In spite of bilateral tensions, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Miami continues to bring donations for Cuban nursing homes and hospitals.
HAVANA TIMES – The religious sector has been keeping personal ties and its humanitarian work going in the country, while problems between the Cuban and US governments continue to get worse and hate speech is on the rise between different groups of the diaspora community and those living on the island.
“If you teach young people to love this country, if you bring them and they see it for themselves, they become the best spokespeople we have. Because then they talk to their parents, talk at school, tell their neighbors and contribute towards change,” said Ada Katrina Perez from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in Miami (where she has been living since 1980.
This nurse and religious believer has been visiting her native country, Cuba, for years, bringing aid directly, organizing exchange projects and collaborative efforts so as to reconcile and uphold ties between Cubans on either side of the Florida Strait.
Helping people in need
Perez was in Havana in late February to hand out medicine, equipment and other aid, which arrived in a container thanks to support from the Church. The shipment was received at the Cuban Council of Churches, so it could then be distributed to nursing homes, parishes, hospitals and children’s homes.
Parishioners from this parish in Miami have been carrying out solidarity work for four years, first coming and holding workshops for people in need of palliative care, and then sending items such as walking sticks, mattresses, beds, furniture and wheelchairs, which are given to the elderly and physically impaired.
This time, they also brought toys, cots, TVs, cribs and bikes which will be given to children in institutional care and others who have been admitted into hospital because of chronic disease.
“Here I am. Care and share” is this initiative’s slogan, which also organizes and runs summer camps for children with cancer.
Last year, they took 25 children from the Juan Manuel Marquez Pediatric Hospital in Havana, to spend a week at the Varadero resort, at the Casa del Carino.
They were accompanied by their families, nurses and doctors, and it will also run this year, Perez confirmed. Likewise, another camp will be held for new generations, bringing religious believers from both countries together.
According to the activist, they also provide support for young people with addiction problems, from alcoholic families or people who have AIDs.
Uniting new generations in the US and Cuba
“I love my Homeland and I have always served my Cuban brothers and sisters. I get angry when I see so much need here, and that many Cubans over in the US reject their country and want to turn everything into a political matter,” Perez shared. “We are all Cubans and brothers and sisters,” she stressed.
One of the donations that came in this container was a hydraulic lift to move bedridden people. This piece of equipment costs 5000 USD and the Cuban nurse received it from one of the nursing homes she works at in Miami.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation in Miami holds fast-food sales to fundraise and pay for the containers they ship over to Cuba.
They also receive donations from US corporation VITAS, which is dedicated to providing care for the terminally-ill, which Reverend Vilson Hurtado and Pastor Lisa Miranda, leaders of the Miami church, work with as priests.
Labor of love
Pastor Jesiel Roque, from the First Christian Pentecostal Church of Cuba in Havana’s outlying Mantilla neighborhood, runs one of the churches that has received aid from Disciples of Christ on other occasions, which he says has changed the lives of old people and children with brain disease.
“Our congregation has been very happy because they help people in great need, who live in temporary communities (shelters) and are in a very tight economic position. This is why they are very grateful for this beautiful labor of love from Sister Ada’s church,” he said.
Lucrecia Cesar Gomez is one of the representatives from the Miami congregation, who comes to Cuba with Ada Katrina Perez. However, she couldn’t make it this time and asked her niece, the young Daine Martinez, from Cienfuegos, to help out with the distribution of aid.
Donations from the religious congregation have gone to the La Colonia nursing home, located in Havana’s Boyeros municipality. Luis Gustavo Olivera Torres always takes part in delivering items to every one of these places and tells us how he sees things change with the donations they receive.
“Beds, washing machines, paint and other objects were donated to La Colonia, which completely changed the aesthetic of the place. You can see this change because a lot of the furniture there was already broken. The old people living there are a lot happier now. I think it’s really extraordinary,” he stated.
Donations received are sent to Methodist and Salvation Army nursing homes, as well as to handicapped children in Matanzas, Villa Clara, the town of Rodas and Varadero.
Ada Katrina Perez says that transparency in showing where donations end up is what has managed to dispel the myth in Miami that everything gets lost when it reaches the Caribbean island.
“When a container arrives, we come, open it, fill trucks and go straight to the nursing and children’s homes and deliver them in person,” the nurse said, who calls for donations in her home city.
“If I go anywhere today, we see what we brought, it’s there. Nothing is lost or ends up in other people’s hands. That’s why we post photos and stories on social media and people can trust our work,” she said giving an example.