What better way to get to know life in Cuba than by getting to know Cubans? And what better way to make a connection than with a gift?
Before leaving for my Cuba journey this past December and January, I asked family, friends, and readers to donate small items: toiletries, clothes, pens & pencils, etc. Almost all donations fall into one category.
From a distant, older relative, who wished to remain anonymous I received this box:
My friend Owen opened his heart with a donation matched by his employer:
On December 26 I carried a bulging suitcase into the airport…
In the south coast city Trinidad (shown to you the last couple of articles), I stayed with a local family. Within the home were children and grandchildren (and sometimes other children running in and out of this tightly-knit neighborhood). Before arriving, I had envisioned walking into a classroom and handing the supplies to the students. But winter break and restrictions on outsiders entering schools forced another plan. How about a neighborhood approach?
On New Year’s Eve I told the three household children (ages 5-11) to have their friends come by the following day at noon. The American man staying in one of the guest rooms–who had given out some American sweets and showed them how to balance a spoon on their nose–had some larger gifts to hand out.
One at a time, I handed them a notebook, two pencils, and a box of crayons.
Check it out:
As I learned when bringing laptops to a village school in Tanzania, it is getting easier to experience charity directly–even to far away places. And this way, we get to shape the effort, offer the resources as best needed, and experience the act of giving to recipients in another part of the world.
Over the next two days, a couple of other students came by to ask for a donation. No problem. I had leftovers. In fact, I had enough supplies to see about making a drop off at the neighborhood school.
Inside, classrooms featured state themes.
My last day in Trinidad, though, schools opened up. And a couple of hours before I hopped in a classic car taxi to Havana, my host Carlos walked me to the school, where red and white uniformed pupils played outside.
At the wire-fence gate, Carlos asked some of the children where the headmaster was. Soon a woman approached. Through Carlos, I explained who I was and what I had in the box in my arms. The woman wasn’t the headmaster but was an administrator. She recommended bringing the supplies inside to the main office.
She said they would distribute the supplies as rewards for good work in class.
This whole experience was a reward for me.