Dedicated ORT students from Mexico have delivered more than two dozen suitcases full of humanitarian aid to members of Cuba’s Jewish community.
After weeks of planning, the Tikun Olam-focused trip was completed earlier this month when the group of 11 senior high school pupils and two teachers travelled to the Latin American island to distribute the much-needed items.
The trip was made possible thanks to links established by the Colegio Israelita de Mexico (CIM-ORT) school in Mexico City and ORT Cuba.
Amelie Esquenazi, ORT’s Networking Coordinator for Latin America, said: “Our students learned about the economic and cultural crisis that our brothers are facing in the island and they took immediate action.”
William Miller, ORT’s representative in Cuba, organised the itinerary, working with Senior High School Director Miriam Efter and Ms Esquenazi.
The Mexican students had prepared for the trip with special classes on the background of Cuba’s Jewish community to understand what it means to live in a Communist country while trying to preserve your roots and traditions.
After a campaign among friends, family and the local Jewish community, 26 suitcases packed with vital items, medicine and money, were collected.
Once on the island, ORT students took part in sessions to clean the Jewish cemetery, cook for the elderly, and visit the sick. Additional voluntary work was undertaken at the Joshua White Community Centre.
“Our students learned an important lesson, that when you give with the heart, you get much more in return,” Ms Esquenazi said.
She said the five-day trip was one of the most significant projects she had participated in.
Avi Meir, CIM-ORT principal, said: “The school has been working hard for many years to promote the Jewish concept of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and help the needy and the weak.
“The students learned an important lesson on what it means to help our brothers worldwide. The mission to Cuba was one of the many instances that make me feel very proud to be the principal of an ORT school.
“Amelie Esquenazi excels in linking Jewish communities from different countries through projects like this, which she plans and carries out to the last detail. Thanks to her expertise in the field of education, she is a priceless asset.
“We collected a lot of necessities, medicines and money to ease the plight of our brothers on the island. Miriam Efter coordinated the project from the beginning and also went to Cuba with the students. This project was an important life lesson for everybody involved.
“I want to thank the Mexican Jews for their generosity. We collected so many items that the suitcases were bursting.”
The school now plans to make a documentary film about the project.
CIM-ORT has almost 600 students, and alongside its focus on STEM education, concentrates on providing pupils with a focus on global vision, Jewish identity, patriotism and social responsibility.
The Tikun Olam programme at the school fosters social empathy towards families, the community and nation, while developing attitudes, values and methods capable of promoting positive social change.
The school has previously undertaken many ORT network collaborations, programmes and exchange visits with ORT students in Russia and Argentina.