From the moment we arrived to Cuba we have been welcomed with open arms. The culture so far compared to Chile has been very different. Unlike the more sheltered-to-yourself life in Chile, Cuba has the sense and feeling that everyone is family working together to help each other out.
Our first project started off buying aros y frijoles (rice and beans) to later be distributed amongst families in less privileged neighborhoods who also face the challenge of having a child with a mental disability. We split into two groups making a total of 20 deliveries in two days with Melissa and Miguelin our guides. Each person came to circle that evening with a different and unique experience.
My group went to a lady’s home who is raising her grandson who has a number of disabilities. From the minute we arrived we were shown the warm hospitality of this abuelita. She immediately offered us platanos and other traditional Cuban fruits. The first three rooms of her home were roofless and the back had just a tin covering on top. We asked her if she was renovating her house but she proceeded to tell us that she asked for help from the government and paid them the equivalent of about $2,000 USD to fix her roof. They instructed her to remove her roof and then they would come and put a new one in. She has now been roofless for two years! We asked her how she felt towards the Cuban government because of this and she basically said it is what it is. Now not only is this woman raising her grandson who has a number of disabilities, but she also doesn’t have a reliable food source and to top it off is now roofless. None the less she had a warm smile on her face the whole time and insisted that we eat and take everything offered to us.
My initial reaction to this was just wow! How could it be? Later that day our group came back together and told each other memorable experiences that we will hold onto for a lifetime. So far Willie (our main contact in Cuba) has planned out our trip to make sure that we are really getting into the Cuban culture and feel comfortable and happy with what we are doing.