Chincha is a large town about 200 km south of Lima in the Ica region. It was greatly affected by the 2007 earthquake and the devastation is still very much visible today. Many families are still living in the temporary US Aid shelters and the town is still littered with destroyed, half-standing buildings. I visited the Sunampe region, where students from Markham College of Lima have been building houses since soon after the earthquake. After the earthquake Markham College initially organised donations and collections of food and making survival packs, which were sent down to Chincha by the truckload.
The next major project was to rebuild the school in Sunampe, the poorest area affected. Students raised over a 1/4 million solés and physically built the school from the ground up, solid structures of brick and mortar with several classrooms. They also provided many resources. Later they built homes for the families of the children who attend the school. Over time they also built 30 community centres and I saw two of these. The mayor’s wife pointed out one that is used in the mornings as a kindergarten and the afternoons and evenings for a range of activities and meetings.
The biggest problem thereafter was how to decide who needed houses the most.
This is where the mayor’s wife became actively involved in setting up a society that helped select those most needy. Yesterday I saw students in ranging in age from 11-20 in 5 groups in their second day of house building. The mayor organises the laying of the concrete slab and the students do all the rest from raw materials bought and delivered from Lima. One of the DT teachers made the design and the students construct the panels, erect the walls, make windows and doors, put on the roof and paint the inside and outside. There is some flexibility in the design, depending on what the family need.
Students from ages 11 to 20 were busily involved in the various tasks when I arrived on the second day. Alumni who have had been involved at a younger age, had returned to assist and lead the groups. The three boys who won the Kurt Hahn award in 2010 for their leadership in this whole initiative were in their university holidays. One is now studying engineering at UCL had arrived 3 weeks earlier with 2 friends in the same course to build 3 eco toilets they had designed (see photos). Once finished they will run workshops with the families on how to use them. They also built 4 eco stoves. Here is their website with more details on this wonderful initiative. https://sites.google.com/site/peruproject2012/home-1
For the duration of the house building the students camped in tents in the mayor’s back yard, who also provided them with breakfast each morning. The families of the new houses made lunch for each group (with some financial aid). It was a wonderful atmosphere with much hard work. The local children also got involved in the painting and also tried their best to have a say in the colour choices. Tomorrow a new group of Markham students arrive to begin another 5 houses.