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Citos story my father hid under a mattress as Sandy destroyed the house

Like many Cuban Red Cross volunteers who are responding after Hurricane Sandy, Cito’s own family were severely affected by the storm. His 77-year-old father Rafael was lucky to escape with his life.

Rafael and Cito Provenza both come from a community in Holguin, a province hit hard by the hurricane. Cito is a community volunteer for the Cuban Red Cross with his local branch.

Initially, Cito thought the storm would not cause much damage: “At first we thought the storm would just bring rain, so we didn’t really worry about it. My father Rafael was by himself, as we had left to take care of our two young daughters.”

Miracle survival

When the hurricane hit, Rafael sought refuge under a mattress as the house was torn apart around him. Cito says: “The house was completely blown backwards, but luckily my father stayed under his mattress and close to the last remaining wall.”

One Red Cross volunteer, who helped evaluate of the situation after Sandy, said it was a miracle that Rafael was not killed.

Now the storm has passed, the cleanup can begin. The air is filled with sound of sawing and hammering as the community begins to repair the damage wrought by Sandy’s passage.

Volunteers working tirelessly

Like many other families in Cuba, the Provenzas have lost nearly everything and face a difficult and long recovery. Cito is working with Red Cross volunteers and other community members to build a provisional shelter for his chickens – an important source of income for his family, which will help them get back on their feet.

Red Cross volunteers have been working round the clock to help those most in need. Dr. Luis Foyo Ceballos, director general of the Cuban Red Cross, says: “Our volunteers have been working tirelessly from the onset of the hurricane. This fills us with pride because they are providing assistance despite the fact they have been affected.”

In Santiago – one of the worst-affected provinces – 94 per cent of volunteers helping with municipal operations and relief work were themselves affected by Sandy, with many seeing severe damage to their homes.

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