Volunteer Blogs

Dirt Bags and Guinea Pigs

Posted by in Blog | June 27, 2024

by Rob Hackleman

Another week in Pisco, another set of memories and experiences to be cherished.  I have been here for two and a half weeks, and I have been able to settle into the rhythms of the town and of Pisco Sin Fronteras.  I have already had to say goodbye to new friends that I hope to stay in contact with, and I have begun to meet new people as they arrive for their PSF adventure.  I am also preparing to say goodbye to all three of my roommates, whom have also turned into my closest friends here, as they are all coincidentally leaving in one week.  Although it is never fun to say goodbye, I’ve learned that the beauty of PSF is in the shared experiences that we will always have.

Of course the primary experience to be remembered is the projects we do for the community.  I was fortunate enough to have gotten on a project from its beginning, and I have managed to stay on this project for the most part.  It is a new school and community center in a poor neighborhood not far from where we live.  When I showed up, it was just trenches dug in the ground for the foundation.  We now have about 2 meter high walls built from dirt bags, and we will probably begin building the roof this week.  I am expecting to be able to see the completion of this project while I am here.  It is very tough work shoveling dirt and moving 50kg bags of dirt all day, but it has also been very rewarding.  The kids in the community are often at the site and love to try to learn all our names.  It has been awesome meeting many of the kids that are going to be using our school, and it has definitely been worth the slowed production that they may cause at times.  There is one four-year-old boy named Pepe that is almost always at the site since he has not started school yet, and he has insisted on helping out on the project from day one.  By the end of the day he is usually sweaty and tired from a full day’s work.  While I am not a proponent of child labor, I think Pepe loves helping us out, and his energy and spirit really encourages all the volunteers and reminds us why we are here (Para los ninos).

Aside from the hard work that we put in six days a week, PSF always does an excellent job balancing work with social activities.  This week was no exception.  Monday nights we have been consistently getting about 15 people out for basketball at a court that was built by PSF volunteers.  We have been having pretty spirited and competitive games.  There have also been soccer (futbol), yoga, and dance classes offered on a regular basis.  Thursday, one of the volunteers from Quebec, Canada organized a beach party to celebrate the Quebec holiday for St. Jean de Baptiste.  We cooked pizzas over the beach fires with relative success, had some good live music, and even were introduced to the new PSF theme song, written and performed by one of our own volunteers.Friday night was casino night.  By normal measures of gambling, nobody really won since all the winnings of the night went towards the organization (Para los ninos).  The Texas Hold ‘Em started with about 25 players, each donating 20 soles to play.  Unfortunately, I was the first person out at my table, but this just meant I was able to participate and lose money at other games such as Blackjack, and my personal favorite, Guess which box Renee the Guinea Pig will choose.  I guessed correctly on the first pick, but then lost the next three turns.  The goal for this game was to raise 100 soles to prevent the Guinea from being eaten (Guinea Pig is a regular meal in Peru). The money was not all raised, but a couple volunteers were kind enough to donate the remaining money to save Renee’s life.   There was also a full operating bar set up at PSF for the event with the proceeds from drinks also going to the organization.  We were forced to end the festivities at 2:00 am to respect those wishing to sleep, which of course meant the rest of us went to a disco in downtown Pisco called Mystica, where we danced the night away, where we more than doubled the occupancy.  Of course, everybody was up for breakfast the next morning at 8:30 ready to put in work because that’s what we do at PSF!

Today a group of us took went to an Incan ruin which is about one hour outside of Pisco.  This was my first Incan ruin I’d seen, and it was a good preview of more spectacular scenes to come at Machu Piccu.  It was also a nice change of scenery from Pisco as it was a very mountainous and peaceful area.  It was a good day off to rest from the week’s work.So hopefully that gives a brief taste of what life is like here at PSF.  It is difficult to accurately portray PSF, but it is certainly a unique place.


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