This past March, CHILDREN AT RISK led a learning tour to beautiful Havana, Cuba. Our staff and 21 guests spent five days meeting with various organizations, learning from the locals, and exploring the culturally and artistically vibrant capital of Cuba. The group left with a better understanding of how Cuban systems function and with new knowledge about the country’s culture and history. CHILDREN AT RISK will use this insight to better assess and address our concerns here in Texas.
On our first full day, the group split into two to meet with early childhood education programs Educa a tu Hijo and Canto a la Esperanza. We toured the facilities to learn about the government-supported programs. Although the facilities do not have many resources, these programs are able to support children and families in many ways. They not only provide quality childcare, but they are also accessible for working parents as they are free of charge.
Knowing that healthcare is also free for all Cuban residents and that Cuba is ranked among the healthiest countries, we were curious to learn about the healthcare system. We were able to visit polyclinics as part of our learning tour. These are clinics that house primary care specialists and are located within communities to effectively build familiarity and trust. There is a polyclinic in every community and specialists such as gynecologists, dermatologists, and pediatricians are also a part of these clinics. This model of healthcare focuses on preventative care and by being free and accessible, Cuban residents are able to get frequent check-ups. This approach also makes a difference for mothers and their children. Throughout their pregnancy, specialists work with moms to evaluate any health risks and continue to care for both mother and child after birth. Social workers also visit with families to discuss how family members can better support pregnant ladies, postpartum mothers, and newborn babies.
We were excited to celebrate International Women’s Day during our trip and the women in our group definitely felt appreciated. Cuban men and women were congratulating our female guests all day long. It was evident that women in Cuba are highly valued and respected. We were able to learn more about women’s rights when we met with a representative from the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). The FMC, originally spearheaded by Vilma Espín, was one of the first organizations founded by Fidel Castro’s government. Throughout their six-decade-long history, the FMC has had many achievements. The Federation has increased the number of women in the workforce, has contributed greatly to Cuba’s 99% literacy rate, and fought for an improvement in women’s healthcare. The FMC continues to focus on the wellbeing of women – both in the workplace and at home.
One of the highlights of our trip was getting to see children have fun at their afterschool programs. We visited Angeles del Futuro, a program that helps at-risk children cultivate a creative outpour through circus training, and the Colmenita children’s theater group. Both groups were made up of talented children and it was a privilege to see them perform, and we even got to partake in the fun! The main priority of the afterschool programs is not to make them future stars, but rather to provide safe, healthy but also creative and fun spaces for children.
One of the main themes across all the groups we met with was resilience. Cuba struggles with many shortages – including a shortage of medicine and personal care items – so people become resourceful. The early childhood education programs, policlinics, and afterschool programs have a lot of support and participation from community members. Communities come together to help each other stay afloat. The Cuba Learning Tour group enjoyed getting to learn about Cuba and we are looking forward to our next trip!
Interested in joining us for a learning tour to Quito, Ecuador in Spring 2024? Email Rosemary Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our list to receive information once trip details are finalized.
Check out this creative trip recap video that one of our young guests, Ajith Kumar, put together! It features a song he personally composed using Cuban instruments and footage he took during our learning tour.