Opening Statement



Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cuba: Hurricane Sandy Hits Toronto Friendship School!

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Hurricane Sandy delivered a devastating full frontal blow on Thursday to Santiago de Cuba. I talked to Prof. Guardiola from the Toronto Friendship School last night. The school was hit, and the barrio neighbourhood around it suffered severe damage. A lot of the homes and buildings are flimsy and very old with stone tile roofs. You can imagine what happened when even the huge palm trees where ripped right out of the ground!


Here is the main plaza in the city centre near the Casagrande Hotel + the Cathedral. The community based non denominational Toronto Friendship School is located nearby, in this 500 year old city which was one of the very first Spanish settlements in the Americas.

Pappy Guardiola is okay, as are Madelena and Cari. They are still at the school. I have not been able to confirm with Prof Jose Luis or Aurelio how they and their families are though they also live in the neighbourhood. The roof was ripped off the Casa de Estudiente [student's house]. A curfew is in effect as the army tries to dig out the city. The Bucannero Resort was completely destroyed, wiped right off the coastline, read "gone". The Melia Santiago City Hotel suffered extensive damage. Telephone service is of course down, but the cellphones still work.



Here I am at the Toronto Friendship School in Santiago de Cuba last summer. I regularly visit to help  with donations + to provide direct assistance in developing the English language program etc. at the school.

You may be aware of my work as director of the CSP [Cuban Schools Project] in Santiago, especially if you were a regular on the ENO teacher internet site during the Harris years, or read my blog during the summer when I go down there. We helped the Cuban teachers build the Toronto Friendship School with direct volunteer assistance, and educational developmental aid and solidarity grants from OTF and OECTA. Teachers have helped from OSSTF and ETFO too. Over the years teachers from all the different affiliates have sometimes been interested in going to visit and help out at the school.


Before Hurricane Sandy: The Toronto Friendship School is on the 2nd floor. It was built and funded by teacher educational aid + solidarity grants through the Cuban School Project which I founded back in 1992 after a class trip to Santiago de Cuba.

Santiago de Cuba is located in "Hurricane Alley". This swath of the Caribbean is a bulls eye target during hurricane season, though it often receives very little news coverage from US media sources. When a hurricane strikes, the city evacuates into the huge cave shelters which the governnment carved into the side of the Sierra Maestra Mountains overlooking the city, so that civilian casualties are usually very light. However the city was apparently hit extremely hard this week. As the locals says it is devastated. They've seen many hurricanes in their time.  If they say it is devastated, believe me it is devastated. Not a very good situation under the crippling US embargo!



A news photo of the damage on a typical street in the barrios where the school is located.

As before the Cuban School Project will be seeking donations to help the students, teachers, their families, and for rebuilding the damaged sections of the Toronto Friendship School. It's an especially well built reinforced concrete rooftop structure but it has still suffered bad roof and water damage in years past. I am still waiting to ascertain the full damages from last week.


Here is the Student House, near the city centre. You can see the stone tile roof strewn on the ground.

If you can direct me, as the Cuban School's Project director, to any sources of educational or solidarity grants that might be helpful under the circumstances, please let me know. I can be reached at the email address on the top of my blog screen, or via the "Comment" button at the bottom of this blog, for more information on the CSP.

As teachers we can make a difference, not only here at home, but also in the less fortunate places around the world. We are one.


Here is last summers dance class. The students are hoping to put on a show where they can help support their families by playing at the nearby resorts.

More news to follow. In the meantime:

For a good news report see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/hurricane-sandy-cuba_n_2019099.html?utm_hp_ref=canada&ir=Canada

For more background info on Santiago de Cuba also see my blog: http://tsu3rdvp.blogspot.ca/2011/08/santiago-de-cuba-faded-glory-lost-in.html

For more info on the Cuban School Project please see: http://tsu3rdvp.blogspot.ca/2011/08/csp-cuba-school-project-story.html

For a report on last summers trip to visit the Cuban schools see: http://tsu3rdvp.blogspot.ca/2012/08/santiago-de-cuba-school-diary-2012.html

There area also photos on the right lower side column of my blog.


The civil defence authorities ae seen here distributing much needed emergency relief supplies.

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