Despite years of withering neglect and a wildly turbulent history, Havana is a city that hemorrhages nothing but passion, vibrancy, and exuberance. How Havana ages as beautifully as George Clooney, is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the swashbuckling history, the survivalist spirit, or the tireless salsa energy that ricochets off walls and is absorbed by the souls of the Cuban people. If you’re ready to harness some of that saucy Cuban spirit for yourself, the adventure of volunteering abroad in Havana is yours for the taking!
How to Volunteer Abroad in Havana
Havana is the picture-perfect setting for a volunteer abroad program, emboldening students to embrace the local lifestyle and soak in the surroundings almost effortlessly. When it comes to the most popular ways to volunteer abroad in Havana, consider these GoAbroad approved options:
Popular causes/programs in Havana. Creating cultural awareness is the driving force that allows programs to operate in Cuba. Volunteer placements in education include a variety of activities that together help participants and Cubans meet and learn from each other. As more and more tourists are able to enter Cuba, more development follows, which results in the loss of natural habitat, resources, and culture. The time for conservation is now in terms of learning about how to properly balance this with the tourist population.
Short term volunteer programs in Havana. Once you decide on the what, the next step is to decide on the how long. The duration of volunteer programs abroad in Havana can vary from days to months or even longer. If you don’t have a lot of time, don’t sweat it. Many like-minded humanitarians opt to volunteer abroad short term and in the summer months because it is a great way to fill that cherished time off and end up with more than an awesome tan by fall.
Long term volunteer projects in Havana. A couple of weeks or months of volunteering will definitely make a lasting impression (on you and Havana), but volunteers are always encouraged to stay as long as possible to maximize impact. If compassion for Havana is consuming you and you’re considering jumping in for the long haul, there are definitely long term volunteer abroad programs in Havana.
Life in Havana for International Volunteers
You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to filling up your spare time in Havana. When it’s time to take a break from saving the world, hop on a guagua or ride in style in an almendron and experience what brings Havana to life. No matter what you do, you will be Havan-a good time!
The daytime hours in Havana can be easily exhausted admiring the tangible history oozing out of every nook and cranny in the city. Check out an exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, catch a show at the Gran Teatro, or take a stroll around the Hemingway Marina. Whatever your interests, you’ll find plenty of extra-credit materials to supplement your studies in Havana.
When evening strikes, head to the restaurant district to get a taste of the sizzling Cuban culinary scene and swig down a cortadito (the OG of energy drinks) so you can keep up with the vivacious Havana nightlife. Watch the sunset along the Malecón, enjoy midnight martinis the underground jazz cafes, and salsa your heart out at La Casa de la Musica to finish the night. After working up an appetite dancing the night away, feed that rumba-ly in your tumbly with some melt-in-your-mouth ropa vieja or yuca con mojo.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Even if you know a little español, Cuban Spanish is not what you took in high school. Cuban Spanish sounds like it is sipping on a mojito and has a permanent cigar wedged in the corner of its mouth. Whether it’s laziness or efficiency, syllables often get dropped and the only time you’ll hear a “D” is when you’re singing the alphabet. On top of that, there’s almost as much slang peppered into conversation as there are real words. ¡Ay, caramba!
Don’t let the mesmerizing colors, tropical drinks, and sublime beaches lull you into thinking that volunteering abroad in Havana will be an all-inclusive resort vacation. Of course there will be time for fun, but keep in mind that you will be in a different domain where normal daily happenings are more tightly regulated than you’re used to. Say adios to Western certainties and prepare to expect the unexpected in Havana.
Opportunities in Havana may be a bit more limited, but that doesn’t limit the fruitfulness of volunteering abroad in Havana! The exclusivity emanating from Havana’s walls will only make your volunteer abroad experience all the more appealing on your resume.
For even more ultra-inspiring info, read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Cuba.