Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Something is fishy In Havana! That's a good thing.

Dispatches from Havana –

(On-the-spot news from Susana Hurlich, the Spanky Project’s coordinator in Cuba)

The Spanky Project, with the help of its many supporters, continues to provide assistance to the educational workshops for children carried out by Quinta de los Molinos.

Coming under the Historian’s Office of the City of Havana, Quinta – as it’s frequently called – is a centre that since 2006 has been committed to environmental education mainly for children and the community. The aim is simple yet essential: to instil the values of love, care and protection of nature, both flora and fauna.

Occupying some 4.8 hectares in the middle of the city and touching three different municipalities (Cerro, Plaza and Centro Havana), Quinta has a story that goes back to Havana’s colonial days. Today it is replete with trees (some 1,100 representing 175 species) and plants – and even some animals - that are endemic to Cuba.

Every week, some twenty workshops on a wide range of themes relating to nature take place for primary school students, elders, and children and young adults with special educational needs (Down Syndrome, Autism, Learning Disabilities, etc.) One of the workshops provided for children and youth deals with the care of ornamental fish and plants for aquariums as well as open outdoor fish tanks. Weekly, approximately twenty-one children participate. These workshops are also provided for children and youth who need special education programmes, as part of Cuba’s commitment to ensuring social inclusion for all. A recess period takes place during the summer months of July and August, with the workshops beginning again in September. Dr. Leyssan Cepero, Quinta’s dynamic and committed veterinarian, is training two teachers who will assist him with the children. Here’s an image of Leyssan sitting in front of one of the open fish tanks used in the workshops:
Dr. Leyssan with an open outdoor fish tank in the background.

Recently, and through the generous assistance of two of our Spanky Project supports (Anna from Toronto, Canada and Susan from Manhattan, New York), we were able to assist Quinta in their purchase of ornamental aquatic fish and ornamental aquatic plants for their Workshops on Aquarium (or Fish Tank) Care for Children and Youth. Of a total of CUC 179 that was provided, CUC 94 was dedicated to purchasing ornamental aquatic plants and the remainder for purchasing 484 ornamental fish that included twenty-two different species.

The fish, whose care and diet are part of what the children learn, were distributed among Quinta’s open outdoor tanks as well as several large fish tanks, the majority of which are used in the Workshops. For the ornamental aquatic plants, a total of 70 different species were purchased which were planted in the open outdoor tanks, most of which were used in the Aquarium and Open Tank Workshops, where the children and youth learned how to plant them, prune them and prepare the specific underwater substratum in which these plants are located and where they propagate. Below are images of some of the children standing around one of the outdoor open fish tanks and preparing the aquatic plants. The second image shows the aquatic plants placed in the water with several varieties of ornamental fish swimming around them.

Learning how to prepare the substratum for ornamental aquatic plants 
Ornamental aquatic plants and fish in the outdoor open tank.

Among the more common species of ornamental fish (and a few images) that were purchased are the following (with the names of their species in Spanish):

Barbo cereza
Barbo chuberthy
Barbo rosa
Coridora paleatus
Danio malabárico
Gouramis enano
Tetra cobre
Tetra ecuatoriana
Tetra emperador
Tetra limón
Tetra negra
Tetra neón
Tetra serpa



 Tetra neón

Among the more common species of ornamental aquatic plants (and a few images) that were purchased are the following (with the names of their species in Spanish):

Anubia enana
Aponogetum crispus
Bacopa carolineana
Bacopa monnieri
Cinta sagitaria
Criptorcorina hoja fina
Criptorcorina hoja gruesa
Cryptocorine wendtti
Eleocharis Aciculanis
Equinodorus diamante rojo
Equinodorus leopardo oxidental
Equinodorus red flame
Equinodorus rose
Heterantera zosterifolia
Hydrocotyle sombrerillo
Hygrophila difformis
Myriophilium acuaticum
Myriophilium tuberculatum
Rotala rotundifolia rosada
Rotala wallichii
Rotala rotundifolia
Vallisneria caulescens

Cinta sagitari

 Equinodorus rose

 Rotala Willichii 

Rotalarotundifolia rosada

Note: We’ll be able to add images of the special education children working on this project in the latter part of September, when the photographer who took the images returns with the group in mid-September to begin the workshops anew.

There’s no question but that initiatives such as these are bearing fruit. One only has to see the art work created by the children in their different workshops at Quinta to see how they feel. Here’s one that says Amamos los Animales (We love Animals):
If you’d like to help Quinta’s ornamental fish and aquatic plants workshops…

Up to now, the Quinta Aquarium and Outdoor Water Tank Workshops have been able to obtain – through short-term loans from private fish breeders - small fish tanks for the practical part of the activity where the children learn how to care for fish. However, this is no longer the case. What Quinta would like to do is to arrange to have fifteen or twenty small fish tanks made that would belong to them. To make one tank costs between CUC 8 and CUC 10. Fifteen to twenty small fish tanks would thus cost a minimum of CUC 120 (for fifteen @ CUC 8) and a maximum of CUC 200 (for twenty @ CUC 10). If you’d like to assist this project – with whatever you can provide - please contact the Spanky Project.

Note- 1 CUC is more or less on par to 1 USD 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Treasure!

A few weeks ago I was combing through an old desktop computer in preparation for disposal.
One file I came across brought back a flood of memories.
And in reading it ... a flood of tears. 

Mags Kandis my, then, longtime partner put this tribute together in memory of our Spanky.

These pictures were taken on September 1st, 2003.
We went for a visit to her favourite beach....
it was cool and cloudy--- a perfect dog day.
On September 5th 2003... we said good-bye.
Spanky is off catching frogs and rabbits........
we miss her every moment of every day.

Spanky is my other eyes that can see above the clouds;
my other ears that hear above the winds.
She is the part of me that can reach out into the sea.
She has told me a thousand times over that I am her reason for being; 
by the way she rests against my leg;
by the way she thumps her tail at my smallest smile or the slightest move;
by the way she shows her hurt when I leave without taking her.
(I think it makes her sick with worry when she is not along to care for me.)
When I am wrong, she is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, she acts goofy to make me smile.
When I am happy, she is joy unbounded.
When I am a fool, she ignores it.
When I succeed, she brags and struts.
Without her, I am only another human.
With her, I am all-powerful and magical.
She is loyalty itself.... plain and simple.
She has taught me the meaning of unwavering devotion.
With her, I know a secret comfort and a private peace.
She has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.
Her head on my knee can heal any and all human hurts.
Her presence by my side is protection against
 my fears of dark and unknown things.
She has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need her.
And I will - as I always have.
She is my dog...

She is Spanky ...
dog most loved and adored.
good bye my boobala....

These words were interpreted from a poem by Gene Hill.

Spanky 1995 - 2003
... and forever