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Haitian Earthquake Rattles School, Local School Booster

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By Peter Granitz

A local Haitian woman says a school she funds in southern Haiti was damaged in Tuesday's earthquake. She learned no students were killed, but because of poor communication she's having very little luck learning any additional details.

Solanges Vivens is an animated woman with a lot of energy. She emigrated from Haiti in the 1960s.

At her office in northwest D.C., she showed pictures of the school she runs in Jacmel, a city located about 50 miles south of Port au Prince.

"This is a good shot of the school right here. This is a finished product, and believe it or not, all this is gone," she says. "This is the part that's destroyed. I just found that out last night. Because the bricks were not covered, they just fall."

Five years ago, Vivens bought the school because local people couldn't afford it. She says since then the school has grown from six classrooms to thirteen, and teaches more than 240 students.

She says she's tried calling hundreds of times to check in since the earth quake, but can't get through. The only news she gets from Haiti comes from cable TV.

"Very difficult. I have not gotten through once yet," says Vivens.

But yesterday a girl named Cassandra, who Vivens says she watches out for, called from Jacmel to tell her she's alive. Vivens tried to pry information from her to learn more about the city, the school the students families.

"Cassandra could not even answer my questions. She said her mom would not let her move away from her," says Vivens. "They're huddling to each other. So when I ask her how's the airport or what happened, she says she does not know."

Vivens says Jacmel is completely without power, so cell phones certainly won't work soon. She says as soon as airlines allow people to travel there, she'll be on the first flight.

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