With the help of $3 million from the Olde Trust, 20 students from Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania and Haverford College are helping to rebuild the East End.
Working in conjunction with IAMCO, an East End-based international charity, the group arrived March 5 to spend their weeklong spring break cleaning the littered debris in the streets and homes of the community.
Group leader, 22-year-old Caymanian Katrina Jurg, said the students had volunteered to aid Cayman’s recovery after Hurricane Ivan, and that she and fellow Caymanian student Lise Hurlston had put together the project.
‘I came back the week after Ivan and saw the level of destruction, the intensity of it. We were in shock,’ she said.
‘Our friends came to us and asked what they could do to help.’
She and Ms Hurlstone recruited among campus organisations and friends, meeting weekly with the volunteers, aged between 18 and 24, then contacting local luminary Oswell Rankin.
‘I know Katrina quite well through old family connections, and her mother called and said can we give her some help,’ Mr. Rankin said.
Working with East End MLA Arden Mclean and IAMCO on East End restoration, Mr. Rankin said ‘the need was obvious and we said, well, she’s from there, so let’s use [the group’s offer].’
IAMCO and its team of London-based engineers is restoring 62 East End homes, 10 of them ‘total rebuilds’, according to Mr. Rankin, and are looking after Ms Jurg’s group.
‘We are based in the East End Civic Centre, where they are staying, and are keeping them fully employed, tasking them everyday,’ said Mike Harnden, IAMCO project manager. ‘They’ve been very helpful.’
Ms. Jurg said that while few of the group had any special skills in construction, waste handling or damage assessment, they were committed to ‘doing whatever we can’.
‘We’re pretty much just using brute strength, and we have six guys doing some of the heavier work,’ she said.
‘We’ve done four full days of work so far, clearing debris in the main part of town. A lot has already been moved, but there is still a lot of smaller stuff: rubble, windows, sinks. We moved a boat, car doors, all kinds of stuff.
The group’s efforts are being supported by a welter of companies and organisations, donating materials, meals, rental vans, various supplies, accommodation, even island tours and expenses.
‘A hurricane does not discriminate between rich and poor,’ Ms Jurg said. ‘It just took everything from everybody. Part of why we are here is to raise awareness [about the storm damage].’
That, perhaps, looms as their hardest job, six months after Ivan and only six weeks after Asia’s deadly December tsunami.
Still, East End residents and supporters are acutely aware of the group’s efforts, and are likely to rue the end of spring break come Saturday afternoon.