Lay volunteers at the service of a community mission

22nd of January 2021

Olivier and Anne-Claire have been International Solidarity Volunteers for a year and a half, serving the mission of the community of Saint Martin in Placetas, Cuba. Anne-Claire is in charge of communications and fundraising, as well as educational support for young girls in the neighbourhood, while Olivier is managing the creation of a farm whose aim will be to provide food for families and a retirement home.


Anne-Claire and Olivier with their two daughters (right), with another couple of Fidesco volunteers and young people from the Mission.

Far from the idea that tourists may have of the island, Cuba is going through a difficult period of extreme poverty. Shortages are increasing, prices are soaring and Cubans are at their wits’ end, exhausted from working to survive, exhausted from struggling to feed themselves. Some have only one meal a day, others have no means of washing. Basic necessities are impossible to find in the street or reach unimaginable prices, $15 for shampoo for an average salary of $45…

In this painful context, three priests and a deacon are present to bring Jesus to the poorest and to give them hope. It is not easy to think about Lent when life is already so hard. However, priests are no less demanding and call everyone to give themselves to those who are poorer than they are, to spend more time praying and to live closer to Christ.

The example and generosity the priests give, through their ultimate gift, moves us as lay people and volunteers. Having left more than a year and a half ago for a mission in Cuba at the service of the Community of Saint Martin, their lives given entirely to the lost sheep never cease to touch us. From sunrise to sunset, they are devoted body and soul to the Cubans. Through many missions: soup kitchens, visits to the sick, a retirement home, a pharmacy, a boarding school, day care centres and a farm, the priests manage to take care of all generations.

We work for the priests and therefore have the chance to be with them every day and to experience their lives a little more. When one is visiting the sick, the others is saying Mass in the campo, accompanying a dying person, playing with children, teaching catechism, preparing the Holy Hours in all the mission places, without forgetting their prayer life and the daily offices.

If their life devoted to God is a witness for us all and a call to give themselves more each day without counting the cost, their life in community is a concrete example of charity. Constantly wanting the good of their brother, accepting to question themselves, to change and to grow. And finally, we realise that this charity must also be lived within our own families, despite the intense rhythm of the mission, despite fatigue and the hazards of life.