|Mission for life in Venezuela
2012.04.30 - 11:28:12 / firstname.lastname@example.org / Translated by: Pedro A. Fanego Sea
Caracas, Venezuela. - The most beautiful page of Cuban solidarity in Bolivar's homeland began nine years ago, in April 2003, when the first doctors arrived in Caracas Hills.
Jose Parra, from Santa Eduviges neighborhood in Santa Rosalia Parish, commented: "It was like a dream for the local folks. They were very excited because it was the first time that doctors served in a Venezuelan neighborhood. That had been long out of the question for us. That day I was tasked to pick them up and accommodate them in neighbors’ houses. It seemed impossible."
Ruben Torrealba was surprised too… "When I got home, my wife told me: Look, here are the doctors. I could not believe it. I felt so happy and I didn't know how to show it, because we wanted to give them everything we had; particularly to those two women that gave everything for us in the neighborhood. They assisted over 1 500 houses in this hill of Santa Eduviges."
That embryo of 53 Cuban medical doctors multiplied manifold, not only in other social missions, but also in the community. Ruben's son, studied in Cuba, in the Latin American School of Medicine (LASM).
"I have always admired Commander Fidel Castro and Cuba and having medical its representation in my house is a pride. Perhaps my boy had never been a doctor but for the agreement between Cuba and Venezuela, because access to college education was hardly available to us."
The first medical brigade reached Caracas Hills in April 2003, led by Dr. Victor Felipe, a young physician that had already served in other solidarity missions in Central America. "Our mission was to look after the health of people in the peripheral neighborhoods, who lived in awful material and sanitary conditions. That’s how we started the project of “Mision Barrio Adentro.”
"It was not easy, our comrades were lodged in the own neighbor’ houses. There were neither clinics, nor medicines, only a great will to do our job and accomplish the mission that our Commander in Chief had given us: “fight for life and succeed."
The hills that surround the city of Caracas offer a unique landscape, unwonted for a Cuban that sees them for the first time. Elevations above one thousand meters that seem mountains of houses can only be reached through stairways built on the hillsides. The stairways are sometimes spiral-shaped or just steep tracks that lead to the summit. Those are the "lanes or streets" in the hills, where climbing is hard and sectors are identified by stairways.
“The first Cuban doctors had to face many challenges”, Dr. Victor Felipe said. "The first was breaking the myth that no foreigner could climb Caracas Hills, because it was nearly impossible even for Venezuelans from other areas. We made it and that had a great impact. We were warmly welcomed by the neighbors, who were glad to accommodate and feed us and to create the basic conditions to work. They understood that we had come to win the battle for life and health."
A bridge of fraternity with Venezuelan families was thus built. "We lived in their houses and practically became their daughters”- Dr. Mariela Marquez commented - and we reciprocated that welcome. We integrated into the families."
Nine years later, Mariela and other specialists returned to Venezuela. "I could not imagine that they would remember me and that affection helps us do a better job, even though we are far from our Cuban families."
Dr. Esperanza Alvarez is another of those pioneers of the Medical Brigade that fought poverty in Bolivar’s lands for the first time. "That first night was very sad. I felt like crying; but I assumed my responsibility at once. I shared the home of a family that made room for me in their girls’ bedroom. Today one of them, then a senior high school student, is a medical doctor, thanks to the work multiplied by the educational and social missions."
For Esperanza, Mariela and Victor, there is no better reward that the appreciation that the neighbors of the hills accorded them; in spite of the adverse material conditions in which they began their unwavering battle for life.
The gates of Venezuelan hills opened for Cuban doctors and a story of love and solidarity began. Today, it is known as Mision Barrio Adentro and has many programs, like primary health care, specialized services, high-tech institutions and especially training human capital. Those are all conquests of the Bolivarian Revolution for each and every citizen. By: Miozotis Fabelo (The author's pictures)