Examples of Programs
A Neighborhood Improvement Project
The Group for the Integral Development of the Capital (GDIC, Grupo Integral para el Desarollo de la Capital) is a non-governmental civil service institution based in Havana with a mission to improve living conditions, assist in the development of local economies, provide urban education, and develop community pride and identity. Through a series of workshops, GDIC promotes the development of urban agriculture, social prevention work, conservation, and provides specific action guidelines for various community groups. These workshops for neighborhood transformation are known as TTIB (Talleres para la Trasformación Integral de los Barrios); they have taken place in neighborhoods which have considerable social and physical deterioration – such as Atarés, Cayo Hueso and La Guinera. As general objectives, the workshops seek to establish a basis for improving living conditions, the attainment of social and family values, the development of community pride, caring for persons with limited resources or lack of family support, and giving attention to children with social disadvantages. They also promote cultural activities and environmental education in neighborhoods. These workshop are developed under the following guidelines:
1. Conduct a preliminary study to identify neighborhood problems;
2. Call for a community meeting, with volunteer participation, to explain the workshop aims and purposes, its characteristics and actions that may be undertaken. Explain to residents that changes will only occur under their full consent and active participation.
3. Incorporate and seek the commitment of residents in the solution of their own community problems. Avail residents of tools and professional advice to become actors of change within their own living environment.
Social work projects promoted by the Ministry of Culture include the following objectives:
∙ To facilitate wide participation of all citizens in cultural affairs;
∙ To develop artistic talent; and
∙ To attend to traditional and folk cultural development.
These projects are integrated into the neighborhood social life and lend support to cultural development. They include video rooms, computer clubs, public libraries, and audio visual programs for school.
A Community Mental Health Care Center1
On the other side of the Bay of Havana in the town of Regla the Community Mental Health Center (CCSM) led by Dr. Raúl Gil Sánchez is showing outstanding results in mental health care for ambulatory patients. The center is committed to prevention, conservation and protection of people in their community. Care is offered at the primary level.
Covering an area with a population of more than 40,000 inhabitants, the center’s therapeutic team is made up of 30 professionals. There are psychiatrists, natural and traditional medicine specialists, special educators, computer technicians, psychologists, sociologists, psychologist educators, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, statisticians, health promoters, and even a museum specialist who works in the cultural department.
Their areas of concentration are alcoholism and drug addiction, language disorders, birthing classes, AIDS education, anti-violence, parenting, medicinal plants, menopause, psychogeriatrics, suicide prevention, and various ecology projects. They have successfully used a community based approach for long-term care of chronic patients, including the reinsertion of patients into their labor situations and family life; thus reducing hospital stays and marginalization of the mentally ill.
The CCSM does outreach in schools, cultural institutions, and workplaces. Over the last decade, its staff has made 11,745 house calls and received 70,198 people; 8,096 for the first time. Of that, only 624 have been referred to the hospital. Free medications and doctor consultations are available for those in need several times per week. Rehabilitation includes the family as much as possible, as well as work, culture and sports. The CCSM goal is to see their patients happy and integrated in their community.
Socio-political culture is viewed as a function for human well-being improvement. Cultural development is not a function of “bringing something to the community” but of stimulating “what is already there,” to facilitate the rediscovery of traditions as expressions of history and a rich cultural legacy. We seek the empowerment of human beings through their values, identities, and cultural traditions. In Cuba, the community is a staging area for social action and popular participation.
1 Photos and material from interview with Dr. Raúl Gil Sánchez and article by Bendoyo, R. Alberto(2001): Los Caminos Conducen a Regla. Avances Médicos de Cuba. VIII(28), 4-9
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