A slice of Life in Cuba

Raudel, a young brother from Cuba (Havana) talks about his life and work in the neighbourhood of the fraternity, and the young people around him who have to survive without money or work.
Raudel (front)Raudel (front)
Since starting to work at San Rafael (a retirement home for elderly people run by the Brothers of St John of God), I feel that I have learned bit by bit to become patient, to confide in others, to keep quiet when I should keep quiet, to stand up for myself when necessary, and to love elderly people and to feel closer to them. It is a job that requires a lot of patience, commitment and discernment. We are dealing with human beings, and they often crave affection, tenderness and love.
Their close family are in fact the carers who look after them – they are the people they see the most often. Their blood relatives often let weeks go by without coming to see them – sometimes months, or even years. Sometimes they never come back at all.
By observing them day in, day out, I can see whether a resident is in good or poor health; if there is a change in his condition, I can alert the nurse or the doctor to his state of health. The only days I can't be with them are Saturdays and Sundays, which I spend studying English, staying in the fraternity, going to Mass and meeting the Little Sisters.
When I arrive on Mondays, the first thing I do is to go to the infirmary to ask if anyone has been taken in for observation, and if so I go to say hello and to see how they are, and if one of them has died, I pray for the repose of his soul.
The residents have become close to my heart: I am fond of them, I think about them and I am grieved when one of them is no longer there. It is not easy working with responsibility for 26 people; it is exhausting, and sometimes I have to take a break so as to be able to continue. There are some colleagues seem to me not to treat the residents as humanely as they deserve, and I often have to bite my tongue so as not to make a fuss.
When I come back to the fraternity after work, I only have just enough time to rest and pray. It is not easy to devote much time to the fraternity, what with the racket of people making music and playing games outside the house.Havana, the neighbourhoodHavana, the neighbourhood
In Indaya (Havana), almost everyone is into illegal street hawking, small scams or gambling, just to get through the crisis. I don't know whether everyone will actually be able to make a living or to survive. The majority of people don't have a job, and those who do often spend the money on buying fashionable clothes. Others struggle in vain to pay their debts and cope with economic difficulties.
Seeking to live out the Gospel among people, one comes to realise that everyone has something to bring to our prayers, and this is something that gives value to my life. For me, that is what living the Gospel is all about, that is what Brother Charles’ message is – to be witnesses to the Kingdom in the heart of the crowd.
There are many people who help me and engage with me, and keep my mind working; it is good to realise this, and to give thanks for these friends who help me to overcome my irritations.
And then there are also those who live the good life at their wives’ expense, treating them like slaves and making them work so that they themselves can continue to indulge their vices and laziness. And there are those who want to be in charge: the machismos, the exploiters, the drunks and so on.

I wonder what is going to happen to the Cuban people, who are always caught up in some crisis or other, more than ever now with the current global economic crisis. Where will it all stop? When Cubans have become extinct? When the island has ceased to exist? And when that day comes, what shall we blame for what has happened to us? The trade embargo? The "great crisis"? What indeed? It is true that there are a lot of people in Cuba who produce nothing, not to mention those who live by stealing from the country’s economy. But whatever the case, we now have to pay for the evils inflicted on man by man himself. That is no way to live.