By Natalie Weatherill
I recently spent two months in Puerta Pulache, a rural community in Northern Peru close to the city of Piura, which was badly affected by the heavy rains and consequent flooding early in 2017. The impacts of these floods on schools in Peru was enormous with 2,457 schools affected or completely destroyed. I worked with All Hands Volunteers who are a volunteer-powered disaster relief organisation, dedicated to rebuilding all over the world.
Caulmert retained my role as environmental scientist and in addition donated £500 towards the project.
The aim of the project was to rebuild a school in this small Peruvian community as the old one was deemed unsafe and unfortunately had to be demolished. The previous school was built from mud bricks which essentially dissolved with the intense rainfall. A lack of governmental funding and conflict between two regional authorities meant this community would not have received any local or national funding to rebuild the school, had All Hands not stepped in.
The NGO designed the school to be resistant to future flood events and is also resilient to other forms of extreme weather, as well as potential earthquakes. Volunteers from round the world travelled to this remote location, working 6 days a week in hot and dry conditions with no running water to build a brand new school for the community.
The conditions were tough but the determination and motivation of volunteers and a small team of staff members enabled us to get the school built ahead of schedule.
Tasks included: digging foundations by hand, mixing concrete by hand, brick laying, cutting and installing rebar, welding, installing the steel frame, putting up dry wall and cement board, installing insulation, installing metal studs for structural support, treating and varnishing wood, sanding, painting and much more. Tasks were also undertaken by members of the community who previously only had experience in agricultural work, the project gave local workers a new skill set and a great sense of achievement.
All Hands worked closely with the community to ensure our impact upon them was positive and sustainable in the long term. Leftover materials were donated to the community as a whole to distribute them how they saw most suitable. Community cooks were hired on a rotation to spread the wealth and volunteers were encouraged to spend money on snacks and drinks around the village.
If anyone would like to know more about the organisation or donate please read more here.
The NGO also partner with corporations and are able to form part of Corporate Social Responsibility for businesses which may be interested.
Huge thank you to Caulmert for allowing me to take part in this project.