Hello friends –
I have named my halfway house “A Ray of Light” because this place is like a ray of light – a beacon – for all blind persons and it has already had a great impact.
Throughout my life, I have met and worked with many blind people – children, youth and adults – and found that many of them were overprotected by their families. While the state support policy has provided economic aid, there is still much to be done as regards independence.
When I moved to Camagüey in 1994 and went work in the special school for blind and low vision children, I realized that when blind children are educated properly then, when they are adults, they could be independent. That is when I set to work developing a program to provide daily living skills, such as cooking, kitchen safety, and laundry. By providing those skills to children while they were at school, they would take those skills forward into adulthood.
But what about those people who lost their vision later in life or who had never been to attend a special school where they could acquire independent living skills? They would need somewhere to go. And that became my dream, to provide that “somewhere”.
You have probably read elsewhere on this site about all the hard work it took to build the center. My mother, bless her, gave permission to alter her home to provide the space. Friends and neighbors provided assistance and labor wherever they could and, of course, financial aid from my dear friends in Canada. It all came together to make “A Ray of Light” a reality.
On opening day, December 27, 2014, we were able to provide a buffet for everyone who attended. Among those who came were about 40 blind and low and many of them either assisted with the food preparation or contributed gifts of food. The centerpiece was a “guiso”, a big stew – a typical meal of different meats, vegetables and seasonings. The party began at 9 a.m. and ended around 5 p.m.
It was truly unforgettable, with leaders of provincial and municipal ANCI present. Neighbors supported us with music too, as a party in Cuba without music is not a real party.
Since then, the national president of ANCI has been here, and so has a documentary film crew. I am amazed and overwhelmed by the positive response from everyone.
For now, I am the happiest person in the world. Of course, there is still much work to be done, programs to develop, and so on. At present, it takes about 25 convertible pesos (CUC) per week to operate the center. That’s about $25 US to purchase toiletries, laundry soap and food for the cooking class. Please spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues. Any contributions are welcome and may be forwarded through my brothers Tom and Ken.
My dream is that this is just the first center of its kind in Cuba. I believe that the model we have used here at “A Ray of Light” is one that can be emulated across our island and eventually, perhaps, in other countries as well.