Another story from our Manitoba chapter, from Dolores & Ron, who went to Cuba! <3
“Our trip to Cuba this year was really great, thanks!
We had no difficulties what so ever with WestJet check in at Winnipeg airport they just recorded it as Humanitarian and with Not Just Tourists and where we were taking it was to “Holguin, Cuba”. I even made up a little luggage tag for it with the NJT Manitoba logo on it. We flew to Toronto and our luggage was transferred there and after Winnipeg we did not see it again until the Holguin airport. No one asked us any questions about the extra suitcase at all in Holguin, but we also didn’t declare anything special either, we considered it our personal luggage and gifts, and since this was humanitarian and not for re-sale. Not stopped by Cuban customs at all.
My husband and I along with another couple from Edmonton went by taxi to Banes on Feb. 22nd and we think the taxi driver was asking us which door we wanted to go to, so we said the main door. We all speak limited Spanish but together we communicated. We figured out that there were 2 main doors, the one the Cubans all go in to which we saw was crowded with people and the one the tourists would go in to and that was quiet and no one was there.
At the door they brought us to we asked to speak with someone in charge, the doctor or head nurse or administrator. These people came and we hauled up the suitcase and I think they thought one of us was sick and planned to stay with the suitcase. They asked us if we were from Quebec and we said No. And no one was sick. We wanted to visit them and give them the suitcase containing medical supplies they could use for the people of Cuba.
The Doctor came and I think he was a bit annoyed with us taking him away from his work, but then I gave them the letter in Spanish which he read out loud and his voice got more and more excited as he read it because then he understood why we were there! I showed them some of the supplies in the suitcase and they said they could use all of them. We specifically asked the nurse if they could wear the colorful uniforms (there was one in the suitcase) and she said with a smile Yes. I asked them what they needed the most and I showed them the “Receiving doctor or health professional” form. The nurse said they needed dressing supplies: gauze, bandages, wound care supplies. Also surgical instruments – they wanted to know what that was, but whatever it was, they could use them. And Birthing kits – they wanted to know what that was, because they are a birthing center, and could use any supplies that pertained to that.
They wanted to give us a little tour. We asked if we could see where the Cuban people go but they would only take us to where it looked like a tourist would end up. They said there was a lady from Quebec having surgery (broken arm) there right while we were there but we didn’t see anyone. They had an examination room, a waiting room (for tourist’s families we are sure), a treatment room with ability to make casts, 2 hospital rooms with 2 beds each and bathroom with super fancy showers which really puzzled us because you would never see that back home in a hospital, but this is what they had. I don’t think the Cubans get to use these, these are for tourists, I am sure. It is a pretty big hospital, not high up but spread out all on one level there looked to be a lot of capacity and with the number of people out in front, a lot of activity. Surgery/OR and Maternity, too.
I am so excited about this experience and cannot wait to do more! I also got our friends from Edmonton interested and they will contact NJT in Edmonton. She is a nurse and can get a lot of surplus supplies, too. There were some Winnipeggers and Ontarians at our resort and they have been coming to Cuba for a long time and have not tried this yet but they are interested in helping and I gave them the information about NJT. As well as their used suitcases that are still in good enough condition, which can be donated for other people to use to bring supplies to other destinations.
I would like to be of help with this in future, in addition to bringing supplies, I think I can be helpful in finding donations and also with getting the word out among the medical community I am still part of here in Winnipeg.”
Dolores (and Ron) Friesen