March 29, 2015
By Simon Chambers
PWRDF sent a delegation of diocesan representatives, Youth Council members, a local farmer and PWRDF staff to Cuba in mid-March. They blogged while they were there, and now that they’re home, we will be posting their adventures in their own words. Today’s instalment comes from Valerie Maier, Diocesan Representative from Ottawa.
Today everything came together!
We met with our partners and representatives from all the local community projects at the CCRD Centre in Cardenas to take part in a Sharing Bread Workshop, led by Suzanne and Sheilagh. And of course, we started by sharing food together!
Our first task was to reflect together in small groups about food in our lives by sharing stories about food. The groups worked separately and then came together to share with the wider group what we had learned. Food connects us! It nourishes our bodies; gives us life. The growing, the preparation, sharing and eating of food together connects us to the land, to family and to community. As one Cuban summarized: food security has good spirit.
We continued to share information with each other, hearing next from the Canadian group’s agronomist, Chris Pharo and farmer, Don Dewar about farming trends and issues in Canada and the farming process in Canada.
Then we heard from Ernesto Gonzalez, from the Sustainable Development Program of the Cuban Council of Churches about how Cubans had grown dependent on the State for food and imports from the Soviet Bloc, and the Special Period when this all ended. People were hungry and did not know how to feed themselves.
The Church stepped forward to train community leaders to implement food security projects within their communities and out of these projects came stronger, healthier communities that pulled together to feed their most vulnerable and provide food and livelihoods for others.
Next we heard from the leaders of the communities we had visited about how they did this in their own local context. We marveled at how starting with a small plot and sharing the harvest encouraged others to get involved, donate their yards and take part. We were tasked with looking for similarities and differences of food security issues between our own individual contexts.
We finished with some theological reflections on our shared experiences coming together, Cubans and Canadians, and what the future holds for the Church and food security in Cuba and Canada.
We learned much together!
As we listened to the stories, it became clear that that there were many similarities between the situations in Canada and Cuba and food.
Farmers everywhere worry about the weather. The cycle of growing food is the same everywhere, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, caring for and harvesting the crop. Farmers everywhere are concerned about growing the best, most nutritious food. Farmers cannot neglect feeding the soil, in order to sustain the cycle. People everywhere have to pay attention to where their food comes from so that they do not waste it or take it for granted.
Greg and Rosemary led us in a time of theological reflection. They had us think hard and long about our privileged conditions in Canada and yet how many Canadians go hungry every day. In very difficult circumstances the Cuban Church reached out and did what it could to help its members and the Cuban people– their ‘neighbours’ – giving them the skills to empower their communities and raise their own food and bring hope and life.
They reminded us that in our abundance in Canada there are many possibilities to step out beyond the walls of our Churches to our ‘neighbours.’ With similar ingenuity and compassion we can, like our Cuban partners, bring food, love and hope to the vulnerable in Canada. We have much to learn from our Cuban partners!