Serving families. Helping children. Feeding seniors.
Supplying hospitals. Providing humanitarian
aid to Cubans in need.
A rewarding volunteer experience out of the ordinary. Our volunteers travel to Cuba, meet the families and doctors we work with, and distribute the aid in person.
Join the First-Hand Aid community. Share your experience and learn from others who have traveled to Cuba to bring supplies to families and hospitals in need.
Your donation makes a difference in the daily lives of Cuban families. Contribute today to provide medical supplies for hospitals and financial support for families in Cuba.
Sign up for the First-Hand Aid periodic newsletter
Cuba is a vibrant country with a rich heritage that has been frozen in time. Hospitals often lack modern technology and medication, and families struggle to make ends meet and put food on their tables. To the Cuban people, it can seem like the world has moved on without them.
At First-Hand Aid we reach out and lend them a helping hand. We provide much needed humanitarian aid to the children, families, and healthcare professionals in Cuba. We also provide a personal touch and build lasting relationships with the Cuban people we work with because our volunteers travel to Cuba and deliver medical supplies and support in person.
With the help of our committed donors and volunteers, we provide aid through four programs:
Serving Families: We deliver financial assistance to struggling families Havana. On a monthly basis, we supplement their meager income with financial assistance. It is a small dollar-amount by U. S. standards, but it provides significant assistance to families where individuals typically only earn $50 per month.
Providing Medical Supplies: We support multiple hospitals in Cuba, facilities that are both in the capital city of Havana and in the rural setting of Güines. We deliver, in person, aid such as: equipment, supplies, and medication – everything from over-the-counter fever reducers to expensive antibiotics.
Supplying Day-to-Day Products: We deliver personal hygiene products and other supplies to families and clinics in Cuba. Without our help, these people would not have access to basic daily products that we take for granted in the U.S. like deodorant, toothpaste, and soap.
Feeding Seniors: Working with the Iglesia Rosario church in Cuba, we provide the funding and organizational support for a seniors meal program. The strength that can come from a simple nourishing meal that these seniors can’t otherwise be able to afford can make all the difference in their lives.
Co-founder of First Hand Aid, Marc made his first trip to Cuba in September of 1999. The great need and hope for the future first attracted Marc to the people of Cuba, focusing on the needs of children first. Marc continues this work because he believes that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
READ MARC’S PROFILE IN THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Early in the last century my grandparents immigrated from Spain to the USA by way of Cuba. On their way, they managed to absorb quite a bit of that Cuban culture. So, in 1999 when I first visited the island, it felt very familiar. Chance certainly shapes our lives and those of our children. How amazingly different are the lives of my middle-aged peers in Cuba whose grandparents decided to stay. Chance also presents us with opportunities. In 1999 I recognized an opportunity to serve something greater than myself. First-Hand Aid has become a vehicle for that service for myself and now for many others. The chance that has separated our destinies has now brought them together.
Note: Bob was named a board member emeritus in 2011.
Paul Gezon first traveled to Cuba in 2006, and the experience caused him to change his college major to International Relations. Since that initial trip, Paul has traveled annually and joined the board in 2013 to put his social media skills to use for the children and families of Cuba.
Joel Talsma joined the board in 2008 and currently serves as the board treasurer. During Joel’s first trip to Cuba in 2008 he knew that this is where he belonged and that Cuba would never leave him. Since this time, he has regularly traveled back to Havana. After each trip he returns with a greater appreciation of the importance of the work there and a sense of wanting to do more. The passion of the people and their growing needs inspires him to continue to help his friends in Cuba. You can often see him on the streets of Havana supplying kids with baseballs and gloves and even playing a game of catch with them. Joel hopes that every traveler will be inspired to make a difference in this world and be the change you want to see.
Mary joined the board in 2011. She and her husband, Steve first traveled to Cuba in 2009 and made a subsequent trip in 2011. She initially traveled to help people with so much less and also to satisfy a curiosity of what Cuba was really like. She was quickly impressed with the needs and the warmth of the Cuban people. She looks forward to additional travel to Cuba and is grateful every day for what we have and for the freedom we enjoy in the U.S. By serving she wants to help enhance the mission of First Hand Aid in their effort to provide needed medical supplies and help fulfill the daily needs of the Cuban people.
Gregg Vanderzwaag and his wife ended up in Cuba recently, after deciding it would be an interesting way to celebrate a 10 year wedding anniversary. While there, they fell in love with Cuba. The people they met in the hospitals, during meal delivery for the meals program, as well as the community of people First Hand Aid has connected with over the years prove how diverse, strong, and beautiful the Cuban people truly are. Although they’re back home in the States, parts of their hearts remain in Cuba and it’s definitely a place they plan to visit again.
Ron Hoekman’s medical mission work started in 1997 at the Kikuyu Hospital, in Kikuyu Kenya. He has returned to Kenya and also have worked at St Jude Hospital in St Lucia several times. In January 2010 after their devastating earthquake. Ron traveled to Haiti with a medical team from Western Michigan to aid in their recovery.Other non-medical mission trips have taken him to New Orleans, Texas, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
Hilda joined the board in late 2013. Born in Cuba, her parents received approval to emigrate when she was just 3 years old. “They put us on a plane with name tags and told my brother not to let go of my hand until he seen my aunt & uncle who were waiting for us in Miami. My parents and 1 year old sister received their approval 6 months later and we were reunited. Unfortunately, this was not the future for many Cubans. I’ve been so blessed to have lived in the United States all these years.”
Hilda traveled with Marc in June of 2012 to Cuba and is motivated to make a real difference and impact in the lives of the Cuban people who are in need of so much assistance.
Kyle Rasikas is a local internist who studied at Aquinas, Wayne State and did his residency at Blodgett and Saint Mary’s Hospital. Kyle provides an extremely valuable medical perspective for the activities of First Hand Aid.
Jennifer Waters has travelled to Cuba twice in the last two years, utilizing her skills as a photographer to document the lives of the children and families First Hand Aid supports. As she wrote recently of meeting one of our senior recipients of meals named Maria: “She didn’t want me to see her missing teeth, but we ended up laughing so much that it couldn’t be helped. She taught me to say “I love you” in Spanish, and we said it back and forth to each other, hugging and laughing. She was grateful for the small gift, but I think the greater gift was meeting Maria.”
Save the Dates!
Havana Night Grand Rapids is Friday, June 19, 2015. CLICK HERE TO ORDER TICKETS
First-Hand Aid Golf Classic is Monday, September 28, 2015. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
“Havana in Chicago Raises Money for Impoverished Cubans” – Windy City Times, July 21, 2014
December 12 2014Executive Director Marc Bohland speaks to WOOD-TV about this historic announcement and what it means for our work and the Cuban people.
January 1 2007This provides an overview of life in Cuba and those served by First Hand Aid
November 11 2013Joy Walzcak from 8West provides an introduction to traveling to Cuba with First Hand Aid.
November 11 2013From hospitals to homes to clinics, Joy Walczak from 8West reviews the work that First Hand Aid does to aid children and families in Cuba.
November 11 2013Joy Walczak from 8West shows some of the activities you can participate in walking down the street in Havana.
November 11 2013Individuals who volunteered to travel share their motivation to do so.
"A Lesson In Diplomacy" (working title) from Charlie Pryor on Vimeo.
March 3 2013promotional campaign for our upcoming feature documentary film about the baseball team at Grand Valley State University making their way to Havana, Cuba to play a team gathered from their national league players. The experiences of the trip included baseball at the international level, an educational experience of culture and diversity, and contained a service element with a humanitarian organization called First Hand Aid.
January 1 1970