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Trip to La Castellana, work of love, trust and hope

diaz-canel-la-castellana-hogar-discapacitados-oct-22-1“Dad…”, the young man said, from his seat in the craft workshop, to the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and president of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. When the president left, sounds of intense and crystalline emotion were heard behind him, of a boy happy for the meeting.

It did not happen anywhere on the island, but in one where love is the one who will always have the last word: the La Castellana Psychopedagogical Medical Center, located in the capital’s municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, and as far as the president came, on the edge of the eight o’clock this Friday morning.

Going to the end of a moving story, this reporter wants to attest that, on the page of the book for the visitor’s notes, the letters stamped by the dignitary occupied everything, from edge to edge: “In days gone by – Diaz wrote – Canel Bermúdez–, when we shared a meeting with representatives of our people in relation to the Family Code, the director of La Castellana, an emblematic center of love, dedicated to defending the rights and guarantees of people with disabilities, invited me .

“Today, happily, we are here; and what we appreciate is much more than we can understand in an explanation, however broad it may be. Here there is a work of love, of trust, of hope; here human rights are defended; here we work from emotions, feelings and commitment. In short, the humanist vocation of the Cuban Revolution is demonstrated.”

The head of state closed his note with “our congratulations for the achievements. Successes at work”. And he left a hug, “with love and immense respect and admiration for what they do.”

The director of the institution, Marileidys Perdomo Monteagudo, said at that moment of farewell: “Your words are very nice, president: they commit us to continue with the effort, dedication and commitment. And you know: he has a troop here, which he can count on for anything”.

The sunlight was not yet felt when Marileidys Perdomo explained to the reporters details that she later shared with the president: La Castellana, she narrated, was a private clinic founded in 1943. Its owners were Spaniards from the Castilla region, and from there the name comes to the institution.

In 1963, with the Revolution very young, the place was destined “for health services, specifically to serve the population with severe learning needs,” stated the director, who said she was referring to “cases that generally they have causes of genetic origin, children who are born with epilepsy, with congenital heart disease”, and it is necessary to address them, first, “from the clinical point of view”.

Regarding the above, the specialist referred to hearing evaluations, placement of prostheses, compensation for psychiatric disorders, care for epilepsies; “and when an optimal state of health is achieved”, and “as many medical specialties” have taken part, “then the psychopedagogical intervention is carried out”.

As Marileidys Perdomo Monteagudo emphasized to journalists, “our objective is no different from the rest of educational institutions, because the goal is to incorporate them (patients) into socio-labor life. What varies are the programs of the care curriculum, which are based on functional academic skills, which allow them to develop in fundamental spheres”.

These areas are, according to the director of La Castellana, those of “personal autonomy (which is the satisfaction of basic personal needs), the area of ​​behavior and socialization, training for work, the development of communication, and self-service.

Exploring the sensitivity
When the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party arrived at La Castellana, workers and patients from the institution were waiting for him. Long live Díaz-Canel and the Revolution shattered the freshness of the morning.

“What do we say to the president?: That he has a troop here…”, expressed the director. And next to her Alejandro Freijo Villarreal, who has had her home in La Castellana for almost three decades, said that “the troops are present”, and that they want to go to Pinar del Río to help.

Alejandro remembered Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, and throughout the tour of the institution he did not separate for a moment from the president. In the end, Díaz-Canel Bermúdez told him: “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

While welcoming the president, Marileidys Perdomo Monteagudo defined that one “of the most beautiful, most human works that the Cuban Revolution has, is the attention to people with disabilities; because it allows them to grow as human beings, achieve the development of their potentialities, join work, the right to have a partner, while the family can also be incorporated into society”.

In La Castellana, of a total of 280 patients, 190 are semi-internal, and 90 are internal. “Those who come and go daily, do so on the green buses,” explained the director at the meeting where the first secretary of the Party in the capital, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, was also present; the governor of Havana, Reinaldo García Zapata; the Minister of Public Health, José Angel Portal Miranda, among other authorities.

Díaz-Canel was interested in various topics: in the ages of the patients – before which they explained to him that the work begins with an early care program, from the moment the child is born. “In other words,” reflected the dignitary, “there are those who have spent their lives here.”

The director herself returned to the idea that the purpose “of the center does not differ from that of educational institutions, which is to achieve inclusion and social participation.” And before such essence, the head of state affirmed: “That is defending human rights.”

The hours of stay in La Castellana, and the communication of the specialists with the families of the patients motivated other questions from the president, who continued looking for details while touring the artisan workshop, that universe where patients create, dream, and are fulfilled.

Díaz-Canel wanted to know about the raw materials with which artisans make flowers and other decorations. There a young man told him that he has a girlfriend, to which the president asked that if there is a wedding one day they invite him.

Like a teacher, the president asked, table by table, about what they were doing in the workshop. And on that tour he was learning that those who are protected by La Castellana do theater, dance, and sports (with Olympic results). Love, patience, patience, the president was enunciating while he watched the beneficiaries of the institution work.

Everything there seems to overlap in pursuit of the same goal: the young pedagogical assistant, trained in the institution and who can already help her family with her salary, especially her mother; or the young people from the Design, Architecture and Construction Cooperative (Diarco), who have remodeled and embellished spaces in La Castellana and who plan to continue there, fond of the joy of children and adolescents.

“We arrived here in April –Gretel Grisel Llibre, from the cooperative– told us; It really is an incredible experience: you get involved in the feelings of the boys, of the people who take care of them”.

Yeni Tuero Hodelín, who works at La Castellana in physical therapy and rehabilitation, shared more than one truth, from the emotion, with the reporters: to the patients of the institution, if you told them the day before that you felt bad, the next day They will be the first to ask you if you are alright. Society, he said, has to learn from them and get closer to these centers.

And Yeni is quite right, because in universes like La Castellana, not even the harshest of gales fades or loosens props like hope or shelter. That protection that the Revolution knows and feels so much about.

(By: Alina Perera Robbio)

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