HAVANA, Jan 19 Cuban Elda William, a 60-year-old former psychologist, had been making ends meet selling cellphone plans – until a sewage pipe at her home office burst, putting off prospective clients.No one has come to fix it and her income dried up, leaving her with little choice but to turn to Quisicuaba, a community-led soup kitchen for the hungry in central Havana.
Those benefits – including a monthly ration of basics such as rice, beans, sugar, cooking oil and coffee – have been scaled back over the years and particularly recently, as the economic crisis has resulted in shortages and high prices. That has forced citizens in need to look elsewhere for a meal.
Staff also provide a delivery service for those in need who can’t reach the impeccably clean and brightly decorated soup kitchen in central Havana.
Quisicuaba leader Enrique Aleman, a Cuban lawmaker who has received accolades from President Miguel Diaz-Canel for his work with the soup kitchen, said the island’s ailing economy – made worse, he said, by severe U.S. sanctions – provides the backdrop for the group’s work, but is not its principal driver.
Many who appear on the doorstep of Quisicuaba, he said, suffer from a range of existing problems exacerbated by the recent economic crisis – often related to addiction, nutrition, health, or family issues – and he said his fast-growing project aims to provide a holistic response, including counseling, shelter and food.
The group has expanded recently, opening a shelter in San Antonio de los Baños, outside Havana, which aims at another problem increasingly apparent in Cuba as the economy slides: homelessness.
The shelter, which also has an agricultural component to help grow food for the soup kitchen, currently cares for 53 people but aims to have as many as 570 at full capacity, staff said.
Angela Figueroa, 66, was living on the streets when she heard of the Quisicuaba soup kitchen. From there she eventually made her way to the new center in San Antonio de los Baños.