Cuba is not out of reach …
Contrary to what most Canadians and Americans believe, Cuba is open, accessible and welcoming!
Although home to more than 11 million people, Cuban culture has been shrouded in mystery to most North Americans because of prolonged economic and political strain between the United States and Cuba. The Care for Cuba program pulls back the curtains on this Caribbean culture and gives volunteers a clear look at the beauties, struggles, and determination of the Cuban people. Cubanos are proud, educated, and often quite happy to share opinions. Isolated for years due to the “blockade” (as Cubans refer to the embargo the US imposed against the Communist state), their culture has been influenced by many cultures, none perhaps as heavily as Spain, Africa and the United States. Full of music, derelict buildings, joy and sorrow, the country offers few material pleasures but immense humanitarian rewards.
There has never been a more exciting time to take part in volunteer travel in Cuba! Imagine a culture where everyone is literate and has access to free medical care, no starving people. This is the Cuba of today. In stark contrast to North America, its southern neighbor also offers almost no material consumer goods. Experience this now, before long anticipated change comes with the passing of the Fidel Castro generation. Open music in streets everywhere, hardly any car traffic, smiles, most visitors are enchanted with a world unlike any they could imagine. The embargo has meant severely restricted commerce, and access to affordable food, but has also preserved and insulated a culture unique in the world.
Service Vacations: Volunteer Work Project in Cuba
This trip focuses on research and education, cultural awareness and academics. The program incorporates visits to locations relevant to Cuban culture as well as lectures and meetings with various representatives from organizations such as the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the Ministry of Education, Literacy Museum, Workers Central Union of Cuba, ALBA, CENESEX (National center for sexual education), CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution), MINSAP (Health Ministry), FMC (Cuban Women Federation), visits with local artists, schools, museums, craft markets and parks. Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on education research.
From a past volunteer: “It's like the Garden of Eden there: banana, pineapple, orange and other trees, bushes, flowers. Coffee plants smell like jasmine, everything is organic. There are no noisy tractors, only oxen and farmers working together. We were fed wonderful homegrown food and shown local sights.”
This project involves reporting back about your experience, even if only briefly, as research, either in the form of a blog or some easily sharable format of your choosing.
Volunteer Holiday Food and Lodging
Volunteers will be lodged in various mid-range hotels in both the Havana and Pinar del Rio regions. Volunteers will have flushing toilets, running showers, and limited access to electricity.
Leisure Activities During your Service Vacation
The program begins with a fascinating lecture on Cuban-American history given by Professor Carlos Alsugaray from the Center for Cuba-U.S.A. Studies and includes visits to culturally and historically interesting sites in Havana such as the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (which houses the Museo de la Ciudad), and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Volunteers will also be able to attend the cannon blast ceremony at La Cabana fortress, visit the beaches in the province of Pinar del Rio, and tour Vinales Valley, considered one of the most beautiful landscapes on the island. Unique cultural activities include a visit with a local tobacco farmer to see and experience how rural Cubans live and work.
Arranging Your Volunteer Vacation Airfare
You will need to arrange to be at the meet up point in Havana by 12:30 on the Saturday your program begins. The program ends at 10:00AM the following Saturday and it takes approximately 3 hours for transport back to Havana. The airport is one of the return drop-off stops that our driver will make. Do not arrange a light earlier that 3:30PM on the return trip.
Most flights go direct from Canada, Nassau (Bahamas) or via Cancun and then to Havana. Cubana airline offers one non-stop flight daily between Cancun and Havana. Mexicana Airlines offers two non-stop daily flights between
Cancun and Havana. The flight from between Cancun and Havana is approximately one hour in duration and typically about $350 round trip; volunteers are responsible for booking their own airfare.
*Special Note for Travelers in Groups of Less Than Five
The Cuban government is facing a huge economic crisis. Lack of liquidity has become a huge issue. There’s currently an official government regulation issued in April 2010 preventing most bank cash withdrawals. Hotels, restaurants and transportation companies are still able to receive and use bank wires, however most *small scale* projects have been handicapped by this regulation. For this reason, when there are groups of less than 5 people, $360 will be deducted from the total program cost paid before hand, and will need to be brought in cash to the Cuban coordinator upon arrival. The government may change this at any moment, and we will promptly change this uncomfortable policy.
Unfortunately this means that any volunteers in groups of less than 5 will NOT receive the tax deduction for that portion of their program, as it will not be first administered by Globe Aware, a Canadian charity. We hope you’ll see that the truly unique country and program warrant unique consideration.