Feb 1, 2019

2 Meals/Day for 35 Disabled Cubans in Havana 2019

I would like to give you a report about First-Hand Aid’s progress in Cuba and what is happening there. Thanks to our loyal friends and volunteers, we are continuing our journey and our mission: to help the people of Cuba. We are profoundly grateful for your support, and, as always, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Many people have recently emailed asking about the changes in Cuba, especially regarding tourism. I can tell you that there are many more tourists than in past visits. There has been a steady increase over the past year. But there’s a more important question: Is this increase in revenue from tourists reaching the people? For many months, I have been saying that life for the Cuban people seems to be getting more difficult. Last Sunday, I read a Washington Post article confirming what I have always believed to be true. If you do nothing more than read this article, you will understand. Read the Article Here

There were two especially significant events. First, I took a walk with Robin through some of the poorest neighborhoods I have ever encountered in Cuba. The piles of trash were mind blowing to me. These homes were just getting water service restored after two months without it. Incredible. That was only possible because a man from Spain hired a private crew to install a new pipeline.After 20 years of working in Cuba, I thought I had seen everything. Not so.

All the staff and families are doing well, and all send their regards. Amid the daily struggles in Cuba, they continue to be happy, gracious, and upbeat. I will continue to keep you updated.Thank you again for your continued support. We are blessed to have friends like you.

Links:

Oct 13, 2016

October 2016 Report

This is Cuba
This is Cuba

Dear Friends of Cuba, 

I returned from Cuba just two weeks ago, and I want to give you a report about First-Hand Aid’s progress in Cuba and what is happening there. Thanks to our loyal friends and volunteers, we are continuing our journey and our mission: to help the people of Cuba. We are profoundly grateful for your support, and, as always, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Many people have recently emailed asking about the changes in Cuba, especially regarding tourism. I can tell you that there are many more tourists than in past visits. There has been a steady increase over the past year. But there’s a more important question: Is this increase in revenue from tourists reaching the people? For many months, I have been saying that life for the Cuban people seems to be getting more difficult. Last Sunday, I read a Washington Post article confirming what I have always believed to be true. If you do nothing more than read this article, you will understand. Read the Article Here

Our last trip to Cuba

I had the opportunity to travel with a small group this time. Only four of us total—two from Colorado and one from Grand Rapids. I thank them so much for their work.

There were two especially significant events. First, I took a walk with Robin through some of the poorest neighborhoods I have ever encountered in Cuba. The piles of trash were mind blowing to me. These homes were just getting water service restored after two months without it. Incredible. That was only possible because a man from Spain hired a private crew to install a new pipeline.After 18 years of working in Cuba, I thought I had seen everything. Not so. Take a moment to watch this video. Short, but to the point.

The second most important event is an exciting milestone for First-Hand Aid. We just hired our own medical teams. There are two teams, each with one physician and one nurse. As we begin to open more clinics for medicine, more clinicians are needed. They will continue to work at their hospitals and offices, and during their time off they will make rounds visiting Cubans for our food and support programs. Many of those we serve have not seen medical personal in years. Most rarely leave their homes. We are inspired by the possibilities that our medical teams provide.

The Brothers

That’s what we affectionately call my staff of five Cubans. We are like a family, and they are my brothers. All are good, with the exception of Maikel. Sadly, he has been imprisoned for three years. Still four to go. Maikel and I were close, and he assisted First-Hand Aid travelers many times at the airport. Over the years, I have communicated with him through his wife, and always my heart is heavy with the burden of his absence from the family.

As usual, on one of my last days in Cuba, I gathered the staff and their families for dinner at a local restaurant. Only 10 minutes into the meal, Maikels’s wife reached over the table to hand me her cell phone and said it was for me. I heard Maikel’s voice say, “Hello, my brother.” Like a floodgate opening, tears began to flow, and I had to leave the table to continue the conversation with him. It was such a great joy to hear his voice after three years. I’m not sure how they pulled that one off, but I’m so thankful.

All the staff and families are doing well, and all send their regards. Amid the daily struggles in Cuba, they continue to be happy, gracious, and upbeat. I will continue to keep you updated.Thank you again for your continued support. We are blessed to have friends like you.

Links:

Sep 1, 2016

September 2016 Update

Marc Bohland, Executive Director of First-Hand Aid
Marc Bohland, Executive Director of First-Hand Aid

Our man in Cuba.

(presently 97 visits and counting)

Cuba’s New Special Period

Dear Friends, I thought I would take this opportunity to catch you up on what is happening in Cuba. In short, we need your support now more than ever, because the Cuban people are facing new hardships.

You might think the opposite is true. News broadcasts in the United States often make it appear life has changed in Cuba. It’s easy to think things must be getting better, thanks to the sudden increase in tourism dollars from the United States, and the multiple politicians and celebrities going to the island.

However, just 4 weeks ago Cuba warned its people of a possible second “Special Period.” The first was immediately after the Soviet Union pulled their support from Cuba, causing great suffering for Cuban families. Shortages of food, medicine, energy and general supplies were common. So what could create such a condition in Cuba to cause this to happen a second time?

Two reasons:  First, Cuba’s biggest source of economic support has been Venezuela. However, Venezuela is in economic trouble now, so they have withdrawn their support. In fact, their last shipment of fuel to Cuba was delivered a few weeks ago.

Second: Tourism has reached an all-time high on the island (just look at any travel magazine these days). But tourism comes with a price that a country must be prepared for. Cuba was not quite ready for such a large influx of foreign visitors. The joke among the tourists from other countries is that they must see Cuba quickly before Americans get there and change the culture.

Most people that have been there recently can tell you that the infrastructure is not set up for the load, and resources aren’t adequate. With the increased tourism, more water, food and energy are needed--and they must be taken from somewhere else in the system: yes, the Cuban people. Only two weeks ago when I was in Cuba, blackouts in Havana neighborhoods had begun.

Every Cuban in the cities and rural villages that I visited only spoke about the current hardships. Discontent among the people on the streets is common.

As First Hand Aid begins planning for next year, we weigh what is most important in our outreach. How can we give the most support to families not being able to survive day by day? We will keep you posted on how we focus next year’s projects and assistance to the Cuban people, and I’ll let you know how you can help.

Once again thank you for all of your support every year to our organization and the Cuban families who receive our help.

If by chance I ever forget why we do this and why I dedicate my life to this cause, I remember this little girl. Each time we drove to a remote mountain village she was standing by the street. She lived in a one room farmhouse, no plumbing, no electric. We always stopped and gave her toys and things for her family. I believe even though we only we up the mountain four times a year, she waited everyday hoping for us to drive by her house.

 

Marc Boland

 

Executive Director                         

 

First Hand Aid

 

 

The mountain girl
The mountain girl

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