BY HAROLD G. DOWNS | THE SOUTHERN
CARBONDALE—A small group of volunteers spent a hot and muggy Saturday afternoon contributing to a worthy cause at the Newman Catholic Student Center.
They were there packing donated supplies to send to Cuba as part of humanitarian aid delivered by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace 14th U.S.-Cuba Friendship Caravan.
Various items were donated, including a printer, keyboard, paper, pens, medicine supplies and other needed items. The group consisted of Georgeann Hartzog of Alto Pass, Elsie Speck, Scott Schuette and Yuki Kobiyama of Carbondale and La Donna Wallace of Cambria. They packed, taped and stacked dozens of boxes to be sent to Cuba.
Donated items had to meet certain guidelines and needed to be in new or excellent condition.
The caravan will stop in Carbondale Wednesday at the Newman Center to pick up the donated supplies. Three women and one man will arrive in a large box truck to gather up the donations.
The caravan is delivering aid to Cuba in response to the U.S. government’s restrictions on travel and aid to the Communist country. Volunteers started traveling along 10 separate routes across the country Tuesday, stopping in 115 cities collecting 60 tons of humanitarian aid, including ambulances and school buses, donated by churches, schools and community groups.
The routes will converge at McAllen, Texas, on July 14 for nonviolence training and preparation of aid, after which participants will travel through Mexico and eventually to Cuba to meet with health care leaders and other Cuban people.
Since 1992, IFCO/Pastors for Peace has delivered more than 2,250 tons of items to the Cuban people.
This is the fourth year the caravan will stop in Carbondale. This year’s local donation efforts began in May.
Hartzog, a co-organizer of the local endeavor, noted the Cuban people are the ones who suffer because of the embargo. Hartzog, who last visited Cuba in February of 2000, is strongly in favor of free trade with Cuba, particularly when countries like China are trading partners with the U.S.
“Cuba is a country we should get to know,” Hartzog said.
She was weighing boxes to ensure the group did not exceed the weight limit of 500 pounds, the amount allotted with the $350 the group paid for shipping.
Speck sat filling out labels for the boxes while Schuette researched the Spanish words for the supplies. Speck said the supplies have to be labeled on each box in both English and Spanish.
The Cuba Support Committee will host the caravan to a beans and rice dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Newman Center, where people can meet and greet caravan participants and learn about the impact of the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba and the history of the caravans.
Donations are welcome. A presentation will be given at 7:15 p.m. by Kathryn Hall of Sacramento, Calif. Hall is the founder and director of the Center for Community Health and Well-Being, Inc.
Those planning to attend the dinner are asked to RSVP at (618) 529-3311.
The visit is sponsored by the Church of the Good Shepherd, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, the Newman Center and the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois.