Cuba Opening—Is it Time to Volunteer?

cuba-flagYesterday’s historic move toward making Cuba an accessible destination for US travelers opens the door to a lot of other things, and not just cigars.

There are some fantastic volunteer opportunities in Cuba, a country that has faced lots of economic hardship but with provided healthcare, high literacy, low infant mortality, and tremendous cultural pride, many Cubanos insist there is no need for outside volunteer projects. It is important to look for trips with organizations that are culturally connected, have a spotless track record, and prioritize projects initiated from within communities, not those led by outsiders who think they know what is best for others (these are precepts appropriate to ALL volunteer vacations and service travel!)

Jakera has volunteer programs and Spanish immersion for visitors to Cuba. A Venezuelan-based company, they have been closely connected with Cuban communities since 2003.

Animal Research International, while an international organization, has legitimate, scientific field-based volunteer programs focused on bat research and conservation.

Real Cuba has a robust travel presence and expertise helping you find volunteer placement as well as travel off the beaten path to get you beyond Havana, crowded beaches, and the normal circuit for tourists.

Go Eat Give has sustainability and organic farming volunteer placements in the Cuban countryside.

Ethical Traveler hosts a people-to-people interactive arts-based trip with Cuba travel experts and deep cultural connections.

There are lots of other folks offering volunteer experiences in Cuba, and more will crop up in a hurry. Let your research be deep and thorough–you can almost guarantee that as the demand for this previously unattainable passport stamp grows, plenty of opportunists will hang shingle and try to convince you that with them you can make a difference. Be steadfast and insist on going in with eyes wide open.

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