The British West Indian Welfare Center, 5/09 by Jenny Kassman
Report on the West Indian Welfare Center - Alberto Jones, 1996
The British West Indian Welfare Center: Guantanamo City
The British West Indian Welfare Center is located in the City of Guantanamo, which is on the Cuban part of the island near the American naval base of Guantanamo. The Welfare Center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996 and was founded by immigrants from the many English speaking Caribbean island who came to Cuba at the turn of the century seeking work and a better life.
Mistreated and suffering the ills of racism, they banded together and formed a self help association. Today, their organization is charted as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) by Cuba and is able to engage in numerous non-profit activities as well as some business development.
The West Indian community in Cuba, especially the one in Baragua, a town more towards the center of the island than Guantanamo, is the subject of a documentary, "My Footsteps in Baragua," by film maker Gloria Rolando:
The West Indian Welfare Center celebrated its 50th with a symposium, as recounted in a letter from one of its members, Alberto Jones, who lives in northern Florida. This letter is also an appeal for aid and support to the community.
The Center is now expanding into other Cuban cities. They are also planning a Second Symposium.
Palm Coast, Florida, May 1996
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
Still exuberant over the incredible life experience I was fortunate to partake with family and friends during the celebration of the 50th aniversary of the British West Indian Welfare Center in Guantanamo, Cuba, I will attempt to share with you, some of the highlights.
After remaining dormant for the past 20 years, the Young People Department have infused new life in the Center and have expanded the membership to 579, among which there is a large pool of professionals in all fields, especially medicine, with more than 40.
Still more striking, is the enfasis that has been placed on preserving our cultural heritage and the welfare of the young, elderly and the sick.
Among the achievements of the past 3 years that the Center can present are:
a) Parcial renovation of the Old Crumbling Building until a new one is found.
b) International recognition as a Non Governmental Organization (NGO).
c) Organize and operate a Medical Specialty Service in the Center for all members and neighborhood patients referred by their Family Doctor. In addition, when available, medicine is also provided, free of charge.
d) Operate an English Language School and a Technical English Language School for Professionals.
e) Organize a 20 voice Chorus, Soloists, Dance Group, Crikett Team, Arts and Crafts and Soft Ball team.
f) Initial stage of a Data Bank, geared to facilitate relinking families and for genealogy research. The present membership composition is as follows:
Jamaica 288, St Kitts-Nevis 76, Barbados 26, Antigua-Barbuda 30, St Thomas 30,
St Lucia 21, Grenada 15, British Virgin Is. 6, Guyana 6, Matinica 2, Trinidad/Tobago,
Turcos/Caicos Is. and USA 1 ea., the rest are spouses.
The 50th Aniversary of the Center was celebrated with the "1st INTENATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGLO-CARIBBEAN CULTURE IN CUBA",from March 21 thru 24 1996.
Personalities such as the head of UNESCO for Latin America, Jamaica's Consul General, Cuba's Vice-Minister of Culture, the Heads of English Department of the University of Havana and Ministry of Education, Jamaica's Business and Cultural delegation, Latin America Teachers Association and Intelectuals/Cultural Cubans of Anglo ancestry. Delegates from the US and other six Islands that intented to participate, opted not to, because of the latest travel restrictions.
Three days of discussion of scientific papers ranging from medical issues such as, Low Lepra Incidence Among Anglo Caribbean Descendents, Treatment and Results of Hypertension Through Accupuncture, Preliminar Findings of Scorpion Venom in the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer, Why Pichon in the Social Studies Group, or NANNY, A Symbol of Resistance and Hope by the History Group.
But nothing could have prepared us for the Testimonials of the men and women in their 80's and 90's, detailing their lives of suffering, ignorance, abuse, discrimination and the pilgrimage from the english speaking islands to the construction of the Panama Canal and to different sugar cane plantation in Cuba with its infrahuman living condition, all, in search of the "Promised Land", that most never found, "Baragua", is a 28 minutes documentary preserving part of our painful history.
But the Center is more than the above. In the present economical crisis aflicting Cuba, which is especially severe on the elderly, the sick and the young, The Center is committed to play its WELFARE ROLE thoroughly, assuming full responsability in the preservation of the quality of life of its people. New branches of the Center are in existence in Santiago de Cuba, Baragua and Havana. Banes and Tunas are next.
With your help, THIS YEAR, the Community Center will be operational, providing a hot meal to all of those in need or vulnerable. The health services will be improved and expanded.
The Spaniards, Jews, Chinese and Arabs are already providing food, medince and clothing and other resources for their nationals living in Cuba. We are not and should not do less than other ethnic group do for their people!
I have witnessed the pain, the suffering and the anguish, associated with the absence of the most basic means of life and its devastating impact.
NONE OF OUR PEOPLE SHOULD DIE FOR LACK OF AN ANTIASMATHIC SPRAY, LOOSE THEIR EYE SIGHT BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF DROPS, DIE OF CANCER IN UNDESCRIBABLE PAIN BECAUSE OF THE ABSCENCE OF PAIN KILLERS, OR SEE THEIR CHILDREN GO TO BED, TOO HUNGRY TO FALL ASLEEP. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BUT, IT HAPPENS EVERYDAY!
Together we can make a difference. A small contribution, the equivalent of a bag of dog food, an extra fill-up of your car or even your weekly cigarette allowance, suffice for us to answer this moral/ethical issue that we share with those families, friends and neighbors, facing their most serious threat of extintion ever!
I wish to thank you wholeheartedly for your help. If asked on our final hour, let us all be able to say, YES, I DID WHAT I COULD TO STOP THIS TRAGEDY.
Alberto N Jones DVM
PS Feel free to make copies and pass on to friends and family. Thanks.
Lic. Jorge Derrick.
Pdte. Del British West Indian Welfare Centre.
Serafín Sánchez # 663.
e/. Paseo y Narciso López.
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