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Tue Jul 18, 2017, 11:54 PM

Castro's casa: social work lessons from Cuba

Social workers defy poverty, foster social justice and prevent social problems leading to poor health by supporting the oldest population in Latin America

Rory Truell
Tuesday 18 July 2017 06.46 EDT

In a street of salmon and teal painted houses, once home to wealthy colonial administrators, sits the Casa del Abuelo. Now a community centre providing free day services for older inhabitants of the neighbourhood, Casa del Abuelo – or home for grandparents – was the first of many such facilities set up by Fidel Castro during a wave of social reforms to provide care and support for ordinary Cubans after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US economic blockade crippled the country’s economy.

The warm pastel colours of the building and Cuban flag fluttering in the humid Caribbean breeze accord well with the gentle kindheartedness I found inside.

Julio, an 89-year-old member, clasped my hand as she showed me around the converted colonial mansion. She explained that each day in this community-led enterprise starts with breakfast and a discussion about politics.

After this, it is exercise classes. “The key to long life is an active mind and body,” she said. She then showed me the occupational therapy facilities and crafts that members make daily. “The men don’t do this though,” she said with a smile. “They prefer checkers – they think it’s more manly.”


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