Tag Archives: Cuba 2016

June 13, 2016 in Cuba

by Owen ’17

As I sit here eating my helado (ice cream), I look back in reflection at the very eventful day that was today.  After the usual tasty Cuban breakfast we hit the road in a nice air-conditioned van as we headed for Puerto Padre. Ronald, the van driver, proved that he was a NASCAR driver in a past life.  After an hour-long drive, we got to the church where we promptly got to work moving rocks from one place to another.  Continue reading


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Domingo en Cuba

Dear Community (Querida Comunidad),

My name is Setareh, and I am one of the two recent George School graduates on this trip. In today’s blog, I will be discussing the church service we attended today, in addition to our trip to a Cuban resort.

This morning, the George School group had the blessing of attending our first sermon at the church in which we are staying. One of our very own students, Richard, was given the opportunity to preach today, and we also heard from Roxy (our Cuban-Quaker exchange student from last year…and my former roommate!). The service also included musical performances by Sydney and Holdyn, and a handful of readings from Melissa, Roxy’s best friend here in Holguin. Melissa will be a new junior next year at George School. Continue reading

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Cuba: Friday, June 10

Hola Amigos, Familia, y Otros,

Imagine yourself waking up in bed sweaty and hot, yet comfortable and carefree in a Communist nation with the smell of fresh fruit before your nostrils and Spanish commentary in the background. Lovely thought, right? I believe this accurately describes everyone’s experience getting up this morning prior to our arduous and entertaining day. Before diving into this post, I will begin by writing about our second day in Holguin as a group in general and then I will proceed to discuss the lessons I am beginning to uncover only two days into the service trip.

This morning we all woke up to the bright morning sun shining through the creaks of the metal barred windows of the church. We all woke up around 8:00 a.m. for early morning breakfast. We soon gathered around the tables and waited for the wonderful breakfast prepared by our hosts that consisted of fresh fruits, cookies, rice, eggs, and various other delicious foods. During our slow-paced morning, we were given the schedule for the day and were immediately put to work. Maria and our hosts had assigned us to various obligations throughout the church.

Myself (Holdyn), Richard, Owen, Thomas, Isaiah, Jake, Sydney, and Brayden transported dirt-like material to the second floor of the church to eventually use it as the base of the floor. The process goes as follows:

We shoveled the dirt-like material into a wheelbarrow. This wheelbarrow would then be transported outside underneath a bucket attached to a pulley that we would fill with the dirt and transport to the second floor where others would take the dirt and furthermore, transport it once again into a pile that will later be used as a base for the flooring. We alternated turns. After this process, we were sweaty, covered with sunscreen, and proud of completing manual labor.

The rest of the squad—Setareh, Selah, Anna P., and Anna C. along with the help from Molly and Jenna (who always did hourly run-throughs to reapply our sunscreen)—began cleaning and reorganizing the service room. This was a very difficult task to partake in and we couldn’t have done it without our team work.

After the several hours of true manual labor, we ate a fantastic lunch with amazing soup and many lovingly prepared foods. After almuerzo, we had a relaxing siesta (which brought relief to our muscle pain) and took initiative to shower (well… at least some of us). The church is one of two locations in Eastern Cuba that provides free, purified drinking water for the public to use at their disposal. We got to witness this at 3:00 p.m. today and never in my life have I witnessed (in person) such gratitude for our help and presence as the public obtained their fresh water.

After the wonderful water giving, we were taken on a bumpy bus ride in a 1960 bus/truck a la casa de Roxana for dinner. On the bus ride we got to witness many of the homes of the Cubans on the Southeast side of Holguin and I am almost certain that many of us, including myself, were thinking about the poverty in this nation in comparison to the lives we live in Pennsylvania and as George School students. We were offered a wonderful meal by Roxy’s family and got to spend time bonding on her rooftop (including a warm panoramic view of Holguin) and in her living room dancing to Spanish tunes and a little bit of Taylor Swift (Yes, Taylor has made it all the way to Cuba…). We finished the night saying goodbye and returning to the church to prepare for bedtime. This is only a brief touching stone upon the amount of hard work and effort we put into our endeavors today and I am proud to say that I love it here so far in Cuba.

I now want to briefly talk about what I have experienced today and thus far on the trip – which I am sure many of us on the mission can connect to. The major thought that keeps entering my mind is the thought that somewhere in the world, a villa in Mykonos, Greece exists by the seaside while a man in Cuba is struggling to support his livelihood and family. I have come to witness that although in my eyes the status of their economic state is low in comparison to America’s average, they are content with what they have. I have witnessed this in the native people of Saint Maarten during Spring Break, but nothing in comparison to the Cuban people. My Spanish speaking ability is broadening rapidly, and I am able to sustain a full conversation with my loving hosts and community members. This is a tool that I can use to help develop the sense of understanding that I just described. Once you are able to break the language barrier just enough, it is amazing to observe the beauty of the spirit that exists in all people, all living things. It fascinates me that I am from an official enemy country, and am able to connect to the Cuban people’s desire for change. We are all sentient beings, and regardless of socio-economic struggles, political standpoints, and/or feeling regarding the America-Cuba embargo, I can spiritually relate to the Cuban people on some level. One moment today (or yesterday – I cannot remember) Tom stated that Roxy had told him that never before had she witnessed true poverty until going to Washington DC last year on a George School service trip. That strikes me as a very ironic claim. It took me awhile to let that truth soak in.

Again, these are just tastes of the feelings that I and others are pondering through on this service trip, and I cannot describe enough in words the magnitude of the nature of these emotions and thought-provoking facts that I am truthfully observing here in Holguin.

Buenos noches,
Holdyn ’17

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Saturday in Cuba

To whom it may concern,

Richard Norris here. My heart is overflowing with joy at this moment, and it is very difficult to explain it all, but for your sake, I will try. Today, my friends and I had the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of young people just like us, as we all enjoyed the pleasantries of a warm Saturday. While the majority of us are either seventeen or eighteen years old, the ages of the young people of the church ranged from twelve to nineteen. We all traveled from the church to an amusement park that challenged what most of us (the Americans, I speak of) thought about amusement parks. Continue reading

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First Day in Cuba


Dear loved ones,

I am writing to you from the Quaker Church in Holguin at the end of our first day in Cuba. We have just had a lovely walk into town, led by GS alumna Roxana (a member of this church) followed by our evening circle, at which everyone shared about something that surprised them today. It was a delightful end to a great day. Students shared about the sweet, warm reception they have received, the fact that somehow they feel comfortable despite not speaking any Spanish, their appreciation for the physical beauty they have seen, and their joy at being part of this wonderful group.  Continue reading

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Summer Service Trips Prepare to Depart

This year George School students will be participating in a number of service trips throughout the world. This spring trips traveled to France, Mississippi, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Washington, DC. In just a few days several more groups will embark on their trips to Arizona, China, and Cuba. More information about each trip is below.

Summer 2016

June 5–23, 2016
Students work as teachers’ aides in the Kayenta Elementary School located in the Navajo Nation of Arizona. Homestays with local families provide the opportunity to experience the daily life and culture in the Navajo Nation. After-school activities for George School students might include horseback riding through Monument Valley, camping out on the Black Mesa, or rafting down the Colorado River.

June 5–26, 2016
The service project in Yangzhou China will focus on both service and Mandarin Chinese language. Students will stay with Chinese host families that have a student who attends Yangzhou high school, the leading high school in Yangzhou. Students will attend some classes with their hosts and attend culture classes. Service projects will be at a migrant workers’ children’s school, a special needs school, and an orphanage.

June 8–23, 2016
George School students will help in the major reconstruction of a church in Holguin. Plans also include working in an urban hydroponic garden and visiting a community orphanage and a school for the blind and deaf. Students may visit the city of Santiago, the Quaker community in Gibara, the historic town of Bayamo, and the beach at Guardalavaca.

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Service Trips Depart Next Week!

This year George School students will be participating in a number of service trips throughout the world. This spring trips will go to France, Mississippi, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Washington, DC. This summer groups will travel to Arizona, China, and Cuba. More information about each trip is below. Continue reading

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