Apologies for the delay in blogging recently; having passed the mid-way point of my stay here in Kingston, my schedule has gotten a little crazy as I push to explore all possible avenues in my research topic. Fieldwork is going as hoped though and I am happy with the progress so far. Of course there are always setbacks and challenges, especially when using a variety of different participatory methods with a range of young people. I am definitely excited to share some of my findings though when I return to Scotland in a few months.
Aside from working with street-connected young people, I have been making efforts to enhance my knowledge on the natural disaster element of my thesis. As a social geographer, this aspect of the fieldwork is something I am less acquainted with but through the support of various environmental and disaster management organisations in the city, this is quickly changing.
The week ending 18th January was Earthquake Awareness Week here in Jamaica and I was fortunate enough to attend the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Open Day. The Open Day brought together a range of experts from media, emergency services, charities, researchers and governmental organisations. All of the representatives demonstrated their own contributions to disaster management and risk reduction efforts through talks, activities and displays.
A group of young representatives from a range of schools in the city came along to the event and performed on stage under the theme of Earthquake Awareness. In true Jamaican style these performances were soulful, vibrant and very entertaining for everyone to watch. Music is a very important aspect of life in Jamaica, particularly for young people, so I felt that allowing students to learn about disaster risk reduction through song and dance was a particularly clever approach.
Jamaica encounters approximately 200 earthquakes a year, usually with a magnitude under 4.0 which means a majority of them go unnoticed by the general public. Nonetheless, Jamaica has not experienced a serious major earthquake since Kingston was hit in 1907 and experts have warned that another one is very overdue. Well documented reasons for this include poor building regulations and overcrowding in Kingston and the reclaimed land in the surrounding areas. ODPEM’s motto is “Disasters do happen…be Prepared” and I believe that they, with the support of other likeminded organisations, will continue to promote the importance of planning within the wider community over time. Through my own research, I am interested to know to what extent street-connected young people can participate in these preparations and hopefully as my fieldwork continues, this will become more apparent.