A Chance for Hope

Sporting her 6 Gold Medals in track events

Sporting her 6 Gold Medals in track events

She’s only 15, yet Leidis is recognized in Cuba as an up and coming track star- competing in the 100, 200, and 400 meter races.  Never mind that she is Deaf and can’t hear the starters pistol.  She has won 6 first place finishes and the Cuban Sports Federation has offered her an opportunity to be part of the National track team and earn a payment of 500 pesos per month ($20 CUC / $23 USD) once she turns 16 years old (by law).  

If her success continues at the national level as she hopes, she can potentially be offered the opportunity to compete on the international level representing Cuba with an increase in pay as a member of the team.  Why did I mention the potential income?  Take a look at her home and you can see that every peso counts.

Leidis, sitting in the living room at the other end of the house from the kitchen... that comprises a plastic covered work table as a counter and makeshift kitchen cabinet.

Leidis, sitting in the living room at the other end of the house from the kitchen... that comprises a plastic covered work table as a counter and makeshift kitchen cabinet.

Track is something Leidis is gifted in physically, and is passionate about it.  As she realized how good she is… she saw an opportunity to help her family as well.  

Outside of Track and competition, Leidis lives with her parents, a sister and a new-born niece in a wood board clad structure just outside the main part of Guantánamo where pothole strewn roads turn into wide, unimproved paths.  

I had a chance to observe the family dynamics and see how close they were to each other. Her family communicates in sign language with her, and it was obvious from our visit that Leidis is part of an affectionate family that involves her in all they do.   Leidis attends the School for the Deaf in Guantánamo, has some learning delays but is skilled in sewing (needlepoint, knitting) to create different things.  She receives training at the school in those skills but all materials and tools must remain at the school.  Leidis desires to obtain these sewing tools to use this skill at home to turn it into a trade that will allow her to sell items for income as her track career will only last so long and she will need alternate sources of income for the long term.

A needlepoint project she made at school... The Amish ladies in Lancaster County will be impressed.

A needlepoint project she made at school... The Amish ladies in Lancaster County will be impressed.

Leidis’s family originally lived in a remote mountain town with no programs for deaf children, so they relocated to Guantánamo so Leidis can attend the School for the Deaf.  Her mother attends church and has always brought Leidis with her.  At first they went to a local church near home, but they did not have interpreters nor a program for the deaf.   The mother learned from someone that there was a church in Guantánamo with a deaf ministry, and has been attending that church with Leidis since even though it’s far from home (considering most travel by foot, bus or horse buggy taxi) and is a sacrifice she is willing to make for her daughter. 

While there are not many deaf teens involved in that program, Leidis nevertheless enjoys going, learning more and growing in her faith as evidenced in the young adult bible study classes where she shows an eagerness to learn more about Christ with a big smile on her face.  When given a chance for hope in a place like Cuba... you grab it and run!

Mike Ver Velde