CUBA CARE in Cuba Much Hope for the Future

Written by Christina Polzot, CARE International Country Representative in Cuba

Havana, Cuba - On December 19, just two days after presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro made the historic announcement of talks to normalize relations between Cuba and the U.S., I departed for Canada for the holidays.

I left the positive energy and hope for the future felt in the streets of Havana, and arrived to Canada to much curiosity and many questions about the changes.

Having lived and worked in Cuba for nearly three years, the announcement came as a welcome surprise. CARE’s program in Cuba – running since 1995 – includes work in the food security, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and humanitarian sectors.

In my work with CARE in Cuba, I am often inspired and humbled by the resilience of the Cuban people and their solidarity and commitment to social equality despite the difficult situation they face.

This includes people like Ramona and Juan Carlos of Tacajó, Holguin who despite seeing their house collapse in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 worked to rebuild a stronger and safer house, and then shared their knowledge, tools and resources to help their neighbours do the same.

Or community leaders like Roxana in Santiago de Cuba, who despite many competing priorities, being a mother and having limited resources, she organizes nightly neighbourhood meetings to raise awareness and prepare her community to face and respond to natural disasters.

CARE’s program has felt the impacts of the restrictions imposed by the U.S. government against Cuba and, as an organization with a presence in both countries, we welcome the steps taken by President Obama to ease restrictions - in particular, the opening of general travel licenses for humanitarian workers, the export of much-needed goods such as construction and farming equipment, and the increase in remittances that can be sent to support humanitarian projects in Cuba.

However, we look forward to further action on the part of both governments as we consider that over the long term, the potential for change is great.

CARE will continue to collaborate and support its Cuban partners, including government, associations, research institutes and communities. Although it’s too early to predict what will happen in 2015 and what the implications of these changes will be, the spirit of determination and the resilience of Cubans like Ramona, Carlos and Roxana leaves me with much hope for the future.

Read more about CARE's work in Cuba