Establishment of Links
The Manchester CSC Group has established a link with the province of Matanzas to the east of Havana. The link was originally established by Stan Dalby of the Bury Cuba Relief Group with help from the National Union of Miners. Our link was through the Sindicato Provincial Químico - Minero Energético, the Chemical, Mining, and Energy Union for Matanzas Province.
The Chemical, Mining, and Energy Union was approached by the health department to see whether they could accommodate a new family doctor clinic in their premises. In Cuba the family doctors work on a small neighbourhood basis, not just with curative medicine, but working on prevention and the promotion of good health. The union already had plans to provide a social centre for the local neighbourhood - a room for coming of age parties, weddings, etc. Felipe Hector Vega, the union general secretary from Matanzas visited us in Manchester between 27th Sept and 5th Oct 2001.
A work/study brigade of 12 people then visited in April 2003. Manchester CSC also works together with UNISON in the North West which has sent considerable support for health services and transport in the province. In 2005, we sent books and musical materials to the School of Arts and School of Languages, and a further donations for a cold store for storing food provided by the government for lunches for older people in the city.
A further group visited in November 2005. Members included activists, academics, a local councillor and public sector workers from Manchester and the surrounding area.
The Jose Marti Co-ops Tree Nursery and Market Garden in Arabos
Manchester CSC has finished its work with the project in Matanzas City. We have been working with the Matanzas office of ICAP (Cuban Institute for International Friendship) to select a new project in the province. This has led to the selection of project near the town of Los Árabos, in the east of the province, where the José Martí Agricultural Coop are establishing a tree nursery and market garden to provide fruit trees, forestry species and vegetables for the locality. This project will become self financing and provide 5 new jobs for local women. Manchester CSC is raising the hard currency component of the funding required to establish the project (about 1/3 of the total cost) for things like construction materials, tools and equipment, fuel and office supplies.
While Matanzas province wasn't among the worst affected, in September 2008 Hurricanes Ike and Gustav caused damage to the project, principally roofs, irrigation system and loss of seedlings. We are in correspondence with our Cuban colleagues and will need to raise some further funding to cover the losses, however work has started on the casa de tapado - the shade house for seedlings.