Development Organization Sending First Volunteers to Cuba
In a landmark move, Global Volunteers announced today that teams of short-term volunteers will begin work on long-term human and economic development projects in Cuba beginning in May, 2015. Americans of all ages and backgrounds are joining two-week service programs to assist children and families in Ciego de Avila, a rural community in the island's interior. Initial volunteer projects include teaching conversational English, assisting with cooperative farming initiatives, and helping to upgrade community buildings. Other work projects are expected to be added throughout 2015.
Global Volunteers' Cuba volunteering opportunity is closely modeled after the organization's standard one- to three-week service programs offered since 1984 in 34 countries on six continents, and succeeds its "Cuba NOW" People-to-People program started in 2012.
"We've been poised to extend this service to the Cuban people since 2007, when we began conversations with our Cuban hosts. The Obama Administration's recent relaxation of Cuba travel restrictions allows us to respond to community leaders' requests for assistance," explained Global Volunteers President and CEO Bud Philbrook. "This is an unmatched opportunity to work with and learn from the Cuban people – something Americans have yearned to do for nearly 50 years. Our program combines the best of volunteer service and people-to-people exchanges."
Global Volunteers establishes long-term development partnerships at the invitation and under the direction of community leaders who solicit help on local projects. The partnerships are cultivated and nurtured over decades to ensure program continuity and integrity. Volunteers are the "infinitely renewable resource" keeping support and energy flowing into the host communities, Philbrook said.
Eduardo Gonzalez, pastor and community leader in Ciego de Avila explained simply: "Global Volunteers will help us bring about the necessary changes our nation craves." What are those changes? Gonzalez points to improved farm production, expansion of English among school children and adults, and international understanding and respect. "You can work on humanitarian projects, support the Cuban people, and enjoy our culture and hospitality – all in two weeks." The backbone of Global Volunteers' community development work is a menu of 12 "essential services" prescribed by the United Nations and delivered by volunteer skill and labor. Local hosts define the projects and match team members' and local people's effort one-to-one. The organization focuses primarily on helping children, because "they are the world's future leaders, and through them, lasting change can be realized," said Philbrook.