Over the mid-winter break, some students of The Hudson School went on a school-sponsored service trip to Cuba. Below are some of their reflections.
Senna, 8th Grade
We could have gone to any developing country; they all need our help, but we chose Cuba, and that had a massive impact on me. It, not only, changed my perspective of Cuba’s looks and wealth, but it also changed the way I see the people there. Before I left, I had the wrong assumptions, so I thought, I’m heading into an unsafe country with extreme poverty, this could be a scary trip.
Although most of Cuba is in poverty, when we arrived in Havana, strangers were always greeting us, people they didn’t know at all! In the USA, everyone is trying to get from Point A to B in the quickest time they can. People in Cuba were the kindest and very thoughtful, especially the children in Ciego de Avila.
Which comes to the main point: the Cuban people have taught us of their history, education, culture, foods, etc. but, what changed me most from my trip to Cuba is to appreciate everything I have, even when it comes to a working laundry machine, and to also be kind to others, even if that means saying “Hello!”
Angela, 11th Grade
I loved being in Cuba. At first, I was shocked at how ruined and lifeless the buildings were, but I quickly realized how alive the country really is. There was music and color and food, Havana was pulsing. My privileged life prevented me, at first, from understanding how these people could actually be happy living with so much less, but they are. Now, I am so much more grateful for what I have and what I’m given. I think that I’ve grown more understanding of others and I have a much better sense of political differences. After visiting Cuba, I’m more aware than ever.
Sophia, 9th Grade
Our trip to Cuba was incredibly fulfilling for me as I learned a lot about Cuban culture and people. Being in a country that is the opposite of my own in political, social, and economic aspects has truly opened my eyes and exposed me to a different reality. Albeit our Cuba trip being less “lavish” as we Americans are accustomed to, I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for anything in the world. I learned so much about the difficulties Cubans go through as well as their victories just by talking to those in the community. Their stories touched me in a way I will never be able to express, and I hope I never forget a single detail about our enlightening adventure. My time there has truly helped me become a more aware, kind, and understanding person that I strive to be.
Paige, 7th Grade
Over the February break, I was fortunate to be a part of the school trip to Cuba. We went as ambassadors for an organization called Global Volunteers. Their mission is to encourage and enable people from all over the world to spend short periods of time working with and learning from and about local people in communities throughout the world.
Despite the poverty in Cuba, what amazed me the most was the pride the Cuban people had for their culture. It resonated in many areas of their lives. The architecture in Havana for example, was full of bold, bright colors. Their textiles were also made from vibrant, intense colors. It was as if the Cuban people were saying, “Hey, look at me, look at how beautiful I am.” The Cuban people also took great pride in their music. There was music echoing down the streets of Havana, in cars, in homes, and in cafes. They love their music and they love to dance. They are very joyful.
There were two volunteer missions that I cherished the most on this trip. The first was when we got to help teach English to the Cuban children. They were so polite and eager to learn. The second was when we got to help garden in a local community garden farmed by the Cuban people.
My experience on this trip was invaluable. I learned how wonderful it is to take pride in your culture. Poverty does not have to define you. You can stand out with the bright colors on your homes, the colorful wares that you make, and the energetic music that you compose. You can learn a great deal about a culture and subsequently about yourself when you travel and volunteer abroad.
Hadiyyah, 11th Grade
I want to preface this by saying I have no words that would be able to describe this experience in a way that would do it justice. The people, the culture, and the community there was something I’ve never seen before even as someone who has the privilege to travel often. The country was happy. The warmth shown by the people there towards a group of strangers entering into their country, their town, their community, was so pure. The relationships I was able to form in such a short time baffles me yet also sadden me knowing I will most likely never see those people again or know how their lives progress. Not only were the relationships I formed with the Cubans we met there amazing, but also to be able to grow closer to my younger peers and teachers was so so beneficial. I am so privileged to have been able to travel with them and in particular one of my closest friends who I got to see meet her family in Havana. In short, the trip was something I’ll never forget, the experience and the feelings it generated are ones I’ll never let go of and the memories will undoubtedly stay with me forever.
Naomi, 9th Grade
Going to Cuba was a beyond incredible experience. From getting to interact with the local people, to learning about the countries history and the Cuban revolution, I was able to return home with a newfound knowledge that I may have never been able to acquire if I had not gone. To add onto my new knowledge, I also learned about the Cuban education system, and how schooling is greatly valued among the local children and adults. Towards the end of my trip, I came to realize how the most minor experiences to an American citizen, are truly appreciated in Cuba. Taking this time off to explore a foreign country got me to understand how fortunate I am and how I want to continue to share my experience in order educate people about what I learned.