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Camps for kids with disabilities in Cuba are a sign of hope

August 11, 2009

GIBARA, Cuba

A program for children and adolescents with disabilities, sponsored by the Council of Churches of Cuba (CIC in Spanish), is a sign of hope for their integration into Cuban society.

The Church of the Friends (Quakers) in this fishing town that was hit hard by recent hurricanes hosted a summer camp attended by more than 50 children and adolescents from seven provinces of the country and congregations of 15 different religious denominations, including the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, a partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The camps, now in their 10th year, are organized by the CIC’s Pastoral Ministry with Persons of Different Abilities. 

During the day the participants studied the Bible, went on excursions to the nearby seashore and mountains, and learned about the care of the environment and the need to preserve water resources as a basic nutritional source of life. 

The Rev. Noel Fernández, director of this pastoral ministry of the CIC and Latin American Coordinator of the Ecumenical Network in Defense of Handicapped Persons of the World Council of Churches (WCC), told the ALC of the importance of this event as a type of formative therapy for those children and adolescents who have some kind of handicap, be it physical, sensorial or intellectual.

“Because [the camp] integrates them into their environment in such a way that they develop in a coherent way,” he explained, “it allows them a harmonious development in the search for their individual and collective abilities.” 

The camps are part of an efforts that the Pastoral Ministry with Persons of Different Abilities of the CIC carries out so that the church, as an institution and as a community, can be an example of integration and equality by broadly accepting all people, he added.

“It is also the possibility to have these children be in contact with creation and to foment in them a responsible attitude with regard to its care and preservation, making it clear that we are all important for God and that each one of us, independently of abilities and handicaps, has a mission in the building of the Kingdom of God,” said camp director Fernández Collot.

Editor’s note: PC(USA) mission work in Cuba, accomplished by partnerships between congregations and governing bodies of the PC(USA) and the three presbyteries of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, is coordinated by mission worker the Rev. Tricia Lloyd-Sidle, area liaison for Cuba and the Caribbean. Information about and letters from PC(USA) mission workers around the world is available at the Mission Connections Web site. — Jerry L. Van Marter

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