Puente de Amistad

Eduardo Azcárate

Puente de Amistad wishes to maintain a bridge of friendship with suffering Cubans inside the Island, promoting their human dignity and values. We want them to know that those who are outside Cuba think about them, remain one in spirit with them, pray for them, and wish to be of support to them in whatever way possible, big or small. 

Puente relies on the care and love for Cuba of a group of volunteers who find ways to be of help to those who suffer most in Cuba: our children, youth, and families. Projects require leaders with a vision and dedication.  Under the leadership of Manela Suarez Diez, who serves Puente as president of the Board, we found a new and unique opportunity to help in March 2006. At a Consistory in Rome, we met personally with Cardinal Ortega, Havana’s archbishop at the time. He shared with us the effort of the Church in Cuba to participate in the life of the community, and their attempt to meet the most basic needs of the people of God, beyond the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. He moved our hearts as he shared the establishment of a couple of daycare centers under church auspices. Although not officially approved by the government, they were well attended, even by families who did not fully identify themselves with the Catholic faith.

Soon after our meeting with Cardenal Ortega, we visited Cuba to study the possibility of helping the work the Church had begun. We were inspired by the courage and dedication of the religious and laity running those daycare centers. We came back determined to help, and Puente de Amistad was created. We have grown from 2006 through 2023 with the help of generous donors, and a group of dedicated friends who have spent significant time and effort to support a number of beautiful projects throughout Cuba, from Pinar del Rio, through Santa Clara, and all the way to Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.

Our Mission Statement states that “Puente de Amistad supports programs in Cuba to promote the educational, spiritual, and moral development of children, youth and families, particularly in poor or rural areas.” 

From the one daycare center in Havana that we began helping in 2006, we are now supporting three centers in Pinar del Rio, two centers in Holguin, and one in Havana. We have been able to extend our help to a wide range of programs within the scope of our mission. We have supported programs for children and youth who are intellectually challenged and receive very little help from the government. A program to teach girls to sew, importing sewing machines and materials from Central America under the auspices of a religious community. Providing funds to serve breakfast before school to hundreds of children who would go hungry without this support. Funding a summer camp for children and youth to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity, and to help them develop quality friendships and moral values through this activity. These are but a few of the projects we have been able to support through the generosity of friends, families and other organizations who value our work, specifically the Agrupación Católica Universitaria. We welcome friends to visit our www.puentedeamistad.com web page, to learn more about Puente de Amistad.

In closing, I would like to mention one particular program in the province of Santa Clara, that I truly love: Sembrando Fe y Esperanza – Planting seeds of Faith and Hope. This is a year-round program reaching an average of 60 to 80 adolescents between ages 13 and 18 years of age under the supervision of 20 lay adult leaders. They meet weekly in small and large groups to provide formation and leadership training, and guiding them to choose healthy and moral life patterns. It includes visits to remote towns in the province of Santa Clara, to instruct, and to inspire a positive spiritual and moral life.

That is the hope of the dedicated and totally voluntary Board of Directors of Puente de Amistad. It is our wish to plant seeds of faith and hope in our Cuban youth, and to make them aware that although far from the homeland, we truly care for them.

Eduardo Azcarate: Psychology Catholic Univ. of America; founder of Youth Apostles; co-founder of Puente de Amistad.