Photo taken from TV Yumurí.

The Afroatenas project, in the city of Matanzas, joins local and citizen initiatives that support vulnerable groups in the midst of the pandemic.

Among the lessons of the covid-19 pandemic in Cuba is the potential for citizen initiatives and community-based social welfare endeavors.

“The first days were horrible, imagine praying to God to end this whole pandemic, because it is ending the whole world,” recalls María García Solera.

This adult over 70 years old, covid-19 did not change her life much, among other reasons, “thanks to the help of the Afroatenas project and its general coordinator Yoelkis Torres”, she refers.

The Afro-Athenian Socio-Cultural Integration, Intervention and Transformation Project is based in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood in the city of Matanzas, 104 km from Havana. Since 2009, this initiative has been committed to the transformation of this community, which is far from the historical center of the city and has been invaded for years by a garbage dump.

Since the arrival of the covid-19 to the Caribbean nation, the AfroAtenas management team has undertaken actions to support the community based on its knowledge of the vulnerable groups linked to the project.

“We decided to help women victims of violence that we had identified together with the Soy Luna project, the Yo sí te creo platform and people living with HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the Provincial Center for the Prevention of STDs and HIV/AIDS,” Yoelkis Torres told SEMlac.

“We include elderly people who live alone and with different diseases associated with age or with mobility limitations due to some disability, as well as minors with intellectual disabilities who participate in our community experience On the Wings of a Hummingbird and a Girl with Glass Bones,” adds the AfroAthens general coordinator.

Approximately one hundred people received support with cleaning supplies, food and books, as well as mental health care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, local media recognized the work of the project and the donation of 300 nasobucos to the community.

“When I heard about the disease, I felt very bad. Since I am an HIV patient, I was worried, because can you imagine another disease above one,” says Hanoi Rubio, 38, one of the people who benefited from the solidarity initiative.

The AfroAthenian experience leaves as lessons learned from the coordinated work, the value of diagnoses and the knowledge of the community, its strengths and weaknesses. Another aspect they took into account was the self-care of the members of the managing group and their families.

“From the diagnoses themselves we already had an advance of who to attend and how to do it, according to their own needs. We began to draw up strategies within the project’s management groups to be able to reach these families and even the families in the management group”, Torres tells SEMlac.

The confrontation with the health emergency did not stop Afroatenas’ program of activities and the actions of their All Rights for All campaign.

“During every Thursday until June 28, there were celebrations for sexual diversity with themes of health promotion, human rights, transgenderism, and transsexuality. We took the actions to our social networks in the virtual space”, says the general coordinator of the project.

This initiative is distinguished by the integration of social equity, culture and traditions, care for the environment and the fight for the rights of LGBTIQ people.

Muralism, cultural activities, training workshops, conservation and promotion of cultural and religious traditions, social research and activism in defense of human rights are some of the most visible proposals of the project, which now rethinks strategies to continue the work in the midst of the pandemic.

“There are very big challenges, especially for the population, because we are in a unique situation. But, despite the fact that the disease continues, we should draw up new strategies for these moments. The pandemic will last, I imagine, until 2021, and the challenge is to take care of ourselves and continue developing these lines of work guided by the principle of solidarity that characterizes community work,” reflects Torres.

Author : Lirians Gordillo Piña

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