It was a big week for Jacmel, with triumph and tragedy. For the first time last Tuesday, many of Jacmel's students returned to school. That same day, a young man helping to demolish a quake-damaged building was killed by falling debris. Demolition was halted across the city for a day, but resumed on the Wednesday.
Jessica Leeder, our writer in Jacmel, wrote about the death and the demolition freeze, but I learned about the subsequent resumption of rubble clearing, and the resumption of classes, from the Mouvement des Etudiants du Sud-Est pout le Soutien (Southeast Students' Support Movement) or MESS.
While in Jacmel a few weeks ago, my main goal was to establish links between citizens there and The Globe's newsroom in Toronto so we can supplement Jessica's reporting with updates from people living through the reconstruction. MESS is one of those links.
The grassroots group of 200-plus students have organized themselves according to field of study to assist in the rebuilding of their city. Doctors and nurses run mobile clinics, engineers examine buildings, business students work on reviving the economy, and some of the communication students are giving The Globe weekly updates. I introduced the students to Skype and last Tuesday during our first trial call between Jacmel and Toronto they told me about the schools.
In mid March, MESS had conducted a study into the feasibility of reopening as many schools as possible. They found that less than 20 per cent of the schools were left unscathed after the quake. More than 35 per cent had been totally destroyed, and more than 45 per cent were damaged. Last Tuesday, as many schools as possible reopened, with only those too badly damaged, or with too many people still living on their grounds, remaining closed. The next day, demolition work resumed with new safety guidelines.
This week, MESS received a webcam, which we'll test out Tuesday, and in a few weeks our Project Jacmel site will include regular video updates about progress in the city from MESS, and from several other sources I developed while there. Look for them in the coming weeks.