Evangelical Christian Humanitarian Outreach for Cuba, Inc., or ECHOcuba, announced today that it is offering grants of up to $75,000 for organizations that would promote religious freedom in Cuba.
The non-profit group, based in Miami, is a major recipient of government funds. It received $3,254,746 in government grants from 2004 to 2009, federal tax records show.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, contributed $148,145 to ECHOcuba in 2009, the Miami group’s annual report shows (Download PDF).
That same year, Arlington, Va.,-based International Relief & Development, or IRD, contributed $838,491 to ECHOcuba. USAID and the State Department are among those organizations that finance the IRD, the Virginia group’s 2009-2010 annual report shows (Download PDF).
ECHOcuba said today it is seeking churches, student groups and other organizations that would advocate for Cubans’ “right to the practice of religion in Cuba as they deem necessary in accordance to their chosen faith or creed.”
Examples of activity the groups could carry out include:
- Build and conduct religious blogs
- Create an internet site or access points on religious freedom
- Hold meetings in private or public
- Write and circulate documents on religious freedom
- Duplicate books or pamphlets on religious freedom
- Publish new literature on religious freedom
- Give instructions to youth on religious freedom
- Organize local congregations
- Conduct social services
- Engage in missionary activity
- Promote religious education in the secular system
- Petitions or presentations that advocates for freedom of religion
- Promote the right of freedom of religious expression in public places such as in concerts
- Showing of videos or pictures that promote freedom of religion
ECHOcuba said groups eligible for the grant money include:
- Student groups
- Local groups
- Prayer groups
- Informal groups
- Individuals committed to freedom of religion
- Independent churches
Government grants supply most of ECHOcuba’s funding, but the organization also receives private contributions. It describes itself as a non-political group.
Teo Babun Jr., president of ECHOcuba, said in the group’s 2009 annual report:
The current economic crisis is straining our finances, but the impact that we ar making in Cuba continues to be big. ECHOcuba’s impact is big because of the scale of our programs: more than 7,000 Cubans received direct support, seven laptop computers were distributed to seminaries, almost 15,000 lbs of medicines and vitamins were delivered, 47 libraries were built in churches, and more than 900 independent Christians were provided with assistance and training to become productive entrepreneurs and financially self-sustainable.
In a 2004 report (Download PDF), then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said ECHOcuba was one of three religious aid organizations that “should be included in any planning for short-term and medium- to long-term transition assistance” to Cuba.
The organization is authorized to collect donations from federal employees, according to this 866-page document showing of charity organizations.
ECHOcuba says that people or organizations interested in receiving an application package for one of the religious freedom grants should contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at PO Box 546135, Miami, Florida 33154.
Credit for all photos on this page: ECHOcuba