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Making it Happen in Urubamba

On Monday, May 27th, we broke ground on the Ormachea-Hermoza house in Urubamaba. The first MicroAid project in Peru is going smoothly, so far.

Ormachea-Hermoza abode since floods of 2010

On the very first day, the makeshift shack and tents, in which they had been living since the floods in 2010 destroyed their home, had to be taken down and the family’s possessions moved.

taking down the shack

All manner of detritus emerged from the dark dwellings. Filthy blankets, tattered clothes, pieces of broken toys, chicken coops, disintegrating mattresses and sleeping pads all were seeing the light of day or the first time in years. Good for them to be in the fresh, albeit dusty, air.

that inner-tube wil come in handy in the next flood

The regular construction day begins early: the guys show up for work at about 7 a.m. and get started soon thereafter. There is a break for Chicha, the mildly-alcoholic fruit drink, at about 9:30 a.m., lunch at 1, then work till 6 or 7 p.m. One day, the break included a big plastic tub of chopped salad the guys passed around with one fork until it was gone.

Verena Ormachea-Hermoza with chicha drink

The first few work days have been spent bending rebar and digging the deep foundation-post holes. There was a lot of mud piled up on the site from the floods in 2010, so to get a meter and a half below grade some of the holes are three meters deep—well above the heads of the guys digging them.

going down two more meters

I was informed yesterday that the sequence of construction here is to pour the columns and the second floor/roof, then let that completely dry for 30 days before building the walls then the flood slab. Huh?

another site showing the technique

OK, even if not the floor, we usually do the wall foundations, then the walls, then the ceiling. Well, with this schedule, I’ll have to cool my heels somewhere or a month, probably Mancora, before coming back to finish the house. This will probably extend my trip for two weeks to a month.

Already my presence on the site is taking on a familiar pattern: deferential treatment by the workers and other adults, and a curiosity to the children, then a more familiar attitude, moving toward ignoring me—but always polite and courteous. “Who is that guy sitting off to the side writing in his notebook and making endless calculations?” “Oh, that’s Jon, the guy who came from out of the blue to give us a house.” MicroAid style!

those mysterious numbers

Tomorrow, Melissa, my old assistant and potential MicroAid project manager, will arrive. It will be nice to have the company, but also a responsibility. I am wondering what really there is for her to do. Even my presence at the work site is a bit superfluous as the workers are doing their job and I can only jump in here and there to lend a hand. Language is an issue, in addition to possibly getting in their way. “Necessitan ayuda?” has become a bit of a mantra. “Do you need help?” Answer: “No, gracias.”


I will see how Melissa operates in a foreign country, and in challenging living conditions. I estimate, well, as she has worked in Guatamala, Indonesia, and Zambia, and has spent a lot of time living simply out of her car. At any rate, she as paid her way here, and is always a positive energy.

first day in cusco in sanblas neighborhood

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