Cuban exiles support 'Children de la Merced' in Havana

Cuban-American says he is focusing on building bridges for future of island

HAVANA – Andy Gomez was on Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas when the ship first anchored in Havana, Cuba. He was born in Cuba and moved to the U.S. as a child. He started traveling to Cuba in 2001. 

Gomez supports the Children de La Merced, a family foundation that started two years ago and focuses on helping about 50 children from Old Havana.

Most of them come from single-parent households and some of them are being raised by their grandparents, Walker said. 

"If this country is going to move forward, these children are going to have to be prepared to move them forward," Gomez, 62, said. He added that "you can not expect to isolate a country and its people and expect it to change in a positive manner."

During a meeting with the children, Gomez asked them to work on their education so they can one day become the country's leaders. 

"You are the future of Cuba," Gomez said.

Father Gilbert Walker, a Catholic missionary priest from Gulfport, Miss., is charged with the program. He said the children get individual and group therapy. 

"They do lots of play and lots of other activities that without the foundation's help they wouldn't be able to do," Walker said. 

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