As travel restrictions lift, travel options expand to Cuba with new programs for diverse groups of travelers.
One such program is offered by ARCC Programs (Adventures Cross-Country), a California-based operator, who will conduct two 14-day trips for high school students this summer that combine culture with community service.
The trips represent the first time in 56 years that an American youth group will be performing volunteer or community service work in Cuba, according to Scott von Eschen, ARCC's president.
“Students did indeed visit in the past, but it was pretty much a show-and-tell experience with very little itinerary flexibility,” von Eschen said.
A street cart on a street in Ciego de Avila in central Cuba.
“Our students have been invited to do community service projects working alongside Cuban citizens," he said. ?They also will be working in small businesses teaching English, a significant change from what U.S. students have been allowed to do in the past."
The base of operations for both trips for the first week is the community of Ciego de Avila, the capital of the province of the same name in the central part of Cuba.
Students will work day after day with their Cuban colleagues painting buildings, working in an organic garden and assisting in the two language schools.
“The students will get to know their Cuban co-workers on a personal level," von Eschen said. "This is an entirely new form of cultural exchange for our students and a very different exposure than, for example, giving a concert and simply attending a reception afterward.
Students also spend two days in Cayo Coco on Cuba’s north coast and several days in Havana; they will visit museums and meet with an economics professor to discuss the social changes underway in Cuba.
The fully licensed itinerary originates in Miami. Trip dates are July 3 to 16 and July 31 to Aug. 13 for sophomore to senior-year high school students. The maximum group size is 15 students on each departure.
The cost per student is $4,350 for all ground costs plus $650 roundtrip air from Miami.