Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association Toronto

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20th Anniversary of the Che Guevara Brigade PDF Print E-mail

Dear Friends

On the 20th anniversary of the Che Guevara Brigade, the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) has the pleasure to invite you to join us in solidarity and fraternal days in Cuba.

Canadian friends from all over the country have come to our revolutionary island for over 20 years committed in their hearts to this solidarity project which combines voluntary work with  visits to historical, social and cultural places.  

ICAP invites all Canadian friends to come together for the 20th Che Guevara Brigade, April 28th to May 18th, 2012 in Holguin and Santiago de Cuba provinces. Brigade members will have the opportunity to share working days side by side with Cuban people, knowing about its achievements and learning from each other. Cubans will be proud to receive you, so that together we may reflect and exchange experiences and ideas.

Ever Onward to Victory!

Final Declaration VII Holguín Colloquium PDF Print E-mail

For the seventh time, friends in solidarity from all around the world are meeting at the Holguín Colloquium to discuss experiences and the work yet to be done in this tough battle for truth, justice and the release of the Five.

After 13 years of unfair incarceration, the situation of our Five Brothers continues to be extremely serious.   René González completed his sentence last October 7th, but instead of being returned to Cuba, he received new punishment: he is being forced to remain on US territory for 3 years under supervised liberty, without being able to receive visits by his wife Olga Salanueva who, until today, has been denied the right to visit him and at the risk that the terrorist groups who René and his four brothers in the cause denounced, might try to kill him.

Gerardo Hernández’ situation continues being the most serious of the Five, with two life sentences plus 15 years of incarceration and systematically being denied visitation by his wife Adriana Pérez.

The sentences of Ramón, Antonio and Fernando collectively add up to 70 years in prison.  They are still awaiting the response from the Habeus Corpus Resources presented by the defence team of the Five, but we are aware of the fact that legal channels are running out.

Kenia Serrano Visits Toronto PDF Print E-mail

The President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Kenia Serrano, spoke to a packed crowd on Friday, September 16th. The event, sponsored by the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association Toronto (CCFA) was part of the worldwide campaign for justice for the Cuban Five. These five innocent men have been separated and placed in five different jails in the United States, simply because they sought to prevent terrorist acts against Cuba, being organized in Miami.

Kania Serrano

David Warner, honorary President of the CCFA introduced many special guests present, including Cuban Ambassador, Teresita Vicente Sotolongo;" It was the first time that Kenia Serrano had spoken publicly in Canada, and she captivated the audience with her comprehensive information on the case, as well as her wit and warmth. She told the audience that it is not easy to explain why it is important to free the five Cubans, In Cuba there are many victims of the terrorism from the United States, and these five heroes had to take action to prevent the terrorism. In Rene Gonzalez’s case, she explained “The defence team presented humanitarian reasons why not to have three years on probation in the USA when he is released. Rene has no family, no home in the USA” She went on to say she does not believe the same judge who originally put Rene in jail is able to do justice.

She talked of the 7th Colloquium on the Cuban Five taking place in November this year. There are millions of friends of Cuba. Fidel is the leader of the solidarity movement with Cuba because he really believes in friendship.

Cuba's annual Terry Fox Run largest outside Canada PDF Print E-mail

by Wendy Holm

This year, Cuba celebrated its 13th Terry Fox Run. Organized by communities across Cuba every year in March, it is the largest Terry Fox event outside of Canada.

When I mention this to friends, they are amazed. "Why would people go to Cuba to run?" I've even been asked.

The people running of course are Cubans. Accompanied by the odd Canadian visitor lucky enough to be there at the time. It is organized every year in cities and towns and villages across the country.

A dozen years ago, when I first began working with Cuba I was amazed. Why, I wondered, would they get out and do this for a Canadian, even a great Canadian? I asked some Cuban friends.

"For respect" they said.

Canada opened an embassy in Havana in 1946, but our commercial relationship with this tiny island country began back in 1903, when a Cuban commercial office was opened in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Over a century of economic ties have helped strengthen the Cuban economy.  After Castro's revolutionary government came to power in 1959, Canada stood beside Cuba when many didn't.  Our diplomatic ties remained strong and unbroken.  Cubans respect that.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau had a great fondness for Cuba and this resonated with the Cuban people.  Fidel was an honourary pallbearer at Trudeau's funeral.  Cubans respect that too.

Cubans also respect their history and those who helped shape it.  Every Cuban schoolchild learns the name of William Ryan, the valiant Canadian who joined the Cuban rebels in their fight for independence from Spain.  He was put to death on the high seas Nov 4, 1873 by the Spanish as he was delivering provisions.  He reached the rank of Brigadier General with the Government of the Republic in Arms.  Prior to this, he fought alongside the Union Army in the American Civil War. Ryan's travels to New York caused him to meet Cuban émigrés and embrace their cause.  (Great fodder for a Hollywood blockbuster!)

Chico's Famous Frijoles Negros PDF Print E-mail

Recipe is for 6 – 8 servings

You may use either: 2 – 540 ml. canned black beans or 2 cups of dried turtle beans.

If using dried beans soak them overnight in 4 cups water, either in a large pot or a pressure cooker.

If using a pressure cooker, please follow cooker directions for black beans.

When the dried beans have been soaked, you should have about 4 cups. Skim off any residue and floating beans. Add enough water to just cover the beans. Bring the beans (in the pot) to a boil, lower temperature to medium, and cook for at least two hours. Cook beans in the pressure cooker according to cooker instructions.

The Story of the Ballet Shoes PDF Print E-mail

by Bonnie Eccles

It all started about eight years ago when a mother in Varadero, CUBA emailed me and asked if I could find her daughter, ballet shoes.

This started a search on the internet for a contact.

A person’s name came up, listed as Lynne Wilson who was affiliated with the National Ballet of Canada. On hearing my reason for calling, she said, “I have been trying to send a container of Principal point shoes to Cuba but it is too expensive.”

At this point, she went to her basement and said she had at least two or three hundred pairs of old model but new, point shoes in boxes, just sitting there.

I was ecstatic and she was thrilled, that someone would get these shoes to Cuba.

I drove to her place in Cabbagetown and took my first fifty pairs.

My problem now, was, who would be my contact in Havana?  While visiting a Cuban friend in Miramar in 2006, I mentioned I had 10 pairs of ballet shoes but did not know where to leave them. He immediately said, “Come with me”. We walked around the corner from his house and he introduced me to Miriam Vila, the Director of Catreda de Danza and The National Ballet of Cuba. A friendship was forged that day and still continues.

Little by little, I took Principal point ballet shoes to Havana. And, if I wasn’t going to Havana, I would get friends and clients to take 10 pairs here and there.

In the meantime, Lynn had connected me to Chan Han Goh, a principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada. Chan’s husband manufactured PRINCIPAL point shoes in Vancouver and they were sold worldwide. Chan approved my taking  whatever old stock but new shoes were available.

Miriam Vila had been contacted by the National Youth Ballet Company to work with Cuba in a venture to put on The Nutcracker in Hamilton. On Miriam’s visit to Canada, plans were made for the giver of the shoes and the receiver of the shoes, to finally meet at the National Ballet headquarters in Toronto. Photos were taken of Chan Han Goh and Miriam Vila and her choreographer Eduardo Blanco. It was an exciting afternoon.

I continue taking Principal Point Shoes to Miriam in Havana and in January was given the honour of meeting the legendary Alicia Alonso at the Gran Teatro at a special reception.

Along the Hospital Corridor: Red Nose Relief PDF Print E-mail

By Joan Barrington

Was it serendipity when I had a vivid dream of a clown in the 80’s,  then happened to turn to a channel on my TV one day and see Karen Ridd, aka Robo, using her skills as a clown to empower children in a hospital???  “Yes,” I thought,  as I watched entranced, “Yes, this is definitely the kind of clown  I was meant to be!”

I intuitively knew from that first dream in the 80’s that my life had changed forever.  Watching Robo confirmed it.

In the early 90’s Karen moved from Winnipeg to Toronto.  Was this also serendipity? After presenting a proposal to The Hospital for Sick Children for a therapeutic clown program, I was able to hire Robo/Karen to mentor me, and  The Therapeutic Clown Program at SickKids was launched in 1993.  My training was ‘on the job’ and Bunky was born that year.

The use of humour as therapy is receiving increasing attention from health professionals interested in both the psychological and physiological effects of laughter on patient wellbeing.  Doctors and nurses are behaving in a way which even Patch Adams would approve of (Adams, 1998)*.  Many hospitals parachute clowns in for ‘entertainment’ but, from the beginning, I felt that if therapeutic clowning is to become a legitimate profession, we must become members of a multidisciplinary team in the hospital. In addition, children need continuity and consistency when their world is turned upside down.  So, in 1993 we went on staff at SickKids under the umbrella of the Child Life Department and I began the serious work of fund-raising for salaries.

What is a therapeutic clown and how is this therapeutic?  Bunky is not like any other staff member, and he brings his humour, silliness and playfulness in a very different package -- red nose relief.  For the first ten years Bunky was non-verbal, giving the voice to the child, who had to agree or not to play with him.

We need to understand that when a child comes through the doors and enters the hospital corridors he has no choice:  no choice over his illness, no choice over the medication he will take, the length of his stay, etc.,  but he does have a choice about playing with Bunky or not.  Bunky always asks permission to enter someone’s space, whether in the corridor or hospital room. Our work is about building trust through the offering of choices, and bringing imagination and inclusive play to the bedside – forming lifelong relationships.  This is about the patients, not about the clown.  It means being a playmate alongside these children in their journey through their illness.

Why should children stop playing just because they have to live in a hospital?

The ‘play conversation’ between the therapeutic clown and the child is age appropriate, and props and interactions are chosen for their specific play potential, whether the child is lying flat in bed, hooked up to an IV or on a heart monitoring machine.  From babies to teens, Bunky will become the persona that is appropriate - in the moment. As therapeutic clowns, we are invited into the child’s new and often times frightening world, where we are all vulnerable and lost.

This work is a responsibility and a privilege.  In 1999 I became co-founder with Mary Hirst of Therapeutic Clowns Canada where we seeded and started up programs in paediatric hospitals across Canada.  Recently, Therapeutic Clowns International was launched so that Bunky and friends can sprinkle their Red Nose Relief to other countries, such as Cuba, Ecuador and El Salvador.

*Patch Adams M.D.   Gesundheit! (1998)


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