During the last month, Cuban civil society has carried out a series of initiatives, a necessary response to the threat of COVID-19. Two major projects, one in Matanzas and the other in Havana, assist trans individuals and families. In less than 30 days they managed to reach more than 170 households.
“The Cuban state has identified the cases of vulnerability and risk to the virus, but as the situation has worsened considerably, not all the people who need it are being assisted. Sometimes social workers stop doing their work and many elderly people are left alone,” Rogelio Benavides, a matancer activist, told Tremenda Nota.
In this context, groups such as AfroAthens and Transcuba are of vital importance. They take care of bringing the help that these groups need.
AfroAtenAs is a community project based in Matanzas, in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, one of the most populous areas of the city. They have been doing community work for 11 years, and today they are going beyond their borders to help more people in the face of the threat of COVID-19.
“Whenever we can, we help more groups thanks to the cooperation of friends who identify with our project. Without them it would be impossible to carry out the actions,” explains Yoelkis Torres Tápanes, general coordinator of AfroAtenA. This is not the first time that we have activated our strength to carry out the aid. When the tornado hit Havana, we also collaborated with the victims. In our community we usually assist elderly people who live alone, children with physical and intellectual disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS.
“We have organized ourselves in various stages; we reach out to different groups and then, as far as possible, we go back because the bags we give are not enough for us. We have given around 300 nasobucos and with the bags we have reached more than 100 families in the community”.
The bags Yoelkis talks about contain food, chlorine bottles, toilet, books and other supplies to make the stay at home more pleasant.
“We have reached most of the vulnerable groups that we have identified, we have even gone out to other spaces in the city. We help cultural personalities who live alone and other people who have requested our help because they have known about our work, have communicated with us and we have come to them,” he adds.
Yoelkis explains that they have the support of the coordination of the CDRs in the province, the delegate of the People’s Council, and a command post installed in their own project due to the pandemic. Also some officials of the province, seeing the work of the group, have come to support.
Rogelio tells how they organize the work. When they go out to distribute the bags, they usually go in groups of three, and one of them always keeps track of what is given out and to whom. “It’s good to know how many people we are helping.
Although the deliveries they make are not enough to be able to endure all the days they are locked up at home, this humanitarian gesture makes a difference. “You have to see people’s faces when we get to their homes. We always make it clear that it’s not much, but for those who have little help, any help is very welcome,” says Rogelio.
The vulnerable cases are focused more on the trans community, which is the most affected group because most of them are unconnected to work, and that implies that they do not have an economic income. They also target HIV/AIDS patients.
“In reality we have many cases of HIV, taking into account that Matanzas is the province with the most cases in the whole country, but we have only been able to approach the most critical ones. There are already a total of 50 people that we have helped throughout the city.
There is absolutely no orientation directed to people with HIV, they are not explicitly included in the risk groups. Until now, the authorities have only talked about the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people suffering from respiratory diseases,” adds this activist.
The Cuban capital also helps trans groups
The Transcuba network of trans people, couples and families, began to provide assistance to people over 40 years of age belonging to the network, with the aim of supporting those most vulnerable to the epidemiological situation that the country is suffering.
Malú Cano Valladares, national coordinator of this network, explains to Tremenda Nota that “the initiative arises at the moment when the problem of the pandemic begins to exist, but in reality for us it is not new because it is something we do all the time. The mutual aid teams that are made up of trans couples and families are in charge of taking care of the trans people in our network that need assistance in case they are sick, in case they are hospitalized”.
The initiative to produce food for the vulnerable groups in the network is made possible by a monthly contribution from network members.
“This money is always used to help our girls in difficult situations, as long as the national technical team of Transcuba authorizes it. Taking into account the complex situation of the coronavirus and the fact that many of our elderly people must stay at home, the national technical team decided to use the funds to provide them with ready-made food.
“Our goal with this initiative is not to earn any merit, but to help and share what we have. That is why we also urge local governments, organizations and institutions to join in. The doors of Transcuba are open for help” – declares Malú.
The people who now receive this help are extremely grateful, as the coordinator of the network explains: “Many of the trans people we help are sex workers who now have no clients, because they cannot go out on the streets for fear of getting infected. The help they are receiving is ours.
ranscuba will continue to provide this type of assistance for as long as it is possible and as long as resources allow. The funds will last at least another month to be able to feed 60, 70 people, maybe a little more. With the help they are receiving from other friends they will be able to extend their days.
One of those friends who joined the campaign was Raysel Cubanito.
“I am gay, I am part of the LGBTI community in Cuba and I follow the Transcuba network on Facebook. I saw what they were doing and I joined the initiative. I bought some things and took them to Malú’s house. That was my way of supporting our community. I think it is a duty of every person, no matter if you are gay, trans. It’s a problem of humanism, not only to collaborate with our community, but in the whole country, because we are all being affected.
Jean Sabrina Martinez is 41 years old, a stylist and works as a makeup artist at the ICRT. These days she is one of the people who collaborate with Transcuba. He says that his support to the network has made him grow as a human being. “I’m participating in a voluntary way and helping in the elaboration and delivery of the meals. When the food is ready, the girls pick it up or in other cases we take it to some people who cannot leave their homes. We always take the necessary hygienic measures.
The help that Transcuba offers does not solve the real needs of each trans person, they have not even been able to include the 601 people registered in their network, but without a doubt the work they do makes a difference. Eating every day is a basic need. With its daily work, without rest, the network feeds those who need it most in these difficult times.
Currently, the network belonging to Cenesex has 3,600 members throughout the country. In Havana, 50 trans people over the age of 40 and more are linked. In addition, the mutual aid group decided to provide for girls living with HIV, as they are another group vulnerable to COVID-19.