What is Included in your Program Fee?
The minimum contribution fee covers the cost of your meals, accommodations (mid-range hotels), on-site travel (but not airfare), airport pickup, donations to the various organizations, your orientation package, volunteer coordination, program development, country manager expenses, community team recruitment, logistical support and project consultants. The majority of your additional expenses will be whatever transportation costs you incur in getting to the specified meeting point (which is described in your orientation package. Basically the cost does not include airfare, nor costs for your passports, visas, airport taxes, any side trips you decide to take, expanded medical and travel insurance, baggage fees, alcoholic beverages, personal items or souvenirs. Medical insurance is required by immigration authorities and can be purchased upon arrival for a small fee. Globe Aware will provide information on how to procure it.
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
Volunteers take part in our organic agricultural projects in Viñales, about 3 hours from Havana by Viazul bus. Our volunteers go to private farms in Viñales. What's a private farm in Cuba? The Cuban government passed two laws to grant land to families in rural areas of Cuba, but years afterwards, the tendency was creating Cooperatives. Many Cuban farmers prefered to stay as individual farmers, and they formed one organization called ANAP, National Association of Small Farmers, and that's the people that we are helping, the small independant farmers who produce tobacco leaves, beans, malanga, yuca, vegetables, fruits, milk, sweet potatoes, etc.The small farmers of Cuba are 400,000 men and women, and they are responsible for a large volume of the foods national production of the island. The Cuban revolution universalized education, which had many obvious benefits. But that has created a down side, which is that less and less young people want to work in the countryside, since agriculture doesn't compete in appeal with the technical courses of studies that universities offer for free. THAT MAKES OUR MISSION VERY SPECIAL. Volunteers come to support the island doing a task which is vital to their economy and survival. Bringing food from overseas is cost prohibitive, and the closest trading power, the USA, has had a trade embargo in place for years. Volunteers plant manioc, clean sugar cane fields which were destined to be used in animal feeding, they fence large extensions of land to keep cattle in, etc. There's no limit to what our volunteers have been doing in those farms, but we only engage in those projects which meet our safety standards: we do not operate heavy equipment, go high on ladders, etc. We also go out of way to try and ensure as much interaction between volunteers and locals throughout the week. Interaction is quite intense; volunteers work and eat with Cubans and engage in cultural activities with music, rural poets, domino games, salsa dancing, and conversation concerning the hardships of agriculture and the new advantages that farming will be offering to Cubans of several generations. 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.
Additional Information for Travelers to Cuba
Volunteer travel within Cuba is often more complicated than in other regions. Below are some links to information that you might find useful when planning your trip.
- FAQs for U.S. Travelers to Cuba
- Newsweek Article- Havana Dreaming
- Reuters Article- Business Urges Action to Lift Cuba Travel Ban
- CNN Politics.com video on trade embargo with Cuba
- Register for a Volunteer Vacation in Cuba - CLICK HERE