Havana is an exciting city with many interesting neighbourhoods. However, to experience the "real" Havana you should stay in Habana Vieja. Here you are located next to the best bars and nightlife, and during the daytime you will be living among the real Habanos working in shops, bars, art galleries and going about their daily lives in this atmospheric part of the city. Havana has a unique distinction, being the safest city in the Caribbean and Latin America generally. There are a number of reasons for this, but what it means for the curious traveller is that you will be able to enjoy unprecedented access to local people as you wander around the ‘barrio’ that makes up Habana Vieja.
Below you will find more information for this two week program and volunteer placement.
Your Spanish classes take place in the morning from Monday to Friday 09:00-11:45. The sessions comprise of 3 x 45-minute lessons spaced with 15 minute breaks, which makes 15 hours per week. The lessons are held at Casa Jakera by an accredited and licensed Cuban teacher. On the first morning there will be a short test to establish your level and requirements. We cater for students at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
Hop onto a Wah-Wah (fume belching local bendy bus) or Colectivo (classic car/communal taxi) and take to the streets to discover the real Habana. Understand how Habaneros live; the practical day to day issues they face living in this complicated country at this exciting time, and help us take away some answers to our own ‘first world’ problems!
We take you on an adventure to help you understand and enjoy the history of Cuba and Habana. Understand the source of her amazing wealth, the rich cultural mix, marvel at the faded patina of Habana’s famous gorgeous neo classical architecture, the rumble of classic American cars, curious soviet era high rise buildings, ubiquitous live music on every street, dance, exotic religions etc etc the list is endless.
You will quickly feel at home, gain the knowledge and confidence to enjoy the city during your own time, with new found traveller and Cuban friends. You have been immersed into the Cuban culture - enjoy!
Our volunteering begins with a group ‘orientation’ walk around Habana Vieja & Centro, during which we stop and visit our projects; to discuss the issues and bring everyone comfortably up to speed and feeling welcome. Work begins the next day, and depending where our need is greatest will include a combination of the following projects:
Arco Iris & Barrio Habana Vieja Community Centre’s
We work with two children’s community centers supporting activities for local kids aged 5-15 years. The kids include those from broken and troubled families and our focus - in addition to creating a fun filled environment - is to give its members better preparation for adulthood and parenthood. A variety of classes are given but focus always remains on social skills and confidence building. Activities include acting, dancing and singing classes and we often make presentations with our volunteers. Our work as volunteers includes, assisting with needed renovation and maintenance work to the facilities, assisting teachers in preparation and planning of activities, assisting teachers carry-out activities and classes with the kids, hosting and planning our own activities for the kids and donating needed resources.
The sports complejo has been the main sports facility for all the schools in Habana Vieja for generations. It is a very established facility but lacks basic facilities. Sports run at this location include; baseball, volleyball, athletics, wrestling, basketball and judo in the near future. We support sports in Cuba whenever possible, the benefits sports bring to society are well known to Cubans and we follow their lead. Our work as volunteers includes, renovation and maintenance of facilities, donating equipment, assisting in sports training and hosting sports events and matches.
Escuela y Instituto de Musica Cubana Popular
This is the only official institute for music and dance in Habana Vieja. Established pre-revolution the institute gifts theory classes to local Cubans on the all-important history and evolution of Cuban music and dance. Practical dance and music classes are also given. Folkloric Afro-Cuban music and dance is its main focus but mainly dance owing to a shortage of instruments and other equipment. Volunteers are helping to restore the facilities and theater. This is also a wonderful place to bring donativos and spend time learning this magical and vibrant form of music and dance.
‘El Gimnasio’ Boxing Gym
Following the work accomplished at the legendary ‘Rafael Trejo Gimnasio’ - including rewiring, painting and a huge amount of donativo - we are now working with another, younger, boxing gym that is in need of our help. The facilities are very poor and in a desperate situation, and equipment is almost nonexistent. The coaches are passionate and therefore have a large following of kids, with ages ranging from 5-21 years old. Our work as volunteers includes, renovation and maintenance of facilities, donating equipment, assisting in sports training and hosting events.
Paseo Del Prado
Weekends are generally free but we also include activities to help you enjoy your surroundings. On Saturdays, weather permitting, we take a trip to the beaches that lie 30 mins by ‘collectivo’ taxi or bus, immediately east of the city, known as Playas del Este. Sunday afternoon from 12:00-15:00, we take a short walk to the famous Paseo del Prado, where a collective of local artists give free ‘arts and crafts’ lessons to local kids. We bring supplies to donate as well as helping out, depending what’s going on. It’s all very casual and a great way to enjoy and learn about the diversity of local art, as well as mingling with the locals and helping out the kids.
For two weekends you will be accompanied on a daytrip to a beach directly east of Havana. Journey time is 30 minutes by bus and you will enjoy the exhilarating rollers that break on these pristine sandy beaches.
- Spanish lessons each morning Monday to Friday from 09:00-11:45, you will receive intensive Spanish language tuition comprising of 3 x 45 minute lessons spaced with 15 minute breaks. On the first morning there will be a short test to establish your level and requirements.
- Twin room accommodation on a single gender basis
- Breakfast and lunch
- Three ‘Discover Cuba’ cultural excursions.
- Volunteer placements and support per timetable and descriptions above.
- Two weekends will feature a guided trip to the beach.
- Police Clearance Certificate
- Dut to local considerations, the maximum age for this project is 35 years.