Cuba is changing quickly as Americans discover this wonderful nation. This is a chance to live and work in a Cuba largely untouched for almost six decades and to get to know the wonderful people of Cuba. Experience a nation teeming in color, passion and lively Salsa music, all framed by the blue Caribbean Sea.
Experience a nation teeming in color, passion and lively Salsa music, all framed by the backdrop of the Caribbean.
Our history making Cuba program begins in Miami, where participants are met by their leaders at the Miami International Airport. Students and leaders then head to a nearby airport hotel for a welcome dinner followed by an evening introduction to travel in Cuba.
Cuba Bound and Matanzas
Our Cuba experience starts before we even reach Cuba, as at the Miami airport we join a line of Cuban citizens, and Cuban-Americans, heading back to Cuba with enormous bundles of goods and gifts for friends and relatives back home. Our quick flight takes us to the capital city of Havana. Once we clear customs, we travel down the coast bound for the city of Matanzas, a vibrant university town on the northern coast, which is our hometown for the next 5 nights.
Our lodging in Matanzas is called a “Casa Particular”, which is privately owned (as opposed to a government run) lodging. Casas Particulares are wonderful alternatives to hotels for lodging in Cuba. Something akin to a family run inn or bed and breakfast, most “Casas” are extremely comfortable and clean, reflecting the pride the owners have in sharing their home with outsiders. Our Casa Particular in Matanzas is minutes from the beach and has multiple rooms and a kitchen where we can prepare some of our meals. Our entire group stays in this one house. Our Casa is air conditioned and even has a tiny swimming pool on the back deck.
Our days during this section are spent working on our Spotlight Project, which is adding an addition and a covered deck to the home of Leo and his mother. Leo has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of his days in this home, so more space, both indoor and out, is very much welcomed. This is a community project as we work alongside Cuban tradesmen and others in the small village that want to help out Leo and his mom. Our work is challenging, hot and physical—but so worth it! Depending on the weather, we may take a “siesta” midday if the temperatures warrant it. No doubt we will take full advantage of our pool and nearby beaches when we return home to Matanzas each evening.
Conversational English Instruction
We next travel down the coast where we continue our service work, but with a different focus. In a small community we spend time teaching English to a population very much interested in learning the language. We hold classes for many types of “students” from pre-schoolers to well-educated Cubans (doctors!) hoping to touch up their language skills. This project gives us a unique opportunity to interact one-on-one with Cuban citizens and learn about their everyday lives.
Food Delivery by Horse and Buggy
We also spend time working with an amazing local organization that prepares and delivers food to senior citizen and the homeless populations of the area. We traverse the community’s cobbled streets, delivering by horse and buggy meals to those who can’t make it to area the food center. Again, we have extraordinary access to the everyday citizens of Cuba, and are honored to be able to provide valuable assistance to local families.
Cuba’s Caribbean Beaches
A trip to Cuba is not complete without spending time on its stunning white sand beaches. After our grueling construction, teaching and food delivery projects, it is time for a break. We move down the road to Veradero, a bustling beach community exploding with activity. Veradero’s 12 mile beach is pristine and the crystal clear Caribbean waters help remind us that this is indeed an island paradise. Our lodging is a 1 minute walk from the beach, so we can retreat to our Casa Particular when we need a break from the sun. Many great restaurants are within walking distance of our Casa and we can use the reliable trolley system to explore up and down the coast. Veradero is also where we can find some of the best souvenirs during our visit.
Switching gears, we say goodbye to the tropical island waters and head cross country bound for Havana. Our 7 hour air conditioned bus ride gives us a rare opportunity to see Cuba in a unique way as few Americans have made this same journey.
Havana is a city stopped in time but aching to join the 21st century; a fascinating blend of the colonialism of days long gone and a city ready for its modern debut. Our two days in Havana give us ample opportunity to explore the streets teeming with color, open air markets and salsa music. We visit Hemingway’s favorite haunts, take guided tours of Old Havana and El Malecón, visit famed museums and still have plenty of time for shopping. We even have the unique opportunity to dine with a University of Havana economics professor and discuss the dramatic economic and social changes underway in Cuba.
Cost and Session Information
June 28 – July 11
July 14 – July 27
July 30 – August 12