Civic Initiatives Help Vulnerable People in Cuba

Like in other places, small civic initiatives are encouraging voluntary networks of support for vulnerable groups who are having trouble facing the pandemic on the Caribbean island.

By IPS Cuba

Members of the Enmanuel Ciego de Avila Baptist Church buy root vegetables and plantains to take them to the homes of older people living alone. Photo: Taken from the Enmanuel Ciego de Avila Baptist Church Facebook page.

HAVANA TIMES – Personal hygiene and food items are the main donations that different social initiatives are delivering, which are also shopping or doing household chores to help vulnerable groups during the Coronovirus outbreak in Cuba.

Socio-cultural project “AfroAtenAs” from Matanzas city, has organized different donation drives for the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable groups, such as people living with HIV, caused by AIDs.

Yoelkis Torres, AfroAtenAs’ coordinator, told us this, who also explained that they have helped up to 100 people already. The activist told IPS that this has been hard in recent days due to shortages of basic essentials in the country. As well as the state of panic that some people are beginning to show, he added.

“As a project, we ask friends who follow us to help us. Thanks to them, we have begun to help the most vulnerable who are close to us. These include members of the trans communitiy, critical cases as they live in extreme poverty, neighbors of our project on Callejon de las Tradiciones, HIV-positive locals and the general public,” he explained.

AfroAtenAs hands out bags with bottles of bleach, soap, fabric masks, tinned food, rice, pasta, lentils, noodles and even books to make self-isolation at home, to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, a little easier.

Fabric masks handed out are made by the project’s members for the Matanzas community. They have posted calls on their social media pages asking people who want to, to bring in pieces of fabric that can then be made into masks, which need to be transported on buses and roads today.

¡Echanos una mano!

Another initiative that is underway and gaining a lot of ground has to do with animal protection efforts. The Cuban Animal Wellbeing network, alongside other projects and independent animal activists, are fighting with a campaign against the false idea that pets can transmit the new Coronavirus.

Actor Alejandro Cuervo was one of the people who joined the campaign by publishing a photo with several children playing with a dog and a sign reading: “Animals don’t transmit the virus”. The picture was accompanied by the hashtags #YoSíAcaricioAMisPerros, #EllosSoloTransmitenAmor, #ÚneteAlReto y #LeydeProtecciónAnimalYa.

The Cuban Animal Wellbeing network is reposting photos people are publishing with these hashtags, on their Facebook page. This network of collaborators seeks joint efforts to protect animal wellbeing and has made it its job to debunk the false claims that the World Health Organization has already disproved.

The group in the western Pinar del Rio province is leading a food collection service for “transition houses” in this region. Stray dogs end up in these places and activists are asking for rice, milk, root vegetables, entrails and anything else that can be donated to feed them while they await adoption.

Art and aid for those who need it

Art can also help during this time of having to stay at home. Painter Ileana Sanchez Hing (known as Ileana the cat lady) is uploading videos onto her social media profiles for people at home.

Vamos a crear en casa is the name of the series of videos that the artist from the central Camaguey province is sharing for people at home, so they can enjoy this time and also learn how to draw at the same time.

“This is an idea to help parents and children who won’t be going to school for a month,” the artist announced on her personal Facebook page. She also says that people outside of Cuba, in Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the US, Venezuela and Qatar, are also following her posts.

Other projects insist on helping those who really need it. Journalist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero has announced on his Facebook page that personal hygiene item donations are being collected for LGBTI people. ¡Echanos una mano! (Give us a hand!) is the invitation they are making. Several people abroad have responded by sending money donations. Items that people in Cuba can share are being handed in.

Elderly people, who are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, are in the minds of those at the Metropolitan Community Church at its base in Matanzas. There, they have a team of people helping the elderly and those who are vulnerable and alone. They go with them to help them with their shipping and to give them the things they need during these uncertain times and quarantine.

They also have a WhatsApp group to share messages of solidarity and words of encouragement.

The Christian Center of Reflection and Dialogue, in the city of Cardenas in Matanzas, assists 120 older people, the disabled and sick people, every day. They feed them and wash their clothes and bodies.

Meanwhile, members of the Enmanuel Baptist Church, in the central province of Ciego de Avila, are taking root vegetables and plantains to older people’s homes, who live alone.

Sport has Ana Fidelia Quirot as a multi-champion of solidarity athletics. Sitting at her sewing machine, the athlete has joined many the many Cuban women who are making masks for vulnerable social groups.

Freelance aid

From the private-sector, Juanky’s Pan Cafe has repeated its social commitment. As well as adapting its service to the current national situation, the team at this cafe has also established a partnership with Cuba’s Scooter Club to transport donated food for free to homes of people in need.

The Cafe Crystal restaurant, in the Cotorro neighborhood in Havana’s outskirts, is taking meals to older people for free.

Even the Incuba Empresas project, which trains entrepreneurs and cooperative members in the Catholic Loyola Centers, has urged business owners to give benefits to employees they are sending home. They have also made a call for free food and personal hygiene items for people who need them.

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  • Good intentions do not necessarily achieve their objectives.

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