Americans reach out to Cubans

Sarah Wolf

Stories of world suffering fill hours of news footage. Tales of

widespread hunger, disease and poverty can make a person in America feel

pretty helpless. But for the past few years, a religious organization has

been pitching in to bring some relief to foreign citizens who are mere

victims of circumstance and international policy.

Pastors for Peace has been collecting, transporting and distributing

much-needed goods for Cuban citizens since 1992 through a program called

Cuba Friendshipments.

The organization is headquartered in Minneapolis, but for several

months of the year, members embark on journeys across the country to

collect linens, clothing, packaged food, medicine and money.

This particular trip, the fifth of its kind, involves 14 separate

caravans and took one branch, led by Reverend Don Gruber, through Ames on


The 14 groups, once they complete their individual cross-country

journeys, will meet in Washington, D.C. for a rally. There, “they will try

to influence policy,” Jerry Lamsa, member of the physics department and

advisor of The Drummer who is also helping coordinate activities,

explained in an interview.

United States policy toward Cuba is about 35 years old and still

reflects Cold War mentality. The U.S. refuses to allow any goods,

including food and other types of aid, to be shipped from American ports to

Cuba. “It is the one place that we’re blockading,” Lamsa said. “We’re the

only country in the world who is doing that to Cuba. It’s like we’re still

afraid of them. It’s crazy.”

After the rally in D.C., all of the supplies will be transported to

Buffalo, N.Y., and from there, volunteers will illegally cross the

U.S.-Canadian border with over 150 tons of goods. They are hoping to gain

some publicity in doing so in order to call attention to the government

policy toward Cuba.

Once in Canada, they will be shipped from Montreal to Havana (hence the

name, Cuba Friendshipments). Lamsa said that many people who are now in the

caravans will also fly to the Cuban capital to help distribute the goods to

those who really need it, mainly hospitals and churches. “Some people may

think that any aid will just go to Fidel Castro,” Lamsa said. “That’s just

not the case.”

For those who weren’t able to fly to Cuba to help with the project,

there was something they could offer. Cafe Lovish, located at 2512 Lincoln

Way, held a free benefit concert Tuesday night that featured the local

bluegrass group The Pretty Good Band. There was no cover charge, but

contributions were welcome, and all donations will directly help the

citizens of Cuba.

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