S-Trip! Destination: Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba March Break 2017
Volunteering in Cayo Santa Maria for my second time was an absolute pleasure. The teachers at Escula Frank Pais Garcia were incredibly welcoming. From my first day there they showed me pictures of S-Trip! from the previous year that they had posted up on their bulletin board. They were eager to show me their photo-logs of the work we had done in previous sessions and were excited to start once again. Over 200 students contributed their time and energy to the school and the students. We helped finish painting the school, renew windows, plant a garden, start a compost and clean the entire school grounds. Then Jose and Ariel, some of the Cuban students, showed us how to quataciar (plow) the field and how to properly plant. I am always astonished at the agricultural wisdom that the Cuba students have. They are so young and so knowledgeable about the land and how to tend to it.
Our students got a chance to interact with Cuban student’s kindergarten to grade 5. The Cuban students welcomed us with a variety of poems, songs and even dance! They taught us how to rumba, and got our cold Canadian feet moving with Cuban heat. I always tell our students that language is so much more than words and every time I witnessed an interaction between students I caught a glimpse of this magical understanding. Students were laughing together, playing cowboy together, dancing and even singing together. It was a privilege to partake in this human exchange.
I had two favourite parts: first, was becoming friends with Daniel from the kindergarten class. On our first few days he was incredibly shy and would not speak to any of the Canadian folk. By our last volunteer session he was chasing me around telling me to run away or he would start tickling me. When I asked how old he was he told me to ask his mom and that age didn’t really matter all that much. Secondly was the students who drew pictures of the Canadian and Cuban flag together. It reminded me that more than offering a volunteer opportunity, S-Trip! is part of Cuba's integration into the global world and that coexistence between cultures can exist. It was here with S-Trip! that I came to understand that in every interaction where I am giving I receive much more.
Written by Jose Miguel Burgos, the on-site Volunteer Coordinator for Cayo Santa Maria.