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November 8, 2017

Dear friends,

I have received today this query from our faithful friend in Winnipeg, Diane Zack.  I thank her for giving me permission to reply to it in a letter that is open to all members of the Canadian Network on Cuba.

Some long-time supporters of Cuba, said they preferred to give their money to Oxfam as the Canadian government matched the funds raised and Oxfam has a long-standing relationship with Cuba and has been involved in many worthwhile reconstruction projects there in the past. They are also able to issue tax receipts. Assuming that you are aware of their work and credentials, I wanted to ask why we don't direct some of our monies raised to them. Other supporters have asked about this also.

KeithWe too believe that Oxfam does good work, and we view this query as containing views that may be representative of many of our friends who work within the CNC or who are just friends of Cuba and who want to maximize their donations to Cuba.  We can understand that people want to donate to Oxfam if they can have their donation matched by the Canadian government and also receive a charitable tax receipt, if that is the case.  We know too that our government makes different arrangements with Oxfam, depending on the region and the political climate and, that Oxfam itself has variables in the procedures applied in its different programmes in different places.

On receiving this letter, I have tried to get in touch with Oxfam's contact person.  She has found it necessary to send my questions on to other people within the Oxfam organization.  Oxfam comes to the fore in this letter, but there are other organizations that will probably occur to others of our friends as alternative channels through which we may work in giving our support to Cuba.  One of these is the Dubois Charitable Foundation, through which we have worked in the past.  It specializes in shipping containers and gives charitable tax receipts for donations to the Foundation.  This specialization means that it is shipping to destinations in Cuba that are established by John Dubois.  And in the case where we worked with them, the hurricanes had hit the western end of Cuba, Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud, and the government requested that we send specific construction materials which we did through the Dubois Charitable Foundation.

On assessing the procedures employed by the Dubois Charitable Foundation and looking at the programmes in which Oxfam has been working in Cuba, donors will look at the advantages potentially given by these two organizations that are quite well known to us and may prefer the advantages of a charitable tax receipt and the prospect of a rarely offered matching grant to what we are presently doing.  If so we can understand the choice that they will make.  We understand that a charitable tax receipt is an incentive for a larger donation.  A matching government grant is very attractive but a very rare possibility for Cuba with any government that we have had in recent history.  And if it comes about, it is usually for projects that are designed by our government with very specific and usually politically intrusive aims.

We have found over the years that dealing directly with the Cuban government carries advantages that, even at a time when we do not have the privilege of access to charitable tax receipts, outweigh those offered by non-governmental organizations.  A hurricane is an emergency.  It carves out an autonomous path of destruction and suffering.  The short time of preparation for defense against it, the measures to be taken while it is in force and those to be taken in its immediate aftermath, are measures that require the greatest knowledge possible.  In the case of Cuba, the government is the best fount of knowledge concerning all the factors that affect the lives of the Cuban people.  Its record of protection of its population over the years in which the CNC has been raising donations for hurricane relief has been unequaled by any other, even by the richest government in the world that has all the authority and freedom necessary to print whatever quantity of money is needed.  And yet, when hurricanes of comparable strength attack both Cuba and the United States, hurricane Sandy, for instance, the toll of lives taken is greater in the United States than in Cuba; and the speed with which damage is repaired is greater in Cuba than in the United States, not to speak of hurricane Katrina when Cuba offered vital help to ease the prolonged and horrid suffering of the people of New Orleans.  The central governmental responsibility for the safety and protection of all the people, the close harmony and identity between government and people that underlie the overall efficiency, fairness and effectiveness, the judgement about the extent to which reserves of scarce materials--medicines, for example--are to be used, the evaluation of past experience put at the service of averting future dangers, all these factors need knowledgeable, intelligent, timely and stable coordination.

Flooding is an almost inevitable consequence of hurricanes and carries with it an unplanned encounter between animals and whatever is borne by water.  And knowledge, for example, of toxic materials that might have been present in the newly flooded ground is the kind of information concerning contaminants that will make drinking water dangerous. Water, for instance, contaminated by the urine of rodents, may quickly carry the leptospira bacteria.  If drinking water isn't treated for the elimination of this bacteria, leptospirosis will begin to be spread as a dangerous disease.  This is happening now in Puerto Rico, for example, where Oxfam is finding much to complain about regarding the government's handling of the situation, which is the result of a weakened governmental capacity.  Oxfam may provide some more gallons of clean drinking water but it lacks the ability to intervene at levels that have a broad effect on the health of the endangered population.

When Cuba takes the option of spending scarce monies on needed protective measures, we here, aware of the fact that those monies or materials such as antibiotics have to be replaced, can have a certain satisfaction that our donations are serving purposes of this kind.  Donations such as ours may not have the nominal dollar value of the donations available to Oxfam but the fact that Cuba can rely on them coming from its good friends enables the government there to dip into their reserves as emergency measures; and we are pleased and honoured that they can count on us to do that. If the CNC donors find it necessary to give somewhat less than they would give if they had the benefit of a charitable tax deduction, the accessibility that the Cuban government has to our funds because of this sacrifice is of huge value and endows us with that beautiful feeling of real solidarity.

In 1891, in his brilliant essay "Nuestra América," José Martí observed that in these matters of governance, in which he made national identity a most important value, ”Injértese en nuestras repúblicas el mundo; pero el tronco ha de ser de nuestras repúblicas " [Graft the world on to our republics; but the trunk of the tree has to be from our republics].

Frankly, we in the CNC would like to see Puerto Rico become well organized in its struggle to recover from hurricane María and from others that might inflict their terror on the people of that island that is sister Cuba.  We believe that when the day of that organization arrives, Oxfam will not be having to waste some of its energies and resources on the unproductive activity of complaining about the conditions in which it is presently having to work in that island of such great potential, to squander, frustratingly and in a costly manner in human terms, some of the advantages achieved at the collections stage

Frankly, too, we in the CNC wish to see Cuba—even without conditions of privilege for its donors with regard to tax receipts and matching funds from rich countries including our own—remain so well organized that, as José Martí would have had it, guided by its free science and accompanied by its own sweet music, hurricanes will not again bring to Cuba the devastation and suffering such as that caused by the one that tore apart Camagüey in 1932, with the deaths of 3,103 people, when the Cuban tree trunk was being so neglected.

We are very pleased to report that thanks to the efforts and the generosity of the great people of Winnipeg and of many other parts of Canada, Sharon Skup was able to send to the agency in Havana established to receive funds for hurricane relief on behalf of the Cuban Council of State a wire transfer for $58,715 on behalf of the Canadian Network on Cuba.  Since that time, we have collected another $10,000 which we will be sending very soon.

Please maintain your admirable campaign for funds for Cuba.  Do not let the efficiency and high spirits in which the people of the beautiful island have reopened their resorts and are continuing their restorative work give you the illusion that Fidel's island has put behind it the destruction caused to every aspect of its life by the pitiless Irma.  There are huge debts to be paid.  The expenses caused by hurricane Matthew were far from being paid off when Irma arrived.

Cheques should be written to "CNC" with the following words on the memo line: "Hurricane Relief".  They should be mailed to:

c/o Sharon Skup
56 Riverwood Terrace
Bolton ON L7E 1S4

Thanks to everyone for your sustained efforts.

Viva Cuba!

Keith Ellis, Coordinator

2017 CNC Irma Hurricane Relief Campaign

P.S. The reply to my query to Oxfam has just arrived. 

Re: Donations to Oxfam for Cuba

Hi Zilpha,

Thank you for your message and support of Oxfam’s work! Hopefully I can clarify a bit for you.

  1. The Government of Canada is not matching donations designated for Hurricane Irma disaster relief, however they are matching donations for the Rohingya Refugee crisis. For more information please visit https://www.oxfam.ca/emergencies/bangladesh-rohingya-crisis and http://www.international.gc.ca/gac-amc/campaign-campagne/myanmar/index.aspx?lang=eng .

  2. Oxfam Canada is actively responding to the Hurricane Irma disaster relief in Cuba with decades of experience in the country. In Cuba, Oxfam is working with partners and Cuban officials. Oxfam is responding in the province of Camagüey in the municipalities of Esmeralda and Minas. The aim is to reach at least 8,500 people with lifesaving water, sanitation, and hygiene services, along with emergency shelter and support to agricultural cooperatives. For more information on our long term work in Cuba, please visit https://www.oxfam.ca/our-work/where-we-work/americas/cuba .

  3. As long as we receive the donors full name, address, date of donation and the amount donated – we can absolutely issue charitable tax receipts. I have copied our Events and Community Fundraising Officer Ifhtia Haque, should you proceed to organize a fundraiser on behalf of Oxfam Canada. She will be able to provide you with more information and a fundraising package.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know and I would be more than happy to assist you! Thank you again for your interest in our work and have wonderful rest of the week.

Best wishes,

Soo-Jung Kim
Donor Relations Assistant
Oxfam Canada
39 McArthur Avenue | Ottawa | Ontario | K1L 8L7

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