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      What I saw, felt & learned while in Cuba with the
      Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade

      Volunteering, Solidarity, Education & Fun!

      By Thomas Davies

      Cuba is great! Cuba is unique! Cuba is the combination of everything in life you can absorb. Somehow it all mixes and moves together in ways which make you forget about sleep and language barriers as you dive into it all. This year I traveled on the Ernesto Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade. The Brigade is an exceptional 2 week journey that for more than 20 years has given people across Canada the opportunity to volunteer in Cuba and be exposed to life on the island. Between April 27- May 9, 2015, 37 people from all ages and from across Canada participated as ‘Brigadistas’.

      In the early morning darkness of May 1st, and as the sun rose, we saw hundreds of thousands of Cubans streaming in to celebrate International Workers Day with their annual march and rally. People gathered joining the rally from 3 directions, all carrying colourful signs and flags, singing and chanting to celebrate their Revolution. Cuba’s May 1st activities were made even greater this year with the presence of the 5 Cuban Heroes, former political prisoners in the U.S., leading the march before joining Presidents Raúl Castro of Cuba and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela to watch the rest of the rally. It was the Cuban 5’s first May Day since being released and returning to Cuba. The celebration of their return continued on throughout the brigade including meeting the 5 in person!

      The volunteer work this year took place on one of Cuba’s famous urban organic agriculture farms. The brigade also entered high schools, hospitals, trade union centres, women’s centres, universities, and factories to tour them all directly and speak with the professionals making them all run.

      During our stay in Cuba undoubtedly we learned a lot. We learned some of the answers to how a tiny island which has been blockaded and attacked by the country that has mightiest army in the world for more than 50 years, can still be so full of life and an example for building a better world.

      Interested yet? Well, you’ll have a great opportunity to learn more in person with a report back, BBQ and cultural night about the 2015 Che Brigade! The event is taking place at Trout Lake Park in East Vancouver at 6pm on Sunday June 14th. June 14th is also the birthday of Ernesto Che Guevara so the event will also be celebrating the life of one of Cuba’s heroes.

      If you would like more information about the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade, you can visit the website at www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca/brigade, e-mail chevolbrigade@gmail.com, or in British Columbia, you can also contact B.C. Coordinators Tamara Hansen and Thomas Davies at 778-882-5223 or vancubasolidarity@gmail.com

      We look forward to meeting you next year in Cuba with 24th Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade!

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