OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Celebration of CBM International's 20 years in Cuba. Dr. Elina Ceballos (left), deaconry coordinator for the Cuban Council of Churches; at her side Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico, president of the CIC and Presbyterian pastor; David Bainbridge, CBM international director; and Regine Polynice, CBM regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: Dunia Álvarez Palacios

Two decades of collaboration based on joint work, commitment to life, and empowerment of persons with disabilities, were celebrated by the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC) and the humanitarian development organization CBM International.

Among the beneficial outcomes of cooperation between the organizations, which now share a sincere friendship, are agreements in the areas of eye health, to prevent blindness as a result of cataracts and retinopathy in premature babies, as well as support to those with limited vision and the prevention of deafness.

Other efforts have included work on inclusive education for children with limited vision, the early detection of diseases that may aggravate eye problems, attention to those affected by Hurricane Matthew, and community programs.

Speaking to the press at CIC headquarters, CBM international director David Bainbridge said that Cuba is unique in that successful aspects of programs undertaken "have been adopted by ministries and become policies." The inclusion of persons with disabilities is national policy, he noted, along with equal access to public education.

Agreeing with him was Regine Polynice, CBM regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, who praised the role of the Cuban ministries of Labor and Social Security, Public Health, and Education, as well as government leadership along with the Council of Churches and associations of persons with disabilities, which were central to the establishment and impact of the programs.

For her part, pediatrician Dr. Elina Ceballos, deaconry coordinator for the Cuban Council of Churches, stated that the collaboration has allowed national health programs to be strengthened, along with efforts to integrate persons with disabilities into the workforce, and address educational issues.

She noted that the activities planned to celebrate 20 years of joint work, under the maxim of "Serving together," include workshops with medical professionals and educators, visits to hospitals and special schools, among others.

Commenting on the impact of this collaboration, CIC President Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico noted the beauty of outcomes, the support provided to beneficiaries of the Revolution's programs, adding that the contribution is evident in professional training provided medical staff and the equipment made available to hospitals and special schools. He likewise emphasized that the effort has served to break the blockade imposed by the United States.

The reverend went on to stress that these accomplishments have been possible because they mesh well with the country's public policies, adding new knowledge and initiatives to government efforts.

Gratitude, he said, is visible in the faces of mothers and fathers when they see their children receiving treatment free of charge.