Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: Amazed by Raíces

This post marks the second installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months!

Amazed by Raíces

By Chabeli Castillo

My first two weeks with Raíces de Esperanza have been incredible. There is no other organization in the planet where so many brilliant, successful, and passionate people have come together to give Cuban youth a voice.

I feel very fortunate that Raíces gave me the opportunity to become part of its restless family. I don’t have words to describe how grateful I am to all the people that collaborate with Raíces, in one way or the other. Their dedication to empowering the Cuban youth is admirable, and it is what makes Raíces de Esperanza so unique and genuine.

I came from Cuba to The United States in 2008, and I can tell you that what Raíces is doing for the youth in Cuba is exactly what I would have loved for someone to do for me when I lived in the island. The youth in Cuba live within an atmosphere of constant pessimism, and their only hope of having a future is leaving the country.

The Cubans in the island need to know that there are people out there who care about them, and want to give them the support that they need to be able to make the changes that they want in their society. It is very gratifying to see the excitement and gratefulness that they embrace Raíces de Esperanza with.

We have already started very promising projects that we will be working on throughout the summer, and I can’t wait to celebrate the accomplishments. We are profoundly determined to bring, relief, friendship, love, and hope into the lives of many Cubans on the island.

Chabeli came from Cuba to the United States in 2008. She will be starting her 3rd year of college next fall, pursuing an environmental science/policy making major at Warren Wilson College, North Carolina. She is passionate about defending the fundamental rights of the Cuban people. Email to contact her.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Call to Action: Carlos Saladrigas

Carlos Saladrigas - Co-Chairman of the Cuba Study Group, Chairman and CEO of Regis HR Group, and long-time community activist in and outside of Miami - entreats Roots of Hope to action at the 2011 Roots of Hope Conference in Boston.

If you cannot see the video below, click on this link.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: An Exciting Beginning

This post marks the first installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months!

An Exciting Beginning

By Ben Tyler

For the vast majority of my life, the last thing people thought when they saw me was “Cuban”. My name is Benjamin Tyler, I burnt easily in the sun, and as far as most were concerned I was as “American” as it got. Granted, I am half American. My father is what many would call a gringo; his family has been in the United States for several generations and in Miami for the past three. My mother is the daughter of Cuban exiles who came to the United States escaping an oppressive regime and looking for a better life. Yet, because of the unique nature of South Florida, being half American is enough to give you the label. It wasn’t until I left Miami for college that I truly became cognizant of my complete identity and began to identify with (and be identified by) my Cuban roots.

I decided to apply for the Raíces de Esperanza Fellowship because it affords me the opportunity to be a part of a cause that transcends borders, politics, and widely-accepted social frameworks, as well as the chance to learn more about myself and where I come from. Very rarely does one get an opportunity like the Raíces Fellowship and I am very grateful that I am on board. I first heard about Raíces through a friend who was involved in the organization and was lucky enough to attend the 2011 conference at Boston College. I was amazed not only by the elevated level of dialogue, but the caliber of the people. The strength of Raíces stems directly from those involved, its literal Roots of Hope.

Over the course of this summer I hope to gain a better understanding of the everyday life of my peers on the island; those who, in the grand scheme of things, are just like I am but have not been granted the same luxuries. My goal is to realize the ways that I can best serve them, think of the most effective way to achieve it, and use the Raíces network to carry it out. As I have begun to identify more with my Cuban heritage, I have also begun to understand the responsibility that I have to my brothers and sisters on the island. Raíces is the perfect forum to accomplish my goals and expand my horizons and I am excited to learn new things, meet new people, and have the chance to help empower a new generation.

One of the first things I was told when I started the fellowship was that Raíces doesn’t deal with “Cuban issues” but with “Human issues”; given my background and experiences, to me they are one and the same.

Ben Tyler is a rising sophomore in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Raíces de Esperanza 2011 Summer Fellow. To contact Ben, email

Monday, June 20, 2011

Call to Action: Orlando Marquez

Orlando Marquez, Editor and Director of the Archdiocese of Havana's Palabra Nueva magazine, entreats Roots of Hope to action at the 2011 Roots of Hope Conference in Boston.

If you cannot see the video below, click on this link.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Launching Run for Roots!

Roots of Hope kicked off the inaugural run for its Run for Roots campaign on Saturday, June 11th, 2011 in New York City’s Central Park. Carmen Pelaez, Ana Pelaez, Natalia Martinez and Elena Castañeda powered through the New York Road Runner’s Mini 10k to raise awareness about Roots of Hope and its mission of empowering Cuban youth. The run was coupled with a grassroots, online fundraising drive, conducted during the weeks leading up to the race.

Run for Roots is a new campaign designed to bring a sense of purpose to the athletic events out members and supporters often participate in. It is also an opportunity to rally others to support our commitment to Roots of Hope and bring awareness to the plight of youth in Cuba.

In the coming months, we will continue to select and run races in several cities throughout the US, as well as refine the program further. Run for Roots will culminate in a running of the ING Miami Half Marathon on January 29, 2012. Roots of Hope is registered as a participating charity and participants will be able to select to run under our name!

If you think you have a race that would be an awesome opportunity for Run for Roots in your city or would like to join us for the half marathon in Miami, please let us know! Any questions, great ideas, etc - please reach out to Elena ( or Natalia (!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Call to Action: Chris Sabatini

Chris Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly and Senior Director of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, sends a message to Roots of Hope at the 2011 Roots of Hope Conference in Boston!

If you cannot see the video below, click on this link.