Those of you who have spent any time at PSF will remember Vitalina and the great job she does in running the Ludoteca child care center for us in Alameda, a neighborhood in Pisco. She works tirelessly with our volunteers to make a difference in the lives of the children who come there each day. Vitalina also lived with her husband and three kids in a house that was not safe or very comfortable. The roof in the front half of the home was falling down or in some places missing, it had dirt floors, and the bathroom and shower had no privacy from the roofs of the neighbors. The front wall of the home had also been damaged in the earthquake. They had applied for assistance last year, and in early July, we we’re able to start the repairs.
First the existing roof had to come down, a task made more difficult by the fact that we had to protect the bathroom and kitchen areas from the debris as we tore it down. Next came leveling the dirt floor so that when we poured the new floor, it would match the existing concrete levels. We found a nice little surprise when we discovered that the sewage cleanout box, normally out in the street, was buried under the dirt in our floor. Some emergency brick work ensued, and we were able to pour on schedule.
Every day our crew worked we were treated to an amazing lunch prepared with a lot of smiles and kind words by Vitalina’s mother and father. Vitalina also always came home for lunch to spend time with us and her kids. Though most of us spoke halting Castellano, and the family does not speak English, lunch was always full of stories, questions about our lives, and jokes about whether the food was too spicy, or the portions too big.
The new roof was constructed from bamboo, cana chankada, and then finished with a layer of Consuela (cement mixed with sand and sea shells). Since they also hang laundry in the front area we added a movable section of plastic roofing to provide security but also ventilation when needed. We extended the brick wall between the shower and bathroom to provide some privacy, and on the last several days installed wood doors on the bathroom, dining room and bedroom.
There were the inevitable challenges that come with any project, things like having the pole holding the power line into the home snap and rip out most of the wire to the front half of the home, and having an existing piece of bamboo start to crush under the weight of a proper roof. In spite of these setbacks, starting each day with an enthusiastic greeting from Vitalina and her parents, and the excitement of the kids made going to site an enjoyable experience for us. After the roof was finished, we gathered in the street with Vitalina’s neighbors and shared some beers Peruano style. Vitalina tied a bottle of champagne to a rafter and our crew got to christen the roof by breaking it with a hammer. It was truly a joyful and humbling experience, and one that none of us will ever forget.