Tra sonno e preghiera

Por: José Manuel González-Rubines y Daniel Estévez González

Séptima Jornada de Apoyo a las Personas con Discapacidad y sus Familias, convocada por Cáritas Habana
Caminata inaugural
Inaugural walk

From March 21 to April 2, the Seventh Day of Support for Persons with Disabilities and Their Families, convened by Caritas Habana, was held in Havana. On the 22nd the Old Square was unusually crowded. Several hundred people waited for the seventh edition of the Opening Walk of the Day to begin at ten o’clock in the morning. The celebration, which had such an initiative as the first public event, ended on April 2 with a Christ of Havana illuminated in blue, as an act of solidarity with the disabled.
Josefina Illarreta Peña, coordinator of the Havana Caritas Disability Program, together with the volunteer team, organized this celebration. With the smile and joy of good people, he assures that the keys to his work, as well as superhuman commitment and enthusiasm, are to dream and pray. One of his dreams is that one day the celebration is a national event.

How does the idea of doing these Support Days arise for People with Disabilities and their Families that are already in their seventh edition?
“The first was done when the Growing From Inside project for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) celebrated its fifth anniversary. At the time, it seemed necessary to do something to give these people more visibility and publicly support families. I mean, it was an event focused on celebrating the anniversary. The social impact of the activity, which took place in the Cathedral Square, was very interesting, because many people participated and the reception was tremendously positive.
“From there, in the face of evidence that what had been done was a good thing, it was concluded that it should be maintained and so, with more or less activities, the first steps began to be taken and the first Days were held. It is important to note that the celebration as we know it today has begun to be composed along the way, on the fly on not a few occasions.”

With regard to the incorporation of new experiences in the construction of more complete and interesting Conferences, what particularity did this seventh have?
“If we have won anything it is in the fact that people already know that at this time there is a Day of Support for People with Disabilities and their Families and they communicate with us everywhere. For example, the authorities to which permission must be s requested for public events, the Historian’s Office to mention one, await our applications and it is much more feasible to obtain authorizations now than at first. People have gained in sensitivity and add up spontaneously.
“In terms of organization, in addition to the participation of the diocesan projects of Caritas, which are growing from Inside, Give Me the Hand, Heart, Awakening, Wings for a Dream and Our Lady of Rule, in this edition there is the particularity that representatives of each diocese of the country came, seeking to see what the celebration is like in Havana, to live it to take the experience. That was very special and motivating.”

Can that mean that the Day will become a national event?
“There are activities in different places, in Camaguey and Cienfuegos, for example. But a series of activities over a medium period of time, structured, that’s only done here. We are thinking for next year to have a national impact, based on what has been done in the capital. There are proposals about it, very simple to begin with, are just the beginning.”

Proposals like which ones?
“We thought that all Cuban churches could, in sync at the same time, ring their bells on April 2 of next year. For that we need nothing but coordination, because we do not leave the scope of the church. Can you imagine people knowing that these bells are in favor of people with disabilities and their families? It is a very simple thing with a deep and beautiful symbolic and spiritual meaning. Of course, that’s what we’d have to put a lot of things together, but with one step at a time you win the spaces.”

Clausura en el anfiteatro de La Habana
Closure at Havana Amphitheatre

The most public events, to put it mildly, of the Day were the inaugural Walk and the blue lighting of the Christ of Havana at the closing, but there were other activities perhaps less visible, but important. What were these?
“It is true, both the Walk, to which about five hundred people joined on average, and the closure were the most visible acts because they are thought that way. But we had others. On March 21st we started with a costume party among all those involved in the projects. We made it in the Priest’s House and responded to the idea expressed in the slogan of the Day: “Draw yourself a smile”. The party was very good, the relatives also participated in costumes, the most original dis-fraces were awarded and there was a lot of joy, really.
“On the 22nd we had an encounter with the volunteers. We wanted to do something to thank them for their work and to socialize their experiences with Caritas and how much is different from their work outside Caritas. Our work and the Learning to Grow program are sustained by volunteering. People who do not profess the Christian faith for the most part, but who are not only unimpeachable professionals, but also excellent human beings, respond perfectly to the spirituality of the institution.
“We also promoted the virtual version of an Early Stimulation Manual and on the 29th we presented it at the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center in its printed form. There are content practical, experienceal knowledge, achieved from years of work. In the presentation was the mother of a girl benefiting from the techniques described in the Manual… and his testimony was truly important.
“The 23rd was the Walk and the 24th we presented a play entitled The World Is Wide for the Brave, starring beneficiaries with Down syndrome and children of the Project Love and Hope of Caritas Habana, which had been put in the Bertold Brecht and we wanted people from other dioceses who had not seen it, to have the opportunity to do so.”

The Day marks a before and after in its year of work. We know how they get into it, but how do they get out? What does the celebration leave you?
“We ended up very tired and full of ideas. We work with a lot of prayer and dreams. We already plan, for example, to do a photo exhibition for the month of October. Families come out with their self-esteem strengthened, because they know there are people supporting them and the Walk is a symbol of it. It also involves and motivates the entire diocesan team of Caritas Habana.
“These activities and projects reaffirm the idea that people with disabilities lack spaces to insert themselves, especially when they are of age and can no longer continue in schools. This creates a dynamic in which many of the acquired skills are lost and we seek to help them, not only those with disabilities, but families who need it as well. Projects sometimes come out with difficulty, but they come out because we are sure that God’s grace is there.” Ω

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.