S-Trip! Destination: Cayos of Cuba, Cayo Coco, Cuba
March Break 2017
Cuba is a unique country, mostly thanks to its political and social developments since the Revolution of 1959. Despite this, Cuban citizens are all provided with free education and health care. The country also has an innovative and productive scientific development sector and a growing sustainability sector.
I am a firm believer that all types of travel are invaluable because they allow you to broaden your perspectives, challenge your worldview, open your mind, and push boundaries, both personal and professional. Mother Teresa once said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. In Cayo Coco this March Break, we had a number of students take time off their grad trip to cast that stone across the water and create many ripples. This March Break, S-Trip! students were able to accomplish a lot of work within two different communities, El Tuero and La Rosa.
In El Tuero, we worked with their only school: Escuela Primaria Angel Gutierrez. Alongside Cuban contractors and community members, our students laid bricks, mixed and poured cement, dug a foundation, and painted, all to replace rotten wooden windows and doors in the preschool classroom with more durable metal ones. In addition, the students worked on cleaning up the backyard to prepare for a new play area and community garden.
El Tuero is about a 45 minute drive from the main hotel strip in Cayo Coco. The community has one school of around 30 of the youngest children from the community. Led by Coralia, a dedicated teacher and community member, this school and community would not be the same without her.
In the community of La Rosa, we worked with Escuela Rural Julio Antonio Mella Mac Partland y Diez. This March Break, the students helped out with a new chainlink fence around the school property, as the old barbed wire fence is unsafe for the young children. S-Trip! travelers also assisted in expanding the school's small garden, which the teachers use as a learning tool, and supported the contractors that were installing a new roof for the grade 5/6 school room.
The school was built to bring education closer to the students, as they used to have to travel over one hour each way to earn their education. The school in La Rosa is led by Daineris, a teacher and fellow community member who strives everyday to help the community in any way she can. Daineris is currently enrolled in the University of Ciego de Avila, where she is furthering her education to improve her skills as a teacher.
S-Trip! students were welcomed with open arms at both schools. The children sang, danced, and included us by giving us a chance to sing O Canada after their Cuban national anthem. The students took full advantage of sharing with the communities our Canadian pride, choosing to sign in English AND French!
At both schools, the students played and enjoyed an amazing afternoon with the children, taking part in all kinds of games including a volleyball match with community members in El Tuero.
With that, I want to thank every student, staff, and community member for their work as a volunteer and making Cayo Coco a place to be proud of. Even with one single action, regardless of how big or how small, you are making a difference. A quote which really resonates with me is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away”. As I look back at March Break 2017, I see a sea of faces. Each face telling a story; so many faces, so many stories. You all come from many different backgrounds and you have many different life experiences and yet you all have at least one thing in common: your willingness to give your time to help others.
I am humbled by your generosity of spirit and your compassion for your fellow human beings. Thank you for volunteering with us!
Written by Laura Ximena Valderrama, the on-site Volunteer Coordinator for Cayo Coco.