Jamaica/Cuba friendship highlighted at 12th annual Giron Victory Celebration in Westmoreland

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, May 02, 2019

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PE TERSFIELD, Westmoreland — Over the past few years, five individuals—three teachers and two students — from the parish of Westmoreland have benefited from scholarships made possible through the Petersfield Galloway Benevolent Society (PGBS), in association with the Jamaica Cuba Friendship Association (JCFA) Westmoreland chapter, to study medicine in the neighbouring Spanish-speaking country, Cuba.

The scholarships were offered under the Cuba-Jamaica Bilateral Scholarship Programme.

Recently, the Westmoreland-based club in collaboration with the JCFA, held its 12th annual Giron Victory Celebration at the Petersfield High School in the parish, where speakers after speakers, including Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore, Councillor of the Petersfield division George Wright and club members, all spoke glowingly of the communist country.

“I have always wanted to make Cuba my place of study because I heard that Cuba has created the best medical doctors ever, and I also interact with some of them and based on their background on Cuba, that's the place I always wanted to go and study,” said 19-year-old Hayley Wanliss, who is desirous of pursuing a career in medicine in Cuba.

Wanliss, who was in attendance at the function, cited wanting to assist in the development of her community in Westmoreland — which she did not want to disclose — and following in her mother's footsteps, as her reasons for wanting to study medicine.

“In my community, we lack doctors and so the whole community is suffering because we have a lot of sick persons who really need the help, and I just want to give back...and, based on what my mom [a radiographer] does, I basically want to follow in her footsteps. She works at the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital. So, I want to give back service to my community and help others,” Wanliss argued.

PGBS' public relations officer, Vinton Vaz, noted that if successful, Wanliss will be the sixth person from the parish to have benefited from the Cuban programme through the club. He stressed, however, that there is a process that she will have to go through.

“The deadline for application is May 3, 2019. She will have to do an interview and base on her [school] grades, then she might be selected. So, it is not a guarantee, but she will have to do some work on her own. The club is an avenue, she would at least get a preferential treatment to be given an interview once she has the qualification,” Vaz explained.

Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Inés Fors Fernández in hailing the friendship between Jamaica and Cuba, thanked Jamaica for its support over the years, noting that her country continues to support Jamaica.

“I would like to express our deepest appreciation to Jamaica Cuba Friendship Association, particularly Westmoreland chapter, as well as association of clubs, local authorities and our beloved friend and brother Mathias Brown, [president of JCFA, Westmoreland chapter] for having a branch for 12 years with activities like this,” Fernández expressed.

“This ceremony has become a tradition and is one of the main activities to build on the solidarity movement with Cuba in Jamaica every year.”

Brown in his programme overview noted that the main objective of the club is to ensure that persons in Westmoreland understand what is taking place in Cuba. “Cuba started to give scholarships early to students who are educated and want to go to Cuba to study medicine and can't afford the millions of dollars to take them to The University of the West Indies. So, I set out some 12 years ago to get our young people, I struggle to get them to understand the need to pass their subjects, pass their CAPE...and we succeeded. Today, we have four that came back from Cuba after studying medicine and working as doctors somewhere in Jamaica,” said Brown.

Additionally, Brown said there are three persons from the Petersfield community who are now attending The University of the West Indies. He said two are doing dentistry while the other is studying journalism.

“So these are the things I set out to do, and I suffered for it,” stated Brown, as he recalled how he was incarcerated for “going up against demonstrators” allegedly organised by doctors in the medical field, who had opposed to the then government of the day bringing in Cuban doctors and nurses to work in local hospitals.

Cuba has over the years offered and continues to offer cooperation, mainly in the fields of health and education, in countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.


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