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Friday, August 27, 2010
Updated: September 8, 1:43 PM ET
Team FullCircle rebuilds Chile


[Editor's Note: Matt Philippi is a perennial contender in superpipe competitions across the globe. During his off season this fall, Philippi and his friends Taylor Felton, Jack Tolan, Aidan Haley, and Osvaldo "Chico" Rosemburg are in Chile, mixing community service and skiing with their FullCircle Project. This is the second installment in Philippi's travelogue from Chile. Click here for the first.]

Our second day of volunteer work marked the end of our demolition project and the beginning of our rebuilding efforts. The weather outside was beautiful, bluebird. For the remaining nine days of volunteer work we would be constructing an extra-large version of the kindergarten we had just taken down.

Concepcion, Chile
"At this moment the reality of what had happened here became uncomfortably apparent."

After a few days at the job site we visited downtown Concepción to see the damage from the quake and meet up with a friend of Chico's. The FullCircle crew was really excited to get a few hours away from work — until we jumped off the bus. In front of us was an apartment building some 20 stories high that had collapsed during the quake, killing most of the people inside. It was a horrible sight. We could see the access points that rescue teams had made by breaking down the walls of the building in an effort to extract survivors. At this moment the reality of what had happened here became uncomfortably apparent.

We moved on from that building to find huge sections of downtown Concepción closed off due to buildings looming overhead that were no longer safe to be in or around. Six months after the quake, much of the city still needs to be demolished for the rebuilding effort to begin.

Later that evening, Chico's friend Miguel shared with us his experience and understanding of the quake. Most areas that were affected by the quake, Miguel said, remained quiet and peaceful in the aftermath, doing what they could to wait out the lack of water, food and fuel. Concepción, on the other hand, went crazy. People from all walks of life, doctors and homeless, were caught looting and taking advantage of the situation. Miguel was disgusted by this and said he was embarrassed to be living in the same city as these people.

Our volunteer experience was cold and muddy. We were hungry most of the time as breakfast consisted of some instant milk and a small bag of corn flakes and dinner was rarely served. Our crew of professional athletes was not used to this sort of caloric intake. After a couple cases of hambriento or "hunger induced madness" we broke the standard protocol for Un Techo volunteers and explored the town on our own. We quickly dialed in the local food options.

Synergy: FullCircle and Un Techo Para Chile worked side by side to reclaim the rubble.

During our Un Techo experience, we also were shocked by what we perceived as a severe lack of efficiency. Many volunteers and some of the leaders would take three- to four-hour lunch breaks, and then return to work as the sun began to set, working under often-dark conditions.

The Un Techo leaders were aware of our concerns and began to make amendments for us. They began to provide fruit for us, to supplement the white bread and cookies that served as the majority of the other volunteers' diets. Also, we were given the project of constructing the playground adjacent to the kindergarten. This was nice because we could maintain a more regular work schedule and after a long day we could quit at dark. Exhausted and hungry at the end of the day we would often pass some volunteers heading to work after their long breaks.

South American Volunteers: Artist's Depiction.

These differences in work habits and diets did not prevent us from making many great friends during the work with Un Techo. The Chileans were very interested in our lives as gringos and as professional skiers, and we were able to learn a lot from them about Chilean culture.

The most predominant feature of Chilean culture, as we saw it, was sharing. Whether it was food, beer, wine, clothes, work gloves, computers, or the workload itself, everyone pitched and helped everyone else. Maybe it was just the nature of this group of volunteer workers but it made us feel right at home.