Caravan for Peace members share story

Every year, hundreds of people deliver humanitarian supplies to Cubans as part of a 'caravan of goods' – part of the Pastors for Peace mission to help end the blockade of that country.

Every year, hundreds of people deliver humanitarian supplies to Cubans as part of a ‘caravan of goods’ – part of the Pastors for Peace mission to help end the blockade of that country.

Last year, Nanaimo’s Ruth Caspell was among the volunteers travelling to the country with aid and friendship.

“They appreciate the solidarity and support,” said Caspell.

She said many of the people on the caravan were from the United States, acting in defiance of their government to bring aid to people in need. The costs to import goods from China and Europe are too expensive and keep the Cubans poor, said Caspell.

Pastors for Peace was created in 1988 to deliver humanitarian aid to Latin American and Caribbean countries. More than 40 caravans have gone to Mexico and Central America, while 16 have gone to Cuba since it was founded.

For Caspell, one of the most memorable parts of her trip was meeting the family of the Cuban Five. The five men were arrested in 1998 on several counts, including espionage. Many international groups say the five men were convicted falsely and have demanded their release.

“To meet their relatives was a real highlight for me,” said Caspell, adding that other caravan participants also went to a gathering attended by Fidel Castro.

Caspell will talk about her experience, along with Nanaimo resident Jacqueline Jantzen, Sunday (April 10) at the Pacific Gardens Co-housing Community, located at 347 Seventh St., at 7 p.m. The women will share a slide presentation of their trip.

The main highlight of the evening is the documentary People to People, which tells the story of volunteers who have travelled in the caravan to Cuba over the last 15 years.

They will be joined by Lynne Alton, who will speak about the Ernesta Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade. The project allows Canadians to travel to Cuba and learn about the country’s history, people and economy.

Alton said a highlight is meeting the people and hearing their personal stories.

One meeting was particularly memorable for her. The group was touring an organic garden and learning about the work the community did to create food sustainability in the region. One farmer shared his story with the group.

“He told us about his life and he reminded me of my father who was a farmer,” said Alton.

The event is open to the public.

For more information on Pastors for Peace, please go to www.ifconews.org and for the Ernesta Che Guevara brigade go to www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca/brigade