I'm Rocio Yepez from Dallas, Texas. Like most of you, I’m heartbroken by the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. As some of you know, I frequently travel to Cuba and lead tour groups through my company Fisheye Journeys . I’ve made friends with amazing people there, some of whom are like family now. Cubans are seriously some of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet.
Cuba does not have organizations currently on the ground that are directly providing relief to Cubans affected by Hurricane Irma. I've contacted friends in Havana and am being told that power is being restored and rubble is being picked up. People whose homes have collapsed are being taken to shelters, but others aren't being rescued. For most people in Cuba, it's hard enough to get a hold of essential items (even when you DO have money), simply because they are not available.
My heart breaks as photos of the impact caused in Cuba come to light, but I rest assured knowing that Cubans have a strong resilient spirit and will not be broken by this. Seeing photos of flooded streets in neighborhoods where I have friends (and where I stay) is heart wrenching. I have a group trip planned to Cuba for the end of the month and plan on bringing essential supplies to people there for immediate relief. If you guys have extra clothes, shoes, toiletries, feminine products and diapers that you wish to donate, please let me know and I will come pick them up (in the Dallas/Fort Worth area).
Update: Thank you to all you kind souls that have donated so far! I've hit my goal (and then some) of raising $500 within less than 24 hours of setting it up. Amanda Bjorn from Los Angeles, California, who also frequently travels to Cuba, will be joining me in the efforts to raise money and haul essentials to Cuba. We've upped our goal from $500 to $2,000. Thank you all for your support.
How will monetary donations be used?
If you're able to contribute with a monatery donation, we would be happy to go shopping for these items. Funds collected on GoFundMe will be used to purchase: soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, feminine products, bed sheets, towels, Advil, Bandaids, gauze, medicine tape, etc. We'll also be partnering up with local businesses and people in Cuba for the best way to distribute the items.
Who are we raising funds for?
Personal friends - friends we have made while visiting Havana and Caibarien the last several years
Clients - artists, tour guides, and casa hosts that we have worked with directly in Havana and Caibarien the last several years
Schools - directly giving supplies to teachers and headmasters that have been referred to us from friends in Cuba and the States
Community leaders - working with cultural centers and art spaces in Havana and Caibarien that we have visited with our tours the last several years
Rocio Yepez will be withdrawing funds into her bank account as soon our goal of $2,000 is reached. Half of the funds collected will be transferred to Amanbda Bjorn. We will each be using this money to buy supplies in Texas and Flordia, which we will then transport to Cuba as early as Thursday, September 21, 2017. These supplies will be divided into various packages that we will distribute evenly to friends, clients, schools, and community leaders over the course of a week both in Havana and Caibarien, a northern coastal town that was hit the hardest by the Hurricane. We will hope to get feedback from our contacts down there and find out what else is needed for when we return again in October, 2017 to bring our tour groups down there.
Names of people receiving donations and their location are: Alexis Mendez - Havana, Liliana Bonome Hermosilla - Havana, China Vasquez - Havana, Dennis Nunez - Havana, Renata Suarez Cresp - Havana, Ira Konenko - Havana, Yamile Serano - Havana, Sandor Rodriguez Castro - Havana, Mari Claudia - Havana
We will be taking photos of receipts of the items bought, pictures and videos while in Cuba (with permission), and uploading so you can see where your money is going.
If you prefer to send a package, please send it to the address below to arrive no later than September 25th.
PO Box No. 111205
Carrollton, TX 75011
There are a few other group trips planned to Cuba between now and the rest of the year and can always take the items then as well.
To read more about items needed in Cuba and why they are often hard to get, please head to Mari's blog post.
Sending positive thoughts to those affected by Hurricane Irma.
Rocio Yepez and Amanda Bjorn
- Kelley Mullarkey
- Mighty Mike
- Dana Fernández
- Kryzia Molina
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