|Dates:||July 1 – July 14|
July 15 – July 28
July 29 – Aug 11
|Grade:||9th, 10th, 11th & 12th|
(Students Grouped According to Age)
*Airfare for group flight from Miami additional
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- Witness History Firsthand as Cuba Opens Up to Americans for the First Time in Almost 60 Years
- Live and Work in the wonderful Matanzas Community
- Teach Much Needed English to Students Ages 5-60
- Deliver Food by Horse and Buggy to the City’s Elderly
- Explore Old Havana and El Malecón and the City’s Famed Museums
- Meet with a University of Havana Economics Professor and Discuss Cuba’s Future
- Enjoy the White Sand Beaches and the Turquoise Waters of Cuba’s Caribbean Shores
- 30 Hours of Community Service
Even in Cuba’s socialist society, some of the elderly need a helping hand. Our Cuba: Making History Spotlight Project focuses on preparing and delivering food to this marginalized community of people unable to adequately feed themselves. Working with a partner, ARCC students come together to prepare hundreds of meals in a local kitchen. Then using a form of transportation unique to Cuba—the horse and buggy—they deliver these meals to the homes of the elderly who cannot afford meals or can no longer cook for themselves. This heart-warming project gives us an unusual glimpse into lives previously unseen by outsiders, and creates a connection between participants that bridges decades, cultures and nationalities.
As a followup to ARCC’s immensely successful programs to Cuba last summer, ARCC is delighted to announce another unique opportunity to be part of history. Be one of the first American youth groups in almost 60 years to volunteer or perform service work in Cuba!
With the easing of travel restrictions, Cuba will be changing quickly as Americans discover this wonderful island nation. This is a chance to live and work in a Cuba largely untouched for almost six decades. This is an opportunity to get to know firsthand the wonderful people of Cuba and 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. Most Cubans recognize that to thrive in the next 10-20 years, and take advantage of the much anticipated arrival of Americans, they need to learn English. 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.
Our final night in Cuba is capped off with a farewell dinner and celebration; a longstanding ARCC tradition. No doubt at some point this evening we will use our newly discovered Salsa dancing skills (learned earlier in the trip) to end our time in Cuba with a celebration worthy of this wonderful island nation.
Eventually all good things must come to an end. Early on our last morning we head to the Havana Airport for our departure back to Miami, where we catch our flights home with fond memories of this life-changing experience and our wonderful new friends, both Cuban and American!
What is the packing list for this program?
Each program has a specific packing list that has been designed to fit the program’s activities, length, climate, and cultural differences. Please click here to view the Cuba Making History packing list.
How can you call this an “Historic” program?
For almost 60 years, Cuba has been closed off to visits by Americans (except under special circumstances.) We have been informed that ARCC’s student groups are the first since the the early 1960’s to be invited to work on community service projects in Cuba. Previous visits by groups fell under the definition of “people to people exchange”, which for the most part consisted of simply giving donations and visiting tourist sites.
Why is this trip special?
ARCC is the only organization to ever bring teenagers to Cuba to work in community service. This unique access combined with the fact that Cuba has been closed off to outside influences for 6 decades makes for a very special experience for our students. We have the opportunity to witness an extremely unique culture and society before tourism overwhelms the country.
Is is legal for an American to travel to Cuba?
Absolutely. President Obama eased travel restrictions for Americans to Cuba in January, opening the door for Americans to travel to this great country. We are fully permitted and licensed and will be flying directly from Miami to Cuba.
Do I need a Visa?
Yes. ARCC will arrange for your visa to be issued before your departure from Miami.
How do Cubans feel about Americans?
Most Cubans feel very positively about Americans. As an example, one of the big fashion items these days is clothing with imprints of the American Flag. As a visitor, they are honored that you are making such an effort to come to their country and work with them. American visitors are so rare that no doubt you will be the center of attention almost everywhere you go, especially in the smaller communities. People will be extremely curious about you and will want to chat and hear about your life in the United States,
What kind of health precautions should I take before traveling to the Cuba?
Cuba is a relatively clean and safe place to travel. However, ARCC does recommend that you take some health precautions before your trip. ARCC recommends, but does not require, that all students traveling to Cuba be protected from Hepatitis A and Typhoid. When you enroll in the program, you will receive more detailed information on pertinent travel vaccinations and immunizations. Please also refer to the Traveler’s Health section of the CDC website by clicking here. Our leaders carry a full first-aid kit and are all certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR).
Where do we sleep?
We sleep in a variety of private accommodations (Casa Particulares) and hotels.
What is the transportation like once we are in Cuba?
We will be traveling in a 30-passenger private coach, vans and private taxis throughout this adventure.
What is the food like?
We will have the opportunity to sample traditional local cuisine such as beans, rice, chicken and tropical fruit. Last years student’s thought the food “was amazing”. Vegetarians and medical dietary requirements (i.e. allergies) are catered for. It does help if we are informed of this prior to departure date.
Do I need a passport?
Yes, all students traveling to Cuba need to have a valid passport. Please make sure the passport expiration date is at least six months after your trip start date. Be sure to make a photocopy of your passport and keep it in a separate place. If you lose your passport and you have a photocopy, it is much easier to replace.
What is the time difference between Cuba and the USA?
During the summer, Cuba is on Caribbean Eastern Time. Therefore, on your trip the time in Cuba will be the same time as New York (Eastern Time) and 3 hours later than San Francisco (Pacific Time.)
Do I really need to bring a backpack, or can I bring a rolling suitcase on this program?
Although you will not be doing traditional backpacking on this trip, it is important that you bring a backpack or duffel as your main piece of luggage. During the trip the group will be navigating through airports, getting on and off buses, going up and down stairways and escalators and taking short walks. The group will be able to move much more efficiently if everyone is able to carry their luggage.
Do I need to speak Spanish to join this program?
Not at all. There is no language requirement for this program. If you speak Spanish you will have plenty of opportunities to use it, but your trip leaders and local guides will speak both Spanish and English and can help translate for you any time.