Volunteer Blogs

Maz and Tom’s Adventure

Posted by in Blog | February 06, 2024


So, volunteering is getting better. We’ve disassembled about a million pallets (those of you who have worked with pallets will know how satisfying this is…) and turned them into many panels that will eventually turn into walls. Hopefully this week or at least sometime soon we’ll be able to get out on site and see the panels going up and being made into houses. We can also make panels with window holes and shutters. Maz is getting better at hammering than Tom and may have found her forte!! Although it is one of the, by far, less glamorous jobs it is satisfying. Apparently on some of the sites there is a lot of standing around as there is not enough work for everyone. On FMB (as our project is called) there is always, sometimes a lot, of work to be done.Today we decided to take a walk down to the beach as it is only about a 7 minute walk (it’s not 5 mins and it’s not 10!) away. It was beautiful but, unfortunately, it was rather overcast and slightly chilly (still in t-shirts though!). If it was clear and sunny, like it was yesterday (tut), we would have been able to see clearly the Ballestas Islands which are, apparently, the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’! We fully intend to take a trip out there at some point but all we want to do at weekends is sleep! The work is 9-5 all week and 10-1 on Saturdays, all of hard labour, so it’s completely understandable! Maz has got 4 callouses from all the hard work. And many bruises.

Today we went on a tour of the Pisco (local drink) bodegas. This was meant to be a chance to try some nice Piscos and see the country, this it was but it soon became a piss up as well. After taking about an hour to find an open bodega everyone wanted a drink and after having a tour of how the drink was made they then took us to a bar and gave a whole heap of free tasters, they even gave me a 3/4 bottle of free expensive wine-great times!!! We then went to second place which pulled us in off the street and gave a a load more pisco. In this place we also met a 92 year old lady who told us all about how her parents had set the bodega up 100 years ago. The third place we went had award winning pisco and had even had awards in Europe. This place was a bit of a blur by now and although interesting did not have the character of the previous bodegas. After this we rushed back for the PSF (our charity were working for) rock concert. There was a Peruvian band playing who helped them record the PSF song and were actually really good. There was a lot of dancing and singing around the fire and plenty more to drink.

Today we went on site to help put up a modular house. This was good to do because we had been making the modular panels for so long that it was interesting to see how they went together to make a house. Although the site was overly crowded, about 18 people made up of three separate projects, we managed to keep busy and soon had the process of putting up the panels down to an art. Food was also given to us by the family there and although it was very tasty it soon made many people, Maz included, feel very ill so came back to the Hostel a bit earlyDuring the day we made modular panels as we do most days.

Tonight was the PSF auction which was to raise proceeds for the charity. This started with a silent auction and then a proper auction where people were raising money by selling things from favours, meals to getting tattoos of various things. Don’t know how much this raised but it must have been a lot because everyone was drunk and buying stupid things for increasingly large amounts of money. After this we went to a nearby club and danced it what was a really dead dance floor, although there were a lot of us so this didn’t matter too much!!Today and yesterday show some examples of what has been our day to day routine at PSF. Yesterday we were making panels and tidying the wood yard (Bollywood). Also Chris made us a very fancy scrap wood box with wheels and everything.

Today we went to Aceros Arequipa (local steel mill) for the 4th or 5th time to get scrap pallets which we break down to make the modular panels..



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.


Restaurant Course in San Andrés

Posted by in Blog | June 15, 2024

by: Frank Hoder

There are virtually endless ways volunteers can support the reconstruction efforts driven by Pisco Sin Fronteras. Many dig foundation trenches, clear rubble, pour concrete and lay brick. Others teach English and life-skills to local youth. As a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Pisco for the better part of the last two years, I´ve seen some amazing people come through PSF and can attest to the enormous difference they have made in peoples´ lives here. The growth of the organization since I arrived in 2024 has been impressive, to say the least. Today, in the waning months of my service as part of the PC Small Business Development program, I´m excited to be able to formally collaborate with PSF in an effort to improve the standards of customer service, hygiene, and general management capabilities of local restaurants.

The initiative aims to bolster the gastronomy and tourism segments of a fledgling coastal economy through a series of nine evening workshops covering a broad array of topics regarding restaurant management. Participants are learning about essential steps of service for “front-of-house” staff (waiters, bartenders, hosts) as well as how to improve efficiency and quality control in the kitchen. Furthermore, owners and managers are being trained to seek and analyze customer feedback in order to implement the changes needed to improve the quality of service they provide. Given my own experience as a bartender and server, I am coordinating the “front-of-house” and business management training modules while Carlos Rozo – long-time PSF volunteer and newly appointed PSF Director with a rich culinary background – is taking charge of the hygienic standards and kitchen management portion of the course. Carlos is also helping to promote some innovative dishes that incorporate underused locally produced ingredients. Scallops and asparagus are two such ingredients that, though they are abundant in the region, are slated almost exclusively for export to foreign countries. When Carlos demonstrated the preparation of two simple yet delectable dishes – a cream of asparagus soup with scallops sautéed in a white-wine butter sauce and an appetizer consisting of sautéed asparagus, seared scallops dressed in a sweet & spicy honey-ají glaze – he stoked the culinary passions of every participant in the room until it nearly boiled over. The owners and managers who often double as cooks and/or waiters began to discuss the fusion of different flavors and debate the best possible variations as well as the side-dishes and drinks that would best complement them, their eyes wide with excitement.

My Peace Corps work with a small-scale scallop farming association here provided further motivation to promote an increase in local consumption, which should benefit small-scale extractors, restaurants, and end-consumers alike. By increasing local demand, more of the value stays in the community, which should generate greater economic activity.

The course is offered free of charge to all participants, and includes several sessions that take place in Puro Pisco, one of the most modern restaurants in the area, providing a practical setting where participants see how theory is put into practice.

When the course is finished, we will be working with the Municipality in San Andrés to implement a new set of standards of excellence in customer service amongst local restaurants. These standards will not be imposed, yet will offer incentive to those who comply through publicity provided by the Municipality. The hope is that this may serve to strengthen the gastronomic sector along the coast as a way to augment tourism in the future. Although some tourists currently pass through Pisco and San Andrés en route to Paracas (approximately 15 – 20 minutes south), it is imperative to prepare small-business owners for a potential influx of tourists once the plans for the construction of an International Airport in Pisco/San Andrés comes to fruition. Peruvian cuisine is quickly becoming renowned across the globe – most notably ceviche and many other seafood plates – which provides an extraordinary opportunity for locals dedicated to the culinary arts and which may also improve the standards of living of many others consequently affected by a local surge in gastronomic prowess.

This course is just one more example of the myriad possibilities available for PSF volunteers to make a difference in the community. As reconstruction moves forward, I earnestly hope the people at PSF will continue to use their creativity and good-will to begin new, innovative projects while continuing to enhance existing one in order to promote sustainable development in Pisco. There are truly no limits to the things you can achieve at PSF; there is an immense need here for people who can share skills and experience with locals and there are innumerable ways to do so. The intrepid spirits of those volunteers who break the mold of the status quo and persevere in their efforts to make this a better place are what I have come to revere most about PSF. I hope those of you who continue on at PSF will maintain that mentality, always striving to make a positive impact that may be felt long after you´re gone.

So Long PSF

Posted by in Blog | May 20, 2024

by: Angus MacRaild

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.

Pisco Sin Fronteras

Posted by in Blog | May 11, 2024

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