May 15, 2009
By Christine Hills
“Why do we look for God only in heaven? Why not here on earth?”
These questions are asked by Miriam Iquique, coordinator of the Ecumenical Women’s Network (REM) of the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala.
This PWRDF partner organization is one of nine that attended the PWRDF Latin America and Caribbean roundtable consultations held recently in Cuba. Hearing what partners had to say was an inspiration for me.
I learned that I don’t need to speak the same language to share, understand and respect the lives of others. Silent listening can be just as important as talking. I will always reach out to make those connections.
I would also like to introduce you to Gisela Blaya, Coordinator for Networking and Development Projects in the Sustainable Development Program of the Cuban Council of Churches, located in Havana. Gisela is an agricultural engineer working at the diocesan level of this organization, which has been in partnership with PWRDF for 14 years. With the translation assistance of Suzanne Rumsey, PWRDF Program Coordinator for Latin America/Caribbean, Gisela told me about the work that PWRDF is helping to support and what it means to the people of Cuba.
We work with PWRDF in collaboration with the United Church and with Kairos, (Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives), an ecumenical social justice movement. There is a lot of communication and transparency. We have been able to express the needs of the communities we represent across Cuba, as these needs have been described by the communities themselves. We have received direct funding from PWRDF to support specific pieces of work, particularly in our gender and sustainable development, HIV/AIDS programming, as well as for emergency assistance in the wake of the hurricanes that struck Cuba in 2008.
Our relationship with PWRDF is awesome but it is about much more than support that extends from north to south. We share stories, values and the experiences that are lived out in the Cuban communities where we work. Our relationship with PWRDF and the work that we carry out in partnership enriches us all as human beings.
The Cuban people are very appreciative of your solidarity, for our people, for the children and for the elderly. It’s been particularly important throughout the “special period” here in Cuba when the abrupt withdrawal of aid from Russia in the early 1990s sparked an economic crisis in which meeting basic needs became a struggle for survival. This is when PWRDF started to work with the Cuban churches. With your support, we are assisting communities to produce food and build capacity both inside and outside affected communities. This will eventually make it possible for people to do for themselves what we are helping them to do now.
As much as God will allow, I seek to continue this work. We may lack a lot of material things but we are doing everything we can to improve the quality of life, through better housing, health care and education.
In the weeks ahead, watch for more living letters from PWRDF partners on www.pwrdf.org and www.pwrdf50.org.