Creating Hope In Cuba
By Julia Hall
For some, travel is purely business: a negotiation of terms, a hard sell, or a networking opportunity. While business travel is necessary for many global companies, it is more than necessary for us.
It was a desire and a privilege of Business Connect to travel to Cuba recently. Three of our core team members visited Cuba several weeks ago, and shared what was a wonderfully raw, eye-opening experience which yielded returns in connections made and experiences had.
After speaking with those traveling team members–Nick, Mike, and Jereme, it is apparent that the trip was a success. They’ve all shared their recent memory of sights, sounds, and emotions in the country–some easier to encounter than others.
The purpose of the trip was to come alongside Water To Life, a nonprofit that has done work in the Caribbean for the last 5 years or so. Primarily in Haiti, the program implements water filtration devices in gathering institutions–mostly churches–to sustain communities who are in dire need of clean water.
Impressions: Clean Water In Cuba
After flying into Havana, the first day was spent reestablishing relationships. The team was a grand total of 14: stakeholders, board members, and volunteers, all of whom were excited to connect and start the mission. The immediate feeling, on the first day, was a bit of shock. Nick and Mike both shared their thoughts on the impression Cuba made on them initially.
Mike reminisced on the landscape as they entered Havana. “There are many cars from the 1940s and 1950s… it truly feels like you’re going back in time.”
The long-standing trade embargo the United States implemented against Cuba, which first began in 1958, prevents trade with Cuban interests. As the United States is one of the leading manufacturing countries in the world, the embargo against neighbor Cuba has affected necessary imports, leading to halts on certain infrastructural developments within the country (Brookings). “I also did not see any water filtration plants,” Mike went on. “It seemed very difficult to buy bottled water.”
As the team traveled beyond Havana, the country’s more economically sound metropolis, they encountered the true nature of rural Cuba. Nick, whose role is mostly centered around US-based distribution, had not been in a developing country in a while. He reported that he felt deeply for the people living in the situations he witnessed.
“A lot of homes seemed to be cramped with potentially no running water. Power outages are very common (in Cuba) because they can’t keep the power on all the time, and access to the Internet is limited. I don’t get to see, with my own eyes normally, the impact we’re having internationally,” Nick explained.
Successes: Implementing Filters
That impact is certainly felt, as once the group traveled by bus to Holguin, Cuba, which was a 12-hour bus ride, and were able to do product demonstrations with our VF100 Home Water Filter. Nick, after completing his first demonstration, illustrated what it was like to see the filter in use.
Nick told, “What touched me, and really just kind of warmed my heart to see, was how these filters were being used. This isn’t commercialization–these products are used to help people.”
On another day, a group went to check on a church which had implemented the VF500 Facility Filter several years ago. The crew was impressed with the degree to which the filter has been maintained and still performs wonderfully.
“It was really impressive to know how many people actually depended on that system within the church for clean water,” Nick elaborated. “People like, you know, doctors and neurologists and people who know how important clean water is… all kinds of people from the community are using our filter.” That VF500 filter, after all this time, is providing 20,000 liters of clean water per month for the people of Las Tunas, Cuba.
The trip, then, was a success, and an ode to the importance of good relationships in the midst of overarching political challenges between two countries. Though there is much work still to be done and clean water to provide, trips like these are a necessary part of our mission to improve the lives of those without clean water.
Mike, after summarizing the good feelings and relationships the trip provided, smiled and remarked, “The people of Cuba are certainly not our enemies!”
Your Part in Our Mission
You are a valued member of our mission to provide clean water to rural communities across the globe. Whether you’re an idle reader of the stories we share, a stakeholder, or part of a water-related organization, you are valuable to our success and growth. In a similar light, we hope to deliver value to you in any way possible. Let’s create hope through business together.
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