On August 15, 2007, at approximately 5:13 PM local time, on what had been a weekday like any other, the earth began to tremble beneath the feet of the inhabitants of Pisco, a small city on the Pacific coast of Peru some 235 kilometers south of Lima, the capital. Situated near the Nazca tectonic fault line, tremors are a relatively commonplace here; little did they know this was the beginning of a devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake that would change their lives forever. Over 80 % of homes were destroyed, thousands were injured and more than 500 people lost their lives. Many NGOs and international disaster-relief organizations came to provide aid and support reconstruction efforts in the days and months following the disaster. A year later, however, virtually every one of these organizations’ funds had been exhausted, forcing them to withdraw their personnel and resources and suspend all efforts to rebuild the community.
Yet Harold Zevallos Salas, a local Pisqueño, his sister, Carolina, and a handful of international volunteers who had been working with Burners Without Borders recognized the pervasive need for continued assistance all around them. Families were still living in crude housing made of cardboard, scrap wood, plastic tarps, and palm leaves. Sanitary conditions were dire; people lived on dirt floors and used a simple plastic bucket as a toilet. Unwilling to abandon the city while it was most vulnerable, Harold led these bold few to continue the arduous work that remained. They borrowed some basic tools from supportive neighbors – blunt pick-axes, worn shovels, a wobbly wheelbarrow, a couple of hammers – and got to work. As the local government was providing families with basic building materials, they provided those most desperate with the manual labor needed to rebuild their homes. They knocked down damaged walls, hauled rubble, dug trenches, poured cement and laid brick – one project at a time. And thus, Pisco Sin Fronteras was born the day after the first anniversary of the earthquake: August 16, 2008.
Slowly but surely, as word spread of the work that continued in Pisco, more and more volunteers joined the cause and contributed to the sustained life of our organization. In the years since, PSF has seen unprecedented growth and evolved into an internationally-recognized volunteer organization that has not only made significant improvements to the living standards in the community, but also created timeless bonds between locals and volunteers from across the globe.
This video was created in April 2010 by two former PSF Volunteers, Jeff and Kelly and reflects much of the work being done at that time. Although PSF has continued to evolve in the years since and now contributes to a wider variety of projects designed to support sustainable development rather than disaster relief, it provides you with a clearer understanding of our origins and the nature of the organization.