UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Northern Region "Kenny Bell" Mini Bus for Cuba

Over 250 people came to Newcastle Civic Centre on Wednesday 12 September to hear Dr. Aleida Guevara talk about the importance of Cuba and international solidarity. In what was probably the largest public meeting on Cuba in Newcastle she received an emotional standing ovation: See the video at http://www.shakewellbeforeopening.org.uk/home/?p=1453

She spoke for over an hour about her work as a paediatrician in Angola, Ecuador and Nicaragua. A significant number of the audience were young people who had come to hear about Cuba for the first time and Dr. Aleida was clearly moved by the welcome. She spoke about the humanity of international work and the importance of respect for other countries and other people.

In the afternoon Aleida, together with UNISON Regional Convenor Clare Williams, officially dedicated a minibus that UNISON Northern Region is donating to the SNTS health workers in Santiago de Cuba. The "Kenny Bell minibus" , as it will be known, is named after the Deputy Regional Convenor who tragically died last year.

Kenny Bell was very committed to international work and encouraged the Region to send a group of young members to experience at first hand Cuba's inspirational international health work in Cuba. The highlight of the trip was to meet 300 doctors who were about to leave for Haiti to fight the terrible Cholera epidemic that was sweeping the country. The UNISON young workers returned from this experience committed to do something practical to help the Cubans.

Over the last year they have fundraised and campaigned with Branches to raise enough money to purchase a left hand drive minibus which is to be filled with computers and health equipment that Cuba cannot access because of the 50 year old USA blockade. Aleida Guevara said it was important to recognise that this was not a trade "embargo" but was a deliberate blockade aimed at crippling Cuba's political and economic structures despite it being opposed by 187 countries each year at the UN and with only Israel supporting the USA.

The effect of the blockade is to hurt many people including children and the ill who cannot access any drugs or equipment produced by companies that trade with America. Clare Williams said: "through international links we see that many of our struggles are common to us all and we learn as much as we offer. We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Aleida to Newcastle and support the Cuban people in their struggle against US imperialism".