This post marks the "beginning of the end" 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!
By Claudia Diaz
I finished my time as a Raíces summer fellow a few weeks ago; now, thinking back and reflecting on everything that happened this summer, I can’t help but to feel incredibly grateful to have found Raíces and the opportunity to work with everyone in it. I joined this organization because I believed and identified very much with what it stood for, and because of my strong desire to do something, anything for Cuba. Over the summer, as I attained a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the organization these feelings grew stronger and stronger. I realized the amazing group of people that make up Raíces is as important as the work they do. I am grateful to have met not only outstanding leaders of the Miami community but also every single person that is on the team and that somehow contributes their time to this cause; a very diverse circle of talented young people who are all passionate about Cuba and who are doing something for it.
I think the work that Raíces does is truly invaluable. Without a doubt, helping connect Cuban youth to each other and the rest of the world has had and will continue to have tremendous influence on the future of Cuba. Knowledge and information have power beyond our thoughts; ideas give birth to more ideas, and to actions.
Contributing to this kind of work was incredible, but also gave rise to the constant questions of: -what more can we do?- is this enough?- and the final, harsh question - are we having any real influence-” I speak for myself, but I am sure this question at some point haunts anyone working towards any kind of positive change in society. However, this is part of what keeps everyone on their toes, thinking and innovating. Measuring the influence of the work we do in Raíces is hard because we often look at big pictures; we must look at the hundreds and thousands of smaller pictures. We must look at every household who now has a better way of keeping in touch, at every text and picture message sent from one young person to the other. At every video that is uploaded to the internet, opening a window to Cuba, letting everyone know. At every university student who will have a flash drive, and a way to share and attain information about the world, and Cuba itself. At every new person in a University campus who somehow learns of what goes on in Cuba and feels an urge, at least for a moment, to do something for it. And at every young Cuban outside of the island who is surprised that there are people interested in this cause and that work for it, and who are reminded or first informed that there is something that they can do for the country that is as much part of their culture and themselves as the one they live in.
There is a lot of work to do; infinite ways in which we can contribute to the growth and betterment of Cuba; but at the level of I, the individual, it all starts with a connection: to a friend, a family member, a fellow musician, student or baseball player, or a blogger. That is what Raices is all about, human connections, and at the end the bonds of love and friendship we form with people around us give way to channels of information and inspiration.
This has been an unforgettable and inspiring summer, and I hope I can continue to work towards our common dreams. I will never forget the colorful office that lent such a unique ambiance to the work we did, as well as the fun times with Chabeli, Ben, Raul, Miguel, Janelle, everyone on the team, and of course with Felice; this summer would not have been the same without his amazing leadership. Spending time with of all of you made my summer. Cheers.
Claudia Diaz will be starting her third year at the University of Chicago this fall, where she is a pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Human Rights. She came to the United States at the age of 11 and has lived in Miami ever since. To contact Claudia, email firstname.lastname@example.org.