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South L.A. youth group travels to Havana, Cuba


Thanks to Sanctuary of Hope

Sanctuary of Hope was established in 2010 by a group of frustrated South Los Angeles professionals who saw the growing and unaddressed need for youth homelessness resources and assistance within the South Los Angeles community. Just recently, Sanctuary of Hope took a South Los Angeles group comprised of youth, staff, and board members to help aid those in need of humanitarian assistance in Havana, Cuba. Cuba has been suffering due to economic woes for  decades. However, despite all of the issues  plaguing Cuba, Sanctuary of Hope, and the non-profit organization, Not Just Tourists are determined to make a difference, however possible.

“Utilizing a popular education model, the SOH Destinations program is a unique immersive leadership development program that invites our system-impacted young people to intentionally bridge with a people in a particular place, examine how their pain paved a path to renewed power and re-positioned purpose for bold and equitable belonging in the world,” says Reverend Kelvin Sauls, who has curated the experience, and facilitated sessions in Cuba.

The Sanctuary of Hope group engaged in a week of education and enlightenment on topics such as health, community care, arts and culture, and the impact of the US blockade. The humanitarian projects focused their efforts on two major needs, (i.e. medical and office supplies and community resilience). With them, they brought 12 suitcases filled with 30 pounds of essential medical supplies to distribute to both local hospitals and clinics. In addition to stuffed suitcases, they brought two duffel bags filled with office and stationery supplies gathered by SOH delegation members.

Luisa Marie Gonzalez, Vice President of Presna Latina, a news agency in Cuba presented the supplies. Cuba is dealing with life-threatening and dangerous circumstances, various factors contributing to their challenges include food and resource shortages, electrical blackouts, and limited access to medical supplies. According to, throughout the last two years, three percent of Cuban citizens have fled to the United States for refuge.

The group engaged in several unique educational, cultural, and recreational activities in several communities throughout Western Cuba. The delegation had the opportunity to ride in antique cars and visit the Nacional Hotel, old Havana, the African Museum, the caves of the Indians in Vinales, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Park, and Centro Fidel Castro Ruz.

The University of Havana offered the delegation the opportunity to attend a multigenerational community art celebration in Old Havana. There they met the first female veteran who was featured in the docu-series, “Cuba Libre”, documenting the fight for the liberation of Angola. In closing, participant Aaminah Parker, a recent graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, said “To know the Cuban people is to know how solidarity and strength continue to prevail in a country embellished with culture and antiquity.”