Magic Day/Tangible Poetry

There is a billboard in Havana that states, “Haz bien pero no mires a quien” (Do things well but don’t look for whom you are doing them.). That is the theme of this day’s blog; Dr. Turla called it a  magic day; the director of “Muraleando” called it “tangible poetry.”

Manuel Diaz, leader of the community project called “muraleando” (making murals), together with several Cuban artists decided to respond to a community in eastern Havana that was concerned over the rising crime rate and a seriously deteriorated neighborhood. They asked the government to give them some “worthless” land where there was a huge rat-infested dump ground and the remains of a circular water tank. They hauled off tons and tons of garbage and refuse and then began to volunteer their time and skills to establish a center for arts, music, dance, and theatre. What they created was a lovely center artistically designed for all ages for cultural enrichment and community beautification.

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They are still working on it. The cylindrical water tank (El tanque) has become a showroom for the artists to display their handmade articles for sale.

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We were a happy group of volunteers ready to work to assist this worthy organization.

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There were three possible work sites:

(1) clear the land so that the sidewalk that was hidden by rubble and overgrown weeds could be used by the children to walk home from school.

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At the present time, parents were walking their children home on a street that was often frequented by fast-moving trucks, buses, and horse-drawn carts.

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(2) paint or finish painting some of the artistic displays with one of the artists.

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(3) dig a huge hole so that a passage way could be constructed from one level to another.

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We did it all! Unexpectedly, the artists in the Center joined us to work in the hot, hot sun and even showed some tricks for carrying piles and piles of rubble from the sidewalk area to the garbage.

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There was a young couple who saw how hard the group was working and they joined in the project also! We even had an opportunity to give baseballs to the children who were walking home with their grandparents or parents.

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Then there was the excitement when the first mother and child walked down the cleared sidewalk and we applauded! It is hard to imagine what an arduous task this clean-up was. It took a total of 4 hours in the HOT Caribbean sun (with a short break for a yummy lunch) before pedestrians to be able to safely walk on the cleared sidewalk alongside the busy road. The woman in in the second photo below stated that she was “honored” to be one of the first ones to walk on the newly “discovered” sidewalk. Here is a photo of everyone “walking” down that beautiful walkway. Now that is a proud group of volunteers!

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Meanwhile, John and Calvin had been working very hard on digging the enormous hole for the new passageway. They were most successful!

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There are no words to express the sense of international pride everyone felt today. The Cubans admitted that when we arrived they thought that we would not be able to complete even one of the tasks presented to us. One of the disadvantages, they said, was that there were seven girls in the group and, of course, they would not be any help at all  :-)   Afterwards, they honestly admitted that our “14” was an impressive bunch. Not only were all tasks successfully completed, but the goals were accomplished with a mixed group of 7 men and 7 women! Amazing and impressive, indeed! Before we departed all of the workers gathered in a circle and Manuel Diaz, as sweaty and dirty as everyone else, stated that what had happened today was a perfect example of good works being accomplished by really good people. We had worked together, eaten together, laughed together, sweat a lot together all for the betterment, enrichment, and beautification of a deserving community. He further stated that the Friends University group would always, always be in their hearts. He had opened his short speech by saying, “I love you people!” and he closed his remarks with “We love you people!”

That was the way it went today…..it was MAGIC. We did things “well” and we will never personally know for whom we did these things. How do you describe the sense of fulfillment after such a day? John Gray said, “I never want to leave!

Proudly and most respectfully submitted,
Jerry Smartt