This week, we started building the structures on the Path to Peace. On Monday and Tuesday, we were lucky to have Ana Maria (the bio-construction expert) advising and teaching us. The structures we are building are: a bench/rest area, a small house for storing amenities and three signposts. So far, we have levelled out the ground for the house, filling holes with rocks and concrete to secure the foundations of the building. The house is near the bottom of the Path to Peace so is relatively easy to walk to. However, the rest of the construction has been incredibly hard from a physical perspective. The group has really come together, helping with lifting as well as providing music to encourage everyone when the sun gets exceptionally hot. We will be doing bio-construction all day on Mondays and then all morning for the subsequent weekdays to take advantage of the slightly cooler temperatures early in the day.

Volunteers doing bio-construction work

Here are some of the group’s thoughts on the first week:

“Very tiring but rewarding, the afternoons were interesting and fulfilling as I got to work with my monitoring and evaluation team” - Georgina Edwards

“Bio-construction is a really interesting approach to construction that I hadn’t really considered before. It’s fun to take part in, though I might go crazy from all of the bottles I’ve filled with sand for building blocks” - Jack Appleby, Local Hero 

“It's been hard work but working in bio-construction has shown me the endless possibilities of nature and all its materials. We will Reuse, Recycle and Repeat” - Nikita Bangar

“I am really enjoying the work we are doing, it is great learning about fundamental skills the nationals know so much about that we aren’t exposed to in the UK. They are so practical and hardworking. It’s amazing to see the contrast between our different countries. The work is tiring but we are progressing really fast and learning so much so it is worth the effort we are all putting in.” - Katherine Maloney  

“I was surprised at how different the lives of the nationals were despite the fact that we get on so well as a group. They have so many practical skills, like making cement and building.” - Stephen Puddlefoot

Another opportunity for volunteering this week was tree planting with a large group of individuals from the community. This was a great chance to meet more people from the town, especially as our Spanish has come on in leaps and bounds in the last week. This was a continuation of Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas’ environmental initiative that they have been doing in the area for the past 18 months. The views were absolutely stunning, and although the trek was an hour and a half of extreme uphill, whilst carrying two seedling trees each (at least), it was definitely worth it.

Volunteer tree planting

Our national volunteers were taking part in the local football finals against El Portillo, the community that is linked to Arcatao by the Path to Peace. It was very close, and after an exhausting ninety minutes and extra time, it all came down to penalties. Despite a valiant effort by Ulises our goal keeper, Arcatao narrowly lost the match. It was a fantastic day, and a brilliant way to end a tough week of construction and walking. 

On a few of the other weekends we have been joining in with a host family's softball game. This is a friendly event where the local families get to laugh at our horrendous attempts to play a very common sport. With lots of hand signals and trial and error, we are slowly getting a grasp of the rules – by the end of this cycle we may actually know what we are doing! We have also been having an informal cultural exchange by hosting movie nights for ourselves and the national volunteers. This started off with 'Back to the Future', whose slapstick elements translate into any language. 

So now we have an established routine, and have settled into the community brilliantly. The energy is really good - long may the positive energy continue.

Written by ICS volunteers Katherine Maloney, Katherine Maynard and Benjamin White