Cuba Journal: A Person In Need Receives Aid Indeed

This segment titled “Cuba Journal” contains entries written from when I traveled to the country while making an upcoming film. I’m posting these journal entires completely raw, without editing them in any way. I didn’t just write these now… they’ve been written since I was in Havana the second time (I sadly didn’t keep a journal the first time through when I was with the baseball team).

I also have some videos to accompany some of these entries. These are mostly taken from a phone camera while I’m inside my room, although I’m going to try and find time to edit them a little bit to make them more interesting to watch, and to tell the stories better. Therefore, the video content in this journal “may” be edited, but the text will remain entirely untouched.

With that out of the way… Here’s entry number 4. If you’d like to watch and read any of the previous entries, just¬†visit the rest of the journal.

Cuba Journal Day 2: A Person In Need Receives Aid Indeed

Today was an amazing day for exploring values and culture. First Hand Aid group members got a chance to help in delivering food to many of the organization’s sponsored families, and the experience is beyond anything I’ve ever had before.

Many of the people First Hand Aid sponsors are crippled, or very old and unable to work. The way this system is set up in Cuba, the elderly, the crippled, and the very young children of those people, have it the worst. The wages the Cuban people make here are ridiculously low for the cost of living. You just haven’t seen poor and helpless until you’ve seen these people.

I had the chance to hear many stories told today, although I won’t know quite the extent of it until a translator has had the chance to provide a transcript in English. There were over a dozen families we delivered food and other various items to today, but I only met one that spoke decent English. The man was crippled, and unable to walk very well without a cane. He lived on the third floor of a building that had stairs that would be very difficult to climb, and on top of that, his brother is also over 90 years old. They live in the same apartment (that’s what we would call it in the United States), and it has been a very long time since they were able to leave the house.

The man became emotional with Marc and his group of humanitarians, claiming repeatedly that he owed his life to First Hand Aid, and that without this group of people doing what they do every day, he and his mother would not be alive. It was a touching story that really opens your heart.

After the food runs were over-with, we headed out in the cars towards a church. Inside was beautiful architecture (as many old churches have), complete with statues, murals, and more. The building has been renovated from being mostly ruins, and you can tell that they are proud of what they have accomplished. The government is slowly losing its excessive power in Cuba, and the church is on the rise once again. Recently, the Pope spoke in Havana, at Revolution Square. This is another place we traveled to today. It’s not too exciting without an event going on, since it’s mostly just empty space, but you could easily throw a kick-ass concert there if you wanted to. I was also told that the Pope was very well tended to during his stay, and that the route he was ‘guided’ on insured that his gaze upon Cuba didn’t include all of this poverty. Again, another form of covering up the truth to outsiders. While I do see a problem with some of the things the Cuban government does in regards to their image, I find very noticeable parallels to the United States. We’re not all that much different.

After a short bit of sight seeing, we hit up La Casona De 17, which is a restaurant with some fantastic values. The food is delicious, and the prices for that food are very reasonable. My meal was only 8.50CUC, but because of how the bill was split at the table, I ended up paying 15.00CUC with the split that everybody was paying. I basically paid double what I should have, but I didn’t really complain all that much considering the money I paid with wasn’t really mine to begin with. If it had been my money (which in a way it is, because I need to pay it back later), I really wouldn’t have liked this math. It’s as if, the more everyone else enjoys themselves and buys, the more I pay. Marc had loaned me a bit of cash for food, which I still don’t think is going to last very long. If I just keep skipping breakfast, I might make it with this money for another day to two. Certainly not until the end of the week though.

Today has given me a preview of why I’m here. It’s showing me the story I need to help tell, and illuminating the truth I needed to see. What hardships I have in my life doesn’t even begin to compare to these people. I really can’t see myself complaining much anymore when something doesn’t go my way. I have plenty more resources at my disposal, and a skill set that can easily take me places. I can change my situation in the near future, and recover from anything that comes at me.

These people don’t have that ability. They are worse than the homeless in America. I kid you not, I feel like the homeless in the United States live more comfortably, and with more security in their lives, than these poor Cubans. The government has no money, and neither does really anybody else. They are pretty much reliant on tourism in many areas of the city, and without foreigners coming in with their rich wallets and purses, I have to believe this place would be a hell of a lot worse than it is now. Of course, not every Cuban is as bad as how these people are, but there are also more Cubans living this way than we see.

I have about $150 to my name total as of right now, including the $25 I have left in cash that can be spent here. Many of these people wouldn’t even make that much in a couple years, and the Cubans whom First Hand Aid is helping aren’t capable of making money at all. It’s really sad. I feel terrible about my budget restrictions here, but after seeing how some of these people live, I think I can reserve my own selfish attitude toward my budget for a while.

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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