10 December 2007

Doctor Brigade (revisions)

Oleh Imam Shofwan

Louis Chaviano was just three days back in home at 38 Ave Y Final, Sanatorio Pabellion, Cienfuegos, Kuba. Chaviano cured his missed to his wife an his dougther, Liliana Chaviano after six months in Khasmir, Pakistan, with his team. They helped eartquake victims there.

That afternoon, in the end of May 2006, he only and watching television. A foreign news teases his lustrous. Earthquake again, and nowadays unsettling Jogjakarta. His eyes captured chilling parts: thousands peoples died and another tens of thousand peoples injured.

Chaviano feels that he will depart to Jogjakarta immedietly. But he cannot tell what did he feels to his family mambers. He discourages it will ruin their togetherness ambience. Until night, Chaviano covered his willies.

Someone from departemen of public health of Cuba called Chaviano, morning after at 10 AM. Chaviano still slept with his wife. His assesment was true, government asked him to depart to Jogjakarta, for assist earthquake victims. Chaviano ready for this duty but he answer he will discusse with his wife and his doughter, firstly.

”If you agree, please convene in president’s palace in Havana. Set out today,” the telephon closed.

”I will drow up your necessities, better you go Havana soon,” Chaviano’s wife said. Fittingly his wife heard his conversation in the telephone. Chaviano feels hard to leave his wife and dougther. With permission and apprehension from his wife, Chaviano goes to Havana.

Cuba is biggest island group in Caribean ocean. From sky, it look like slept crocodile. Lengthwise like Java. Chaviano derive from Cienfuegos. Between Cienfuegos and Havana, from map, like between Semarang and Jakarta in Java. Chaviano leave from Chienfuegos by public bus. Some volunteers came from Chienfuegos. They meet in Cuban president’s palace in Havana June 30 2006.

In president’s palace, volunteers for Jogja disaster got briefing. Cuban President Fidel Castro himself directs the volunteers. The items: about Indonesian geographical condition and typical of Indonesian peoples who mostly Moslem.

From this briefing Chaviano undestand that Indonesia is poor country. But he like Indonesia because has tropical climate. But, he anxious about Indonesia who mostly Moslem. As his experience in Khasmir, Pakistan. He conceived of womens with her veil. Doctor’s will get difficulties to check women patients, especially for surgical operation.

”I think of strict Moslem rule application in Pakistan,” Chaviano said.

Chaviano is government employee. He don’t have madical backgroud. He is an energy outomatic control engineer. Cuban government assigned him as Medical Team Leader for International Natural Disaster.

For Jogjakarta disaster, he depart with 135 personnels, 124 of them are doctors –from medical doctors, surgeons, to orthopedics. Other crews are nurses, technicians and kitcheners.

Chaviano’s responsibilities are heavy. His job is to control all medical tools operation.

In June 1 2006 the team depart.

Chaviano’s wife act sprily. He fiting out all certain things for help disaster victims. He prepare a set of equipment given by government for that purpose: two duffle bags (a small size and a big back pack), a small stove, blue jeans, red T-shirt, and black boot. She know very well all of her husband’s tools because he have two similar missions before: two years in Zimbabwe and in six months in Pakistan.


At night, accompanied by their family members, the team convened in Havana airport for departure ceremony. Their families proud of their member will help disaster victims. Liliana, Chaviano’s only doughter, also proud of her father who departed by minister of foreign affairs, Felipe Perez Roque. Before depart, Liliana ordered his father to buy puppets and blouses when he returned home presently.

They keep communication with Jakarta. They have litle trouble. Initial plan, all their aid will focus in Jogjakarta who became earthquake episentrum. But, Jakarta governmen and Jogjakarta province governor still in dispute. They debated about eartquake status: national disaster or local disaster. Jogjakarta government considered the Jogjakarta earthquake, May 27 2006 as local disaster and will localy resolve. They reject foreign aid.

Fidel Castro takes steps. He calls President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss this problem. Finally, they agreed all Cuban aids focused in Klaten regency, the worst earthquake area in Southern Central Java. That night finally medical team departed from Havana airport by Cubana aircraft.

After 30 hours flight and transits in Lisabon, Istambul and Calcuta, June 3 2006 afternoon aircraft who brought them landed in Adi Sumarmo Airport, Solo. They accepted by Jorge Leon, Cuban Ambassador for Indonesia.

After arraived in Solo, Louis Chaviano see womans wear short skirt, they work in store dan drive motor cycle. His imagenation about women moslem with her veil who he meet in Khasmir not found in Solo.

”I’m breathing freely,” Chaviano said.

From Solo airport, they dropped on Klaten regent office for conversable. After that, they lodge in Quality Hotel Solo. Suwarno SE, Klaten regent offered two locations for this cuban doctors’s activity center. In subdistrict of Gantiwarno dan Prambanan.

In Gantiwarno, they got location in front of an elementry school building. While in Prambanan, their location in a terrain belong to Hariadi, local citizen –previously that land used for sand depot.

That night Chaviano together with some people visit that places for survey. They consider both of that places are suitable.

Morning after, 60 tons equipment and medicine arraived Adi Sumarmo Airport. Team members check out from hotel and set up tents and manage the medicine.

They built tens in Gantiwarno first and than in Prambanan. After sweltered all day long, finally this large tents standed. Two tens for mens and womens patient room, operation room, laboratory, and two big tens for translators. Beside that, they also set up many small tents for team members. Two peoples per tent.

Night after Louis Chaviano install medical equipments from rongent mechine, voice detector mechine, blood detector mechine until communication tools. Chaviano and his teams work briskly. Day after, June 5, hospital tents began operate.

No opening party.

To inform peoples about existance of this two hospitals, they attach a street banner wrote: ”Pengobatan dan Operasi Gratis untuk Rakyat Indonesia dari Tim Medis Kuba, Free Medication and Surgical Operation for Indonesian Peoples from Cuban Medical Team,” between Cuban dan Indonesian flag. Beside that, the doctors visit villages regularly to cure eartquake victims and let peoples know about that two hospitals.


Caviano’s team named Hendry Reave Medical Brigade. They available every time to departed around the wolrd for helping disaster. They have worked to helping disaster and conflict victims at more than 60 countries, including Indonesia and its neigbour Timor Leste.

Chaviano told many story to me, about his experiences all this time, especially during his duties in Zimbabwe and Khasmir, education sistem in Cuba until his favorite figure Ernesto Che Guevara. His happiness when he do similar thing like what Che have done; went around the world and help everybody who wanted for.

”Che do everthing in everywhere who need him,” Chaviano told me.

In a flash, Chaviano’s face look like Che Guevara, who printed in his t-shirt without sleeve who he weared that day. His wave hare until his shoulder dan his dark skin typically Latin Amerika. I meet his in last August 23, in Klaten, when he and his medical team have spent three months helping earthquake victims.

Che nuances seen in every place. Especially in a lightcolour room, where rongent machine placed. In that room many Che pictures put up, beside Fidel castro picture, in the tent’s wall. Not only pictures, actually, but also appearence of the doctors. Like Chaviano, some doctors have dark skin and long hair --the hair icon of Che Guevara.

Che Guevara is Cuban revolusion hero. Since 1956, Che, with Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, organaized Cuban farmers for guerrila war against dictator Fulgencio Batista.

One of Guevara and Castro’s promised are make public education and health as Cuban prominent pillar after revolution. During guerrilla warfare, farmers looked seriousness of their leaders. Guevara, who a doctor, treat wounded guerrillaman by himself. Beside that, in leisure time, Guevara teach his follower, allmost all illiterate, how to read.

”Education not anly for vertical function but also horizontally,” this jargon often pronounceable by Guevara. Education not only purposed to reach power and money, but also for sosial an humanity purpose.

In 1959 Batista slide down. Fidel Castro tried to fulfill their promises. And successed. According to Juan Casassus, member of the Latin American Laboratory for Evaluation and Quality of Education at UNESCO Santiago, this highest achievement of education in Cuba is success of strong commitment from Cuban government, who disposed education sector as highest priority during 40 years after revolution.

Cuban government budgeted about 6,7 percent from GNP for this sector, doubly bigger than education budget in all Latin America countries.

With that big budget, Cuban government make free for all education costs, from elementary level until University. It also available for profesional school. ”Everyone is educated there. Everyone has access to higher education. Most Cubans have a college degree," Rose Caraway said, one of US student who follow study exchange program in Cuba, in 2005, as quoted by Coen Husain Pontoh in his article Pendidikan di Kuba or Education in Cuba.

According to Pontoh this policy made Cuban people became most educated and trained people in all Latin America countries. Nowadays some 700 thousands professional worked in Cuba.

But, this this policy is not enough. Since 2000, Cuban government launched ”University for All” program. The aim of this program is to make Cuba became “a nation becomes a university.”

Through this program all Cuban people (old-young, male-female, merried-single) earned equal opportunity to get university level. Practically, university working with Cubavision and Tele Rebelde, run education program via television.

Nowadays Cuban television provide 394 hours per week for education program. Abut 63 percent from airwaves total in Cuba. Since this program running, in October 2000, about 775 professors from big universities around Cuba involved in this program.

Healty program is an impact of Cuban educational development. Cliff DuRand, emeritus professor of philosophy in Morgan State University, Baltimore US, as quoted by Pontoh, said; nowadays death rate in Cuba only 5,8 per childbirth in a year. This rate are lowest in Latin Amerika, even lower than in US.

Total of doctors per capita in Kuba are more than any countries around the world. Nowadays, Cuba have around 130.000 professional medical manpower. Around 25 thousand Cuban doctors worked for humanity mission in 66 countries, 450 of them worked in Haiti, poorest country in American continent. Some other worked in poor areas around Venezuela. When Catrina hurricane barged into New Orleans, past few months, President Fidel Castro take initiative to send 1.500 doctors. But this initiative refused by US government by political reason.

Not only for Cuban people, nowadays through Latin American School of Medicine, Cuban government give schoolarship in medicare education for hundreds of poor people from all Latin American Countries, Afrika, Asia, even US.

The most interesting, according to Pontoh, medicare education in Cuba not only about science and art of medication, but also sosial service values for humanity. As what Fidel Castro said, during graduation ceremony in summer October 2005, ”human capital more valuable than financial capital. Human capital not only science, but also –and this is very basic- awareness, erhict, solidarity, genuine humanity sense, spirit of sacrifice will, heroism, and capability to built something in long term.”


They worked wearing jeans and T-shirt, while some doctor womens wear tang top. Their nature commonly friendly. I lough by myself when I heard one of the doctor talk to her patient. Although accompanied by translator, she try to speake Javanese.

”Matur nuwun, thank you”
”Sami-sami, your wellcome”

Very hot in women room tent, I see tens of patiens bedriddening in wards. Two of them have just endured caesarean, one endured treatment after tumor operation, and a mother have just bore children.

Ginem is one of grateful patient because of Cuban doctors presence. Ginem came to hospital tent for bearing her second children.

Before in this hospital, Ginem said to me, she has examined her unborn child, in Bethesda hospital, Jogjakarta. She suggested to carry out caesarean, because her unborn child has two weeks overdue. It mean, Ali Yani, Ginem Husband, said, they have to prepare at least Rp 7 millions. This big amount is serious for him, who only small laborer at a departement store in Jogjakarta.

”Although hot climate, it’s okey. As long as my baby saved,” Ginem said.

I can’t see this patient in this hot tent too long. Than, I asked Chaviano to continue to other room. We visit laboratorium, male room, and Chaviano’s small tent together with other doctors tent. Only his room I can’t entered.

”Is only one our private place,” Chaviano said.

Too passionate curing patient the doctors forgot that they lived in field that no bathroom there. At first week, after tired cured patient all day long, they make their simple bathroom with iron sheeting walls.

Late afternoon. I returned to hotel who about three kilometers from Cuban hospital tent in Prambanan. I take a bath and have dinner there.


Chaviano and Brigade members for Anangga Kurniawan (22) and other translators is plesant friends. Kurniawan is student in Surakarta State University, translator volunteer in that hospital. He accompany doctors, since they cured patient until visited villages aroun Klaten.

Since he became volunteer in Cuban hospital, Kurniawan lived in a big tent at hospital tent location in Prambanan. There are two tents for Kurniawan and his friends: One for male and other for female. All their requairements during in tent guaranteed by Cuban hospital.

From patients and doctors interactions, Kurniawan knows how they serious in handled patients. In certain disease, in fact there are seven doctors togethers in handling one patient. They discussed in Spanish, Kurniawan does not really understand what their intention, but from doctors actions, he know that they serious in handling patients.

Ussually Kurniawan activities start from six AM. He and his friends preparing patients registrations. At seven they start enroling until ten. ”Some 350 patients every day,” Kurniawan said.

After enroled, some of them accompany doctors in hospital, some other accompany doctors go around villages to find patients who cannot came to hospital. Usually, visiting time start from nine AM until one PM. They back to hospital and help doctors.

Kurniawan have an interesting experience. One day, after visiting village, the doctors want to do shopping. Since two months became translator, it was his first shopping invitation. They said will buy baby shoes and T-shirt. Kurniawan happy, than invite them to the biggest depatment store in Klaten: Matahari Department Store.

Because first shopping, Kurniawan conceived they will do total expense just like ussual other tourists he has guided before. His approximation missed. They only bought T-shirt and baby shoes. Moreover, they choosed the cheapest or discount one. After that, they returned. Kurniawan downhearted because –again—no lunch agenda after shopping.

Actually, Kurniawan has curious that Cuban doctors are poor doctors. Every day, they wear regularly only two T-shirt. The red or green one. Beside that, they never eaten outside and very bewared using money. ”The never buy something but tea,” Kurniawan said.

With all their simplicity, they very serious in helping disaster victims. ”We are from poor country. We only help as long as we could,” Chaviano said.

In first two months, Kurniawan showed by himself how they worked seven days in a weeks without off day, 24 hours they serve patients. After third month, they off in Sunday.


Subandi (56) sits in black stone, between coconat and trembesi tree in one corner of terrain at the edge of Solo-Yogja road. Tens of hospital big tents line up in front of him.

White colour of hospital tents, covered by dust and became brown. Hot and stuffy inside that tents. Subandi is one of sweltered patients. He decided to sit outside tent.

”My privates painful and hot if worked hard,” Subandi told me using refined Javanese.
Two years his penis swollen became twofold. According to doctor diagnosis, he suffered hernia. His local terms are usus ting planangan or kontol landung for coarse term. While that, he not examined his dissease. For palliating, ussually he get traditional message while recurrence.

Subandi learns his neigbour’s experience who suffered same dissease. This dissease will recover with operation. Subandi have to buried his wish to get operation because a big cost. According to him, that big amount is better for his 24 years old daughter Tri Suwanti education cost. Tri study in English faculty of Muhammadiyah University Surakarta, ”My wish, after Tri graduate I will collect money for operation,” Subandi said.

Tri graduated, Subandi collects money than. As farmer he plan to get operation after rice harvest. But that plan immediately disappeared after 5,9 Richter Scale eartquake hit Jogjakarta and Southern Central Java, may 27 2006. His rice crop damaged and his operation plan also gone.

Subandi know Cuban doctors can erase his pain. In August, he goes to hospital tent to get surgical operation for his desease. His heal possibility grow again.

”Everything running well, I only told my plaints and translator will extend to doctors,” Subandi said. After six days, Subandi get an operation.

”Nowadays just fine, have deflated, only need routine check up,” Subandi said.

In womens room, I meet another patient named Ginem (42). She look happy after her caesarean. She said thanks god many times and thanks to Cuban doctor who save her and her baby life.

Ginem and other patients wonder when they heard information that Cuban doctors asked to leave Jogjakarta because some complaints from local medical institution. Maybe they deprived of patients because all sucked up to this hospital tent.

”It is impossible, still many patients like this here. Why government expel doctors who planned six months became three months,” said Ali Yani, Ginem’s husband.

He, together with some patients, than wrote their protest in beaverboard and put it in hospital gate: ”Let Cuba Help Peoples”.

Prasetya and his friends not sure that their handwriting will red by government, and restrain Chaviano and friends departure.[end]

This Indonesian version of this article publised in pantau website: www.panatau.or.id