Kenia Serrano Puig, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), described the more than one hundred young people from some twenty Third World nations making up the 8th Student Solidarity with Cuba Brigade as enthusiastic and committed to the causes of the Cuban Revolution.
In the first official act of the brigade, Kenia, who is also a deputy of the National Assembly of People’s Power, urged the youths to continue the fight against the criminal economic, financial and commercial blockade maintained by the U.S. government despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, describing the policy as unjust, cruel and genocidal and calling for its complete elimination.
“We know that you are not only excellent brigadistas, but are also training to be good professionals, because to develop our countries we need human beings who offer unconditional support, but especially humanism,” she stated and invited the students to thoroughly research the complex process of the normalization of Cuba-U.S. relations, which also implies the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo.
Staying at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, located in the municipality of Caimito, Artemisa province, August 17-24, the brigadistas undertook volunteer work in agricultural areas, visited centers of historical and cultural interest and received talks on the key documents approved at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, subject to broad discussion by Cuban society.
Activities were dedicated to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, in honor of his 90th birthday, August 13. The program included meetings with leaders of Cuban youth organizations, and with Palestinian and Sahrawi students studying on the island, to learn of and strengthen solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles of these two peoples.
Congolese students Joellevic Okombi, Paloma Carmencita Tchimbakala and Mariam Esite, agree that life on the Caribbean island is very different from their African homeland. They noted that studying medicine in Cuba has posed challenges, which they have overcome through perseverance, in the first instance, coupled with the support of their professors and Cuban friends, who have welcomed them as family.
The three highlighted the warmth, open communication and friendliness of the Cuban people toward visitors, regardless of cultural differences. They also described sharing a dorm with students from other countries as a very positive experience, as they could exchange information about their places of origin.
The brigade also offered the opportunity to discuss various topics with students of different nationalities studying at various universities on the island, resulting in a beneficial exchange to unite in the interests of youth struggles across the world.
John Mathiang Chuol, from South Sudan, expressed a similar opinion: “The brigade allows us to meet with compañeros from other medical schools studying in the upper or lower years. It is a meeting point that fosters friendship and knowledge of the various regions of the world. We receive information on Cuban history and reality, which enhances our general knowledge.”
The 24 year old, from the city of Warrap, just completed his second year of study at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). He noted that he likes the methodology used to teach medicine in Cuba, due to the link between theory and practice in patient care and the guidance provided by professors.
“I have learned in Cuba that we can all be supportive without seeking anything in return,” he stressed, adding, “I do not mean only material aid but the efforts of people to provide company, information and affection. It really angers me that there is an interventionist policy of blockade imposed by the United States. I have suffered from it as I have had serious difficulties in communicating with my family by telephone.”
His friend Toscani Mbainsissem, from Chad, said Cubans ask him about his home country and are interested in learning about the political system, geography, lifestyle, culinary arts, dance and music. He referred to the social inequalities stemming from a capitalist system that can not provide health care coverage for the entire population.
The 23-year-old from the city of Moundou explained that he decided to study to be a doctor as his mother suffers from several illnesses and he wants to be able to help her, as well as any others who could use his knowledge. He hopes to practice cardiology because he is aware of the shortage of professionals in this field in Africa.
The African student spoke of various enriching experiences in the past two years as a student at ELAM, both in the academic sphere and through his participation in cultural galas and sports tournaments, which have fostered a patriotic feeling and an unconditional love for his homeland.
The International Student Solidarity with Cuba Brigade began in 2009, as one of the many initiatives undertaken by the students of other nationalities on the island to join the campaign for the return of the Cuban Five unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails for fighting terrorism. To date, over 1,000 students from 42 countries across the world have participated as brigadistas from the School of Medical Sciences, and the universities of Havana, Artemisa, Mayabeque and other provinces.