Growing Relationships in Cuba

By United Planet, Special for USDR

United Planet announces the launch of special cultural immersion volunteer program in Cuba.

The Department of Treasury allows people-to-people exchanges to Cuba under a general license, but the United Planet “Cultural Immersion Quest” takes an even more immersive twist.  Through offering “hands on” volunteer programs, United Planet enables Americans and Cubans to learn and share together in ways that go beyond the framework of typical people-to-people programs in  Cuba.

Volunteers actually visit homes of the Cuban people so that they can experience and learn about the lives of everyday Cubans. They meet the families, learn about the ration system and then tour their neighborhood with the family, visiting the bakery to get their rationed bread for the day, and experiencing the every day life of the people side by side. These visits are in parts of the city that tourists never visit.

Dance is integral to the program. In Cuba, the old adage goes that you must “dance together before doing business.” This pertains to friendship too. The volunteers learn from the Cuban people in workshops and share their skills, but they also dance together. United Planet works closely with some of the best Salsa dancers in the world as partners.

Specific programs focus on education, business, and environmental sustainability. Volunteers help train budding young entrepreneurs about business in a place where paying taxes has been the exception, not the rule.  As sole proprietorships develop, Cubans are now required to pay taxes for business income.  “Do you think I could make a business out of helping people with their taxes?” asked one eager Cuban entrepreneur.

This is a time of unprecedented change in US-Cuban relations.  “Now is the time to build genuine relationships and support and learn from each other,” says David Santulli, United Planet’s President and Founder, “If we are able to build a foundation of cross-cultural respect, we can establish enduring and mutually beneficial relations with one of our closest neighbors.  Americans should never visit Cuba from inside a bubble; it is important to truly know the Cuban people.”

Recent volunteer, Manya Chylinski shares: “This trip was an amazing opportunity to experience real life in Havana, and to meet passionate, fun, curious, and hard working individuals. We learned about Cuban culture and society, about the country’s history, and about the business environment. Each time we sat down at a table, or in someone’s living room, or shared a meal, or walked down the street with our Cuban hosts, we were both learning and teaching. We answered as many questions as we asked.”

“The opportunities for tourists to act not only as teachers, but also as co-learners and students have never been greater.  We have so much to learn from the Cuban way of life and they will benefit from our guidance as they learn about entrepreneurship and business in the future,” says United Planet’s Vice President Theresa Higgs.

President Obama’s visit to Cuba and the recent attacks in Belgium remind us as President Obama did from Havana, “that the world must unite” and come together beyond cultures, religions, and races. This is precisely United Planet’s mission as an international nonprofit.

For more information:  www.unitedplanet.org

About United Planet

United Planet is a non-profit organization with a mission – to create a global community, one relationship at a time. We connect volunteers who want to make a difference with communities in 35 countries, where they learn, teach, work, engage and immerse themselves in a culture outside their comfort zone. For many, it’s the most fulfilling experience of their lives.

SOURCE United Planet

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.
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