API Gives Back- Havana

In the spirit of giving, we’re highlighting “API Gives Back” projects occurring at our host sites all over the world this Fall. API is committed to finding opportunities for our students to contribute to the communities in which they are living and learning abroad. Each semester, many API on-site directors organize an “API Gives Back Project” to promote greater understanding of local dynamics and provide further insight into the host culture. The API Gives Back Project may be an ongoing volunteer opportunity or a one-day commitment. Projects are often dedicated to supporting those in need or promoting environmental sustainability. Here, we check in on a project in Havana:

Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma, the API Havana team decided to focus their “API Gives Back” efforts towards regions in Cuba that were feeling the storms impact the strongest. Impact on the Villa Clara region left families without roofs on their homes, or in some cases without homes entirely. Additionally, most fruit trees had been uprooted. Prior to the recent hurricane, this particular region is home to many families living in an extreme state of poverty, and the storm only intensified these conditions.

Aleida, the owner of our Havana student residence typically organizes a volunteering activity every semester for our students to participate in the worldwide API Gives back program. Volunteering in Cuba is strictly regulated and needs official support from NGOs or an agreement from local authorities. As foreigners, API students haven’t been authorized to participate in the recuperation phase following the storm in the city of Havana.

However, the API residence’s next door neighbor, Elita, needed help for her native village located in Sitio Grande, Villa Clara and it quickly became the focus for action. Aleida, our housing landlord is allowed to set up a private initiative/ volunteering service project and can decide where to do it. She chose to help Elita’s village. With the agreement of the onsite authorities and of the University of Havana, we launched the operation  “from Casa Vera to Sitio Grande.”

On the API Gives Back day, the group left Havana at 5 am in the morning and arrived in Sitio Grande at 10:30am with 31 bags of essentials (containing rice, beans, chickpeas, toilet paper, oil, toothpaste, cups, plates, soaps, plastic bottles for cleaning) and 20 fruit trees to plant.

They unloaded the van and got to work with planting the trees. The group got to meet the local community members around a snack and then distributed the 31 bags and clothes donations. The group then ate lunches that the community had prepared for them. The Havana crew left to head back after spending the day in Villa Clara, with warmed hearts and great new friends.

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