Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Shanty Towns Day 2

Day 2 in Lima and the plan for me was to head up to Pamplone again but this time to visit a community school to talk to the kids about dental hygiene, find out what the school was like and spend some time playing some sports with them. I was looking forward to it. After the extraordinary previous day, and despite weariness and sleep deprivation, I was keen to go back. The place had had stamped me.

Things didn't quite go to the script. I travelled back up the mountain with a group that was going to work on the stairs project, as I did yesterday. We got off together and my plan was to then walk the short distance to the little school. However, on the mountain, Greg, our site manager from the day before, was not there and I was pretty much the only person on the site who had an idea (limited as it was) about what we needed to do and how we needed to do it. We had about 70 students, one set of stairs to finish and another be to completed. So I hung around and helped get things started with the idea that I would head off to the school a bit later. I never did.

While I would have loved to spend some time at the school, I kind of felt that this was where belonged anyway. We got things rolling and pretty soon we were back in the groove. I was secretly looking forward to seeing the first set of stairs finished. The site of the second staircase was even more challenging. We had a lot to do in a day.

Greg arrived after about an hour-and-a-?half and took control of things. Once again, it was rocks and cement, rocks and cement. The lines were reformed, the cement was mixed in massive piles at the top of the hill, water and sand trucks rumbled up and down the narrow slippery mountain lanes dropping off their load, and groups scouted for more decent-sized rocks to add to the mortar. A couple of students, Riley and Lexie  were assigned trowel duty.  It was all system go.

As was the case the day before, the work was hard and grinding, and just like yesterday, no one shirked the task.  I saw amazing things. Students almost buckling under the weight of a 10 kilogram bucket of cement refusing to take a break because they felt they would be letting the group down. Two girls from Trinity College Auburn, (whose names I as yet don't know but intend to find out) were incredible. For hour on hour, their toiled ankle-deep in cement mix hauling out full buckets and lifting them up onto the barrels ready for their entry on the human conveyor belt, then tossing back into the pile the empty ones once they had been returned. Maybe they were inspired by their teachers - Matt Turner, Marty Corcoran and Kevin Griffiths who were indefatigable - they even refused to stop for lunch.

It looked for a while that we wouldn't get it all done. But under Greg's direction and the unquenchable spirit of the group, the job was  completed just before 5.00pm. We gathered together before heading back down the mountain and were addressed by Calixa, the community leader and site foreman, who gave a very moving speech thanking the students for what they has done for his community and explaining to them what a difference it would make to their lives. I wasn't the only one who became a bit emotional during that address.

Another group would be back tomorrow to finish everything. Three days ago, families had to trudge up a steep, slippery slope to retrieve water, get basic supplies or see other members of their community. By Friday they will be using a beautiful set of stairs. Not until this week would I have ever thought of stairs as beautiful...

I will rely on my tour colleagues to tell me about the experiences at the school, and will draw on their accounts and use their pics for my next blog entry. I still wish I could have gone there too, but I think I was guided to the place I was meant to be today.

Lots of students said that they would love to come back again in the not-too-distant future - there was so much more they wanted to do here. I feel that way also.

Maybe you could come too...

MR #WYD2013


  1. Thanks so much for these posts, it's great to be able to read what you are up to each day and see the amazing photos.
    Brenda smith

  2. Thanks for your lovely message of support Brenda.

    Best wishes

  3. Mark your wonderful writing brings life to everything for us parents back home. The photos are great also...what you are doing personally by sharing all this experience with us back in Australia is priceless. Keep safe and love and prayers to everyone there.

    1. Thank you Theresa!! I will pass on your message to all.