In March 2009, The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund will be holding a Partnership Forum in Cuba with a number of partners from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The Forum will be an opportunity to evaluate PWRDF’s partnerships of the past decade and to identify ways forward for future work. It is also an opportunity for PWRDF and its partners to come to know the unique role that the Cuban churches are playing in the development of Cuba, and of the unique national context in which they carry out their work. Jeannethe Lara, the PWRDF Program Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, describes some of that history and context, as well as current challenges facing this Caribbean island nation.
The recent blows to Cuba– first by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and then by the tropical storm Paloma Ã¢â‚¬” have left Cubans struggling with the worst damage to their agriculture, housing and infrastructure in their history. There are serious food shortages and more than half a million homes have been destroyed or damaged. Three months later, areas of the country still are without electricity; others remain flooded. PWRDF has committed $15,000 from its emergency fund to the Cuban appeal of Action by Churches Together (ACT).
The Caribbean is a region heavily affected by the annual hurricane season. As a result, natural disasters caused by hurricanes and tropical storms have hindered greater development in some of Cuban’s regions. On the other hand, a history of natural disasters has prompted Cuba to develop one of the best disaster prevention systems in the world. Noting this, the United Nations has fostered a pilot project in disaster prevention in the Caribbean, using Cuba’s system as a model. While the system works to prevent loss of life, however, Cuba has not yet succeeded in addressing the toll these natural disasters take on the agriculture and housing sectors.
At almost every decade, the Cuban Revolution has resulted in drastic changes in the lives of Cubans. In addition, the economic blockade imposed by the United States has prevented Cuba from obtaining most of the materials required for its reconstruction. Despite all this, the cultural identity of the Cuban people remains strong and intact. Masters at overcoming adversity, Cubans today enjoy a quality of life that is much better than that of many other countries in Latin America and worldwide.
In the last 10 years, PWRDF has supported the three ecumenical bodies in Cuba: The Cuban Council of Churches (which reunites several churches, including the Anglican Church); The Martin Luther King Center; and the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue. These organizations work to protect the food supply, and promote alternative sources of energy. They also support emergency recovery and rehabilitation as well as community development and leadership.
PWRDF is proud to support Cuban churches in their efforts to contribute to Cuba’s ongoing development and to provide a dignified life for its citizens.