On Tuesday 14 February 2012, the year of the London Olympics, the Rock around the Blockade brigadistas visited a Cuban Institute for Sport and Recreation (INDER) project at Ho Chi Minh Park, Havana and presented the project with £650 of material aid including footballs, volleyballs, basketballs, football nets, bibs and gloves.
This was to assist an INDER run 'Project for Life', which involves physical activity in all communities, in the open air, countrywide. The project offers activities for everyone, from babies to elderly people. It has specialist sections and classes for pregnant women and post-birth women, as well as for children with disabilities, among many more. The project takes advantage of the natural environment and works with the people of the community to run the park. It works with other organisations in the community including schools, older person’s homes and the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC). The project runs every weekday with classes including Tai Chi, aerobics, baby massage and team games. Some teachers are paid, but lots of people volunteer with their time and specialist skills, leading different classes. In addition, INDER pays teachers to organise optional activities in the park at weekends for children, this includes football, basketball and other sports.
The following day on Wednesday 15 February, the brigadistas visited the Institute of Oncology and Radiology (INOR) in a hospital in central Havana. The brigade presented a donation of £150 worth children’s toys and art materials to the children’s cancer ward which has a specialist school and play room for its 19 child patients. The impact of the inhumane US blockade is strongly felt. Dr Reno, the head paediatrician explained to Rock Around the Blockade ‘When the socialist bloc fell the US policy was crueller – there were 10 years where children’s healthcare deteriorated in Cuba in the special period. There was an increase in mortality rate especially in children under 4 years old. Now the US is further tightening the blockade and is systematically buying up companies which supply Cuba including Dabur (an Indian Pharmaceutical company) and others in Europe. These in particular affect access to medical equipment and surgical materials in Cuba. Elizabeth Alvarez Velasquez, the International Department representative explained ‘we need anything and everything; we even have shortages of Lumbar Puncture needles. Basic equipment shortages are still a problem so we have to make do’. Dr Reno reflected that the impact of the blockade has had its positives as it has forced Cuba to develop research. 'We are strong politically and we are glad we are not alone. You are always welcome here'. 'Cuba demonstrates from a human political point of view that we are a country that, despite a limit on our resources, we help people everywhere'.