Winter coats for nurses in Cuba
February 2, 2007

Winter coats for nurses in Cuba

by Nelson A. King in New York 2.FEB.07

Did you know that it gets very cold, around this time of the year, in Cuba? Well, believe it or not, it gets so cold that Vincentians in the Big Apple have expeditiously dispatched boxes of winter coats for their compatriots studying nursing in Cuba.

In responding to a plea for help by the New York Consulate General and former Cuban medical student Dr. Stanley John, a few Brooklyn-based Vincentian groups – Ex-Teachers’ Association, Bequia United Progressive Organization (BUPO), St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses’ Association of New York, Inc., and the Girls High School Alumnae, among others – and individuals have come to the “rescue” of the students.{{more}}

“I was so pleased with the quick response,” said Dr. John, a former Grammar School student, who studied medicine in Cuba over a decade ago, noting that temperatures can reach the freezing mark at times.

“Some of these groups dropped money on us,” added John, pointing out that a winter coat is absolutely necessary in Cuba, from around November to March, because of the falling temperatures, compounded by the wind-chill factor.

“The response was phenomenal,” he continued. “This thing (appeal), we did under two weeks.”

John said he and the Consulate General sprang into action at the request of National Mobilization Minister Mike Browne, who recently returned from Havana, where he met with 85 nursing students on scholarship, courtesy the Cuban government.

Though numerous Caribbean governments, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have, over the years, benefited immensely from Cuban scholarships and other largesse, it was the first time that Havana was offering scholarships for Vincentian nursing students.

John said Browne – who was instrumental in initiating the scholarship programme, when he was education then foreign affairs minister – learned that lack of winter coats was the students’ main concern.

“So he urged us to help as much as we can,” John said. “I, then, called up the consulate, and the Consul General started the ball rolling.

“The response was so rapid that when I got home at nights, people had already left coats,” he said.

“We attended a couple of social events and made the appeal,” said Cozier, who made the first announcement at his annual Christmas Awards Ceremony and Party last December, disclosing, however, that the largest response came at BUPO’s annual Christmas Party in Brooklyn.

He also revealed that small businesses, such as Samuel’s Hardware, and entrepreneurs, including Lam Damzil, a Bequia native, made donations as well.

The coats were then shipped, at a reduced rate, by Standard Caribbean Shippers in Brooklyn.

Claudette Martin-Cupid, a former acting Senior Nursing Officer at the Kingstown General Hospital, renamed Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Nurses Association of New York, Inc., was happy to make a financial donation to the worthy cause.

“Since they’re Vincentian nurses, we decided to help,” she said. “That’s the least we can do.

“If you’re not comfortable, you can’t study,” added the group’s Corresponding Secretary. “Our whole objective is for the professional development of nurses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and New York.”

“I really want to thank Vincentians for their response,” John said. “I was so pleased with their response that it makes me want to start a non-profit organization.”

John and Cozier said they are also seriously contemplating making the appeal an annual affair.