S-Trip! Destination: Authentic Cuba, Varadero, Cuba
March Break 2016
After a 45 minute bus ride through Matanzas, we found ourselves in the small community of Mocha. We pulled up to Miguel Sandarán, the local elementary school that was built in 1968, to see every single student eagerly awaiting our arrival with smiles. We gathered in front of the school and were welcomed by the Principal, Ida, who introduced a group of students that performed a welcoming ceremony consisting of song, dance, and even a fashion show! Our S-Trip! travelers sang our Canadian National anthem for the school to show our appreciation for all their hard work.
Then it was time to split up and let the labour and games begin! We broke out into 3 rotating groups; labour, sports, and a detailed tour of the school itself. First, the labour part was heavily focused on putting in new windows in the classrooms. The old ones made of wood were falling apart and no longer functioned properly. The new windows we installed, however, were metal with slats to create shade from the intense Cuban sun. Everyone took turns with cement work, installation, and clean up.
The second rotation was playing sports with the gym class of the day. We had relay races and frisbee games, as well as partaking in the most popular Cuban sport, baseball! This was a perfect way for our travelers to really interact with all the kids in the community, giving them the opportunity to make everlasting memories with new friends.
The last component of our rotation was a tour of the school, where our travelers could see what education is like in these small Cuban communities. This part is extremely special due to our relationship with the government, which exclusively allows S-Trip! to have this kind of cultural exchange. We were able to see where they learn, play, nap, dance, eat, everything! As we were walking through the classrooms, and with the help of our trusty translating staff, the Cuban children were able to ask our students various questions about Canadian life in schools back home. They wanted to know things like what our travelers were going to do after high school, what their favourite subjects were, and what games they liked to play!
To end the day, we gathered with everyone from the school back in the courtyard to say goodbye to our new friends and take a group photo! After hugs and high fives, we capped it all off with some tropical fruit from the community, including fresh coconut water grown right in the school's garden - a real treat!
Written by Celine Peel-Michaud, the on-site Volunteer Coordinator for Varadero.