December 13, 2019

Las Guarderías

Michael Moran (Keenan’s uncle) and Frank (Keenan’s dad) journeyed to Cuba for Keenan’s Kids during November 2019. We traveled with members of the Caritas organization, the largest philanthropic group in Cuba, and our partners there on the ground. We have had the privilege of working with Caritas over the past 5 years, and the help and support they have provided has been invaluable.

Before traveling to the various guarderías (daycare centers) we support, we visited various children’s programs in Havana supported by Caritas. These included ‘Breakfast before School,” a program supporting children ages 6 – 13, La Merced, a guardería for children ages 2 – 5, and a down syndrome care facility where local children are taught necessary daily skills like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Keenan’s Kids provides support for these various programs by furnishing much needed children’s medicines. Cuba has little access to simple, over-the-counter medicines we can easily purchase in the US. So, this form of support is critical for the children in Cuba

Next, we traveled to Pinar del Rio, a province located about 100 miles southwest of Havana. It is here that Keenan’s Kids supports 3 guarderías by providing all the children’s food, consisting of a full cooked lunch and a morning and afternoon snack. Lunches during the week vary by day. On this visit it was chicken on Mondays, beans on Tuesdays, ropa vieja (stew meat) on Wednesdays, noodle soup on Thursdays, and spaghetti on Fridays. Rice is the usual accompaniment for most lunches.  and snacks consist of juice and crackers. Food has always been a challenge to obtain, but now so, even harder with the worsening of US-Cuba relations. Each guardería cares for about 40 children between the ages 1 – 5. The staff at each guardería consists of a “Responsable” (Director), 3 “Cuidadoras” (child care givers), a “Cocinera” (the cook) and a “Limpiadora” (cleaning person). These guarderia arrangements, which run from 7am to 6pm, allow their parents to work.

Our first stop was at the guardería San Vicente. Uncle Mike (left photo above) and I got to spend a lot of time with the children, either playing ball or reading them books. Like all children, they are curious by nature, full of energy and wanting to learn. The staff was very warm and caring, and led by Elena Cruz.

Our second stop was guardería La Caridad. Here, Uncle Mike and I spent our time much the same way, playing and interacting with the children. We learned that this guardería will soon be vacated for the house next door which has been purchased for Caritas by the local Bishop, Juan de Díos. We were able to visit the  new site which is currently under construction. It will be a big improvement, with more rooms and a new kitchen. Again, we cannot overstate the warmth and caring of the staff (center photo above), led by Victoria Quesada.

Our third and final stop was at guardería Margarita Naseau. By now, Uncle Mike and I (right photo above) had our routines down pat with the kids – great fun! We also learned that the facility had recently been upgraded with a new kitchen and the construction of separate rooms to better accommodate the grouping of children by age. The staff, led by Isabel Mesa, was wonderful

We return home with a renewed sense of hope and inspiration, and look forward to our next visit with Keenan’s Kids.

                                     We miss you Keenan, but take solace in knowing your spirit is with us!!!