New projects such as building houses are being started daily, and with lots of hands to help, projects are being completed at record speed. There is now a dedicated administration team with a real office to keep the organisation running smoothly….I can’t thank these people enough for all their behind the scenes hard work. But where PSF has really progressed is in community involvement/ development. PSF is not just about building houses; PSF is about teaching the community to be strong and resilient. PSF volunteers have the opportunity to work directly with locals to teach English, conduct yoga classes, and instruct fair play in sports such as football (soccer) at our newly built earth bag centre. Several times a week, a group of volunteers will get together in the evening to play a friendly game of football or basketball with other local community members.
A lot work is being done in the areas of green space development and environmental education. Currently, we are working with Peace Corp to beautify a community park in Túpac Amaru, an underprivileged neighbourhood on the outskirts of Pisco. We also work with a local group, Espacio Expresión as well as Peace Corp, to deliver environmental educational programs to school children. Since 2024, we have worked with members of the local fishing association to educate fishermen and the community about responsible fishing, reducing local sea contamination as well as teach English and basic computer skills. Furthermore, we work in partnership with the Red Cross and DEMUNA (Defensoría Municipal del Niño y el Adolescente) to create awareness about health and nutrition, sexual education, violence, employment opportunities, etc…
The most exciting part of PSF is that if a volunteer has a skill, trade, idea, or initiative that s/he would like to share, PSF will provide support to get an educational program off the ground and running.
It’s incredible to be a part of PSF, and I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this place. My friends back home in Canada tell how great it is that I’m doing something “good for the people of Pisco”. However, I see it a little bit differently: I feel the people of Pisco are doing great things for me. They have forced me to open my eyes to a different way of life and to appreciate the small things in life. e.g. Clean drinking water and air, hot showers, a comfortable bed, employment rights, electricity… the list goes on. The people of Pisco have taught me that shit will happen and you will overcome, and be stronger in the end. The skills I have gained here will certainly apply to my community at home and that there will always be a need to foster and invest in new ideas and initiative. This is really what builds strong communities.
When I head back to Canada in two weeks, I will be leaving a very poor area extremely rich. It’s ironic but true. I thank you, Pisco, for all you have given me.
By: Natasha MacKinnon
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada