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Irania Martinez Garcia

Irania Martinez is from the city of Guantanamo in Cuba and won a CNN Heroes award, Defending the Planet category, for having transformed a toxic waste dump into a community resource. Alberto Jones, who has a column on AfroCubaWeb, went to New York to receive the prize, as Irania Martinez was forbidden to come by the US government. Irania is now one of 3 finalists for the Heroes award.

From CNN:

Irania Martinez Garcia lost her daughter to leukemia and was convinced the disease was caused by environmental toxins from the burning of plastic and hospital waste in a dump nearby.

Few thought she'd be able to turn the toxic dump site into an eco-friendly haven, but now, Garcia is considered a local hero in Guantanamo. She has helped hundreds of local residents learn how to grow food efficiently while using organic and sustainable materials from the dump and from their own trash.

Garcia's idea was to clean up the dump by organizing it into organic and inorganic piles, and then use the organic material to make compost, which would be used to plant fruit trees. The inorganic materials would be stripped down to the core and resold for parts.

Meanwhile, Garcia's organization has earned the support of the Cuban government. Pollution declined considerably in the area, and otherwise unemployed citizens have found work converting dumps into resources that help them improve their quality of life.



Alberto Jones on AfroCubaWeb

The St. Augustine - Baracoa Friendship Associationtop

Eternal Gratitude to CNN
Alberto N Jones

At 9:00 PM on Thursday December 6, 2007, CNN treated hundred of millions of people around the world to an unprecedented, uplifting, futuristic view of what our would could be, if most of those in position of authority, would value, appreciate and emulate these Ordinary people doing Extraordinary Things, as they received awards on this memorable evening.

Absent from this moving two and a half hour production that brought unspeakable emotions, applause and tears to everyone present in the majestic hall of the Museum of Natural History in New York City, was the violence, human decay, perversion and immoralities, that tragically have become an integral part of TV’s ratings and an acceptable social behavior for many.

Many more programs of this nature need to be produced, especially for our younger generations, if we are to reduce or eliminate the noxious environment that is senselessly killing our youths. Serious as it is, everything is not lost, if we are to muster the courage and commitment to change.

And for those who missed this program, I can only ask to please, order a copy for yourself and loved ones.

For these reasons, The Caribbean American Children Foundation would like to take this moment, to publicly express its profound gratitude to so many loving and caring individuals in our region and beyond, who believed in us and supported our dreams of helping those less fortunate around the world, promote understanding and by respecting all human differences.

Irania Martinez is a modest, single mother, who mobilized her community in Guantanamo, Cuba, to confront the threat of a potentially hazardous solid waste dump, which your moral and material support, helped her to transform into a Garden of Eden, as it was aptly described by a rigorous Blue Ribbon panel of experts, awarding her the First Prize.

For reducing all sorts of vectors, transmissible diseases and by eliminating the burning of plastics and other contaminants, the air quality is, today in Guantanamo City and in Guantanamo Bay twenty miles away from this site, far better than it ever was.

topSt Augustine Record

Letter: CNN award honors today's real heroes
By Alberto N. Jones Posted: Monday, December 10, 2007 ; Updated: 8:09 AM on Monday, December 10, 2007 

Editor: CNN viewers, who saw "Heroes" on Dec. 6 or the successive repeats, were treated to a unique, uplifting feature production devoid of daily human misery and degradation. This program confirms to skeptics and believers alike that there is a beautiful side of life that artificial ratings have obscured or kept out of our reach.

CNN has restored hope and shared the achievements of ordinary people worldwide who create a better world. 

It is touching for the Saint Augustine-Baracoa Friendship Association to see that a project we have supported for years in Guantanamo, the Ecological Center for Processing of House Refuse, made such an enormous impact on a "blue ribbon" panel of scientists convened by CNN. They determined it the winner of CNN's Defending the Earth category. 

Our association's members, friends and supporters provided a remarkable amount of material support for those less fortunate who contributed their work and talent to transform this potentially hazardous dump into a garden of Eden. 

We all live and share this small universe, irrespective of our views. The projects's significant reduction in air pollution has benefited Guantanamo City and Guantanamo Bay's air quality. 

Our detractors were willing to call us names in a failed effort to intimidate and discourage our dreams but we hold no hard feelings. 

It is not too late to join this unparalleled endeavor to mitigate suffering or restore someone's dignity by sharing your expertise or donating any unwanted, but still working, equipment. 

Let us reflect on our past decisions because life will continue, with or without us. When we will face our final hour, we may not have very good answers for our actions.



See her story and interview on CNN

Three finalists

Florida Times Uniontop

Global award winner gets boost from St. Augustine woman
Posted: Friday, December 7th, 2007 at 1:45 pm
The Times-Union

A St. Augustine businesswoman’s encounter with a Cuban woman helping to transform a toxic dump into a garden has resulted in a global honor for the effort.

Kristy Weeks of St. Augustine met Irania Martinez Garcia of Guantanamo, Cuba, during a trip by the St. Augustine-Baracoa Friendship Association to Cuba. Weeks nominated Garcia for a CNN Heroes award and on Thursday, Garcia was named as one of six winners.

Garcia won in the category “Defending the Planet.” The award carries a $10,000 prize.

It was the first year news network CNN had asked its viewers to nominate local heroes. More than 7,000 nominations were received and narrowed to 18 finalists. The winners in each category were announced Thursday during a broadcast with Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour.

Alberto Jones, a native of Guantanamo who now lives in Palm Coast, traveled to New York to accept the award on Garcia’s behalf. He is a member of the Friendship Association, which supports environmental projects in Baracoa, a small town in Guantanamo.





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