How Canadian generosity makes a Cuban difference!

Cubability: Friends of Cuba 

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View of Matanzas

A DREAM IS BORN

Musical Instruments for Cuba


The First Baptist Church in Matanzas, Cuba was given a gift of money by a Dutch interest to purchase a baby grand piano. They decided to shop in Toronto because of a long-standing relationship with the current minister at Toronto’s College Street United Church. In discussion with the Director of the KAIROS Centre in Matanzas it was decided that rather than shipping just the piano that a 20 foot container filled with musical instruments be sent to provide promising musicians and students in Cuba with their own instrument with which to perfect their skills. The dream was born. 

A committee of volunteers, “CUBAbility Friends of Cuba”, was formed. Instruments were collected and shipped; the first container arrived in Havana in August 2013.  Following on the success of the first shipment a second container of instruments was sent in December 2015. These instruments have been so well appreciated by the Cubans that a third container is now being prepared for shipment early in 2018


Instruments and their distribution in Cuba

The contents of the combined shipments to date included 18 pianos, 68 other percussion instruments and eleven large boxes of assorted unidentified percussion instruments.  Stringed instruments included a cello, violins, violas, guitars, 63 in all and 60 sets of replacement strings. There were 84 wind and brass instruments consisting of clarinets, oboes, a saxophone, flutes, recorders, cornets, trombones, French horns, harmonicas and a piccolo.  In addition there were 46 boxes of spare parts such as reeds, valve oil, mouthpieces, music stands, instrument cases, sheet music, metronomes and piano tuning tools. 


Household goods included pillows; sheets towels and blankets (all of which were used to wrap the instruments), boxes of school supplies and toys, several boxes of carpentry tools and 4 sewing machines were also shipped. 


The Director of the KAIROS Centre in Matanzas organized the distribution of the instruments and each student who received an instrument signed a contract stipulating they would care for the instrument and practice regularly. If they failed to meet the contract terms, the instrument was reassigned. News of this initiative travelled solely by word-of-mouth in Cuba and the demand for instruments has far exceeded supply. “CUBAbility - Friends of Cuba Committee” received requests for more instruments and by the time the second container arrived in Matanzas the KAIROS Centre had received requests for instruments from 56 organizations, including the Union of Artists, Choral groups and the newly refurbished José White concert hall in Matanzas.  As well, over 90 individual students have requested instruments.  There are requests for 39 pianos, 37 guitars, 35 music keyboards, 22 violins, 10 base drums, saxophones, string basses and the list goes on.


Funding

Initially, before the musical instrument project was considered, funding for small projects in Cuba consisted of cash donations from a base of about fifty donors. This money supported a rural ministry in Cuatro Esquinas (Four Corners), the Martin Luther King Centre in Havana and provided seed money for a youth exchange.

Fundraising for the instrument project started in the fall of 2012.  Over the next 10 months many used instruments were collected and over $16,000 was raised to ship the container in August 2013. In 2014 and the spring of 2015 almost $24,000 was collected to finance the second container.   To promote fund raising in 2015 the “Committee” brought “Agua Viva”, a Cuban musical group from Matanzas to perform in Toronto they also helped catalog and pack instruments and other materials for shipment.  Bringing Agua Viva to Toronto, generated untold goodwill and interest in the project both in Cuba and Canada. The cost associated with the second shipment of instruments and travel arrangements for Agua Viva was about $21,000 leaving about a $3000 surplus. Raising funds for the third container is now under way and any donations for this cause will be gratefully accepted.


Other CUBAbility Committee Activities

In addition to the musical instrument initiative other projects sponsored by “CUBAbility - Friends of Cuba Committee” include: 


  1. Providing funding (salary and housing allowance) for a second full time pastor for three years in an extremely active Anglican church at the Cuatro Esquinas (Four Corners) Ministry.  These Anglicans have committed themselves to feeding seniors a good breakfast every morning and support this project through the sales of handicrafts and sesame seed oil produced in the village. They also have their own pig farm that supplies the State and the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas.
  2. Sponsoring a two-year professorship at Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET) Matanzas.
  3. CUBAbility made a financial gift in support of a joint diaconal training program conducted by the Martin Luther King Centre in Havana and the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia Matanzas. This program: teaching ministry students how to intervene in and support community development, and small enterprises, began presenting its first seminars in January of 2013 
  4. In 2013 a new oven was donated to a local bakery in Matanzas.
  5. As well CUBAbility supported a clean water project through the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia in Matanzas.
  6. In the summer of 2014 a group of youth, seven Canadians and eleven Cubans, spent the three weeks together, living in each other’s homes in Cuba and Canada. This program was enabled through the close co-operation of the Evangelical Seminary of Matanzas, the First Baptist Church of Matanzas and College Street United Church in Toronto.  CUBAbility contributed about 15% of the cost, the remaining 85% was raised by the students. 
  7. CUBAbility has also contributed financially to Somos, an LGBT community in Matanzas, to aid in providing a safe place to meet and support each other.
  8. Provided a retired piano tuner who agreed to visit Matanzas in the fall of 2016, along with another technician to assess and tune pianos and set up classes to train people to tune the instruments. https://youtu.be/fA3B_nnysrc


What’s Next?

The KAIROS Centre the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia Matanzas and the CUBAbility Committee will establish and prioritize future projects.  Among the proposed projects are: 

  1. Third container of musical instruments to be shipped in 2018
  2. Provide financial support for two years for a pastoral assistant for Dr. A Fernandez and the Presbyterian church of Matanzas. 
  3. Support the creation of a church music school at the Seminary for the study of religious music.


Conclusion

The modest work of a devoted few has resulted in an incredible bit of international mission work.  We did a great deal for Cubans with a relatively small outlay from Canadians. The impact of the musical instruments cannot be exaggerated.  Through this initiative new networks have been established here and in Cuba. 

The word from Cuba is that the musical instruments project has had wide-ranging effects:


    1. The city of Matanzas has come alive to the possibility of great music through students and teachers and bands and orchestras that now have their own instruments.  Wanda, the KAIROS Director, continues to affirm how this mission has changed her city for the better.
    2. Small churches are waking up to the possibility of having their own piano or keyboard and this has enlivened ecumenical relations and created an appetite for co-operation between churches and secular society.
    3. Several “Matanseros” and “Matanseras” have achieved national stature because of the “leg-up” provided when they have their own instrument.
    4. The KAIROS Centre has a new profile and mission 
    5. Tremendous goodwill and real hope is created among Cubans and Canadians who are getting to know each other and who are forming an international relationship from which other projects can arise (i.e., piano tuning workshops).