Earlier this year, a team of three chiropractors, three chiropractic students, three chiropractic advocates and one chiropractic office manager brought chiropractic care and humanitarian supplies to the people of Cuba.
Peter Morgan, DC, founder of Mission-Chiropractic, led the five-day mission to the communist nation at a time when new hope has emerged among the Cuban residents. The group made new friendships and brought home a better understanding of the plight of people on the island. It’s believed to have been the first successful major chiropractic mission ever to visit Cuba.
The trip was endorsed and promoted by the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA), whih has put an new emphasis on humanitarian efforts throughout the world. It’s new mission statement specifically notes that it intends to “Develop, promote and support humanitarian programs that reach out to populations that, due to geographic or economic factors, cannot access chiropractic care.”
Terry A. Rondberg, DC, president and founder of the WCA, admitted that he never expected his organization to endorse a trip to Cuba. “The nation has been off limits for so long, we expected a ton of red tape, if you’ll excuse the expression. But Dr. Morgan was able to cut through the bureaucracy and focus everyone’s attention on what really mattered – bringing health care to people who needed it.”
From Nassau in the Bahamas, the team boarded a small, old Russian propeller plane. They encountered turbulence for the entire hour ride and were happy (and relieved!) to touch down in Havana, where they were greeted by hundreds of Cuban workers wearing swine flu masks. “It was really eerie, as was going through an extensive and exceedingly thorough customs protocol,” Morgan explained. “When we finally exited the airport, we felt as though we had stepped back in time. Most of the cars were made in the 1950s—but they all ran and looked as if they were brand new.”
The group stayed in a beautiful hotel overlooking Havana’s majestic harbor. The entrance to the harbor is guarded by a 400-year-old fort, built by the Spanish between 1589 and 1630, to ward off attacks by pirates and enemy fleets. In 1845, a huge lighthouse was built adjacent to the fort, which makes the entrance to the city even more picturesque. Havana looks like a combination of Spain, the Caribbean and Italy, with statues and fountains gracing many of the spacious squares, Morgan explained.
“We spent the first day like typical tourists, eating at great restaurants and even watching Cuban soldiers dressed in the uniforms of British redcoats performing a curfew-time firing of the canon, as they did when the British captured Havana in 1762.”
The following day, they set aside their tourist hats and went to work on their chiropractic mission, boarding a ferry that took them across the harbor to Regla, a poorer part of the island, completely different from the downtown tourist area of “Old Havana.”
They arrived about 8 a.m. and were met by a large group of local residents who had put on their “Sunday best” clothes. They had been waiting patiently to see the chiropractors from the United States and now jockeyed for position to get a glimpse of us. Morgan told them the chiropractic story and set up the adjusting rooms. They had not been allowed to bring portable chiropractic tables into Cuba, but the hosts had made a number of tables and set them up in several rooms of the converted church building.
The next day, part of the team was driven out to the countryside about an hour outside Havana. They set up adjusting rooms in a small church and attached house. Many of the Cubans living in the home had severe disabilities. The beds were simple slabs of wood, many without a pillow or even a cover. The floors were manufactured by the pastor in order to make more room for the people who lived there.
“When we broke for lunch or dinner we were told that honored guests eat first, everyone else later. They had so little yet they offered it to us!,” Morgan recalled. “They are so generous that when one of us made a comment on how much we liked their small, old-fashioned coffee machine, they wanted to give it to us as a gift!”
The floor of the kitchen and eating area was plain concrete but swept and mopped perfectly clean, Morgan recalled. “Life there is simple, slow,” he stated. “Generations have been born on this property and shacks have been added to accommodate the new marriages. They work hard to live; it shows on the roughness of their feet, hands and faces, but their hearts are as warm and innocent as children.
“Speaking of children, they followed us everywhere. We felt like Pied Pipers! Our digital cameras always caused fun, laughter and smiles as the children transformed themselves into athletes, circus artists, clowns and acrobats for the camera. They all posed and began doing cartwheels and flips. They immediately wanted to see their pictures. As we were leaving, kids ran alongside us, waving.
One of the team doctors enthusiastically noted, “What an incredible experience I had in Cuba. It was five of the most meaningful days of my life. …We were humbled to see many chiropractic miracles while we were there. We saw God working through us as we taught and adjusted in Havana and Regla, Cuba.”
The Cuba trip was one of a number of humanitarian efforts by Mission-Chiropractic, which has also brought chiropractic care to poor communities in Central America and the Caribbean, including Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Trips to Ethiopia and Ghana are scheduled for 2010.
To help fund the missions, Mission-Chiropractic has partnered with Mission Life International and “7 Weeks to Wellness Ministry” to create an evangelistic health ministry geared to generating new patients.
To learn more about these missions, or to sign up for an upcoming trip, visit missionlifeinternational.com or call 404-786-2014.