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  Category: Articles » Education & Reference » Teaching » Article

North American Educators to Teach English in Cuba

By Marcel Hatch

Three groups of Canadian and American volunteers are preparing to fly to Havana to teach English to the Cubans. The 22-day programs are open to working or retired educators willing to pay their own costs, while donating their English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching skills. A knowledge of Spanish is not required.

Three ESL CUBA VOLUNTEER departures are planned: November 12 to December 3, 2005, January 14 to February 4, 2006, and February 18 to March 11, 2006. The program will recommence in the fall of 2006. Registration is limited to 15 teachers per group, although non-volunteer spouses and partners are welcome to come along. An extra week of relaxation or travel in Cuba after the ESL project has finished is easily arranged.

Upon arrival in Cuba, the ESL volunteers are put through an eight-day orientation course which includes sightseeing around Havana, visits to schools and universities, meetings with leading Cuban educators and activists, and cultural events.

Weeks two and three are devoted to morning classroom teaching at the University of Havana's Faculty of Foreign Languages, with Cuban professors on hand to assist. Volunteers with academic backgrounds in such fields as geography, psychology, law, mathematics, and physics will be invited to teach technical English at one of the university's many specialized faculties. In the afternoon, unstructured tutor sessions are held at a community education facility. Volunteers can opt to work only in the morning or afternoon, as desired. Weekends and evenings are free.

Volunteers are encouraged to prepare their own ESL curriculums, in partnership with the Cuban teachers. The idea is to give Cuban students the opportunity to practice conversational English with a native speaker, while receiving help with pronunciation, grammar, idioms, and colloquialisms. The program organizers and previous ESL participants can provide ideas for effective teaching.

The ESL volunteers are accommodated at the three-star Hotel St Johns in Havana's Vedado entertainment district, a short walk from the university along safe streets. International-style buffet breakfasts are included in the program costs. Participants can take lunch at the university's dining hall, and Vedado offers a wide range of private and public restaurants for other meals.

Team members must be flexible and eager to collaborate with their Cuban hosts and volunteer colleagues. The most important qualification, however, is a desire to build understanding between the peoples of Cuba, Canada, and the United States, and a willingness to learn. The ESL volunteers will have an unparalleled opportunity to witness and experience a humanistic society, in contrast to the consumer-driven existence many North Americans endure.

The ESL CUBA VOLUNTEER pilot project in March 2005 was rated a great success by participants. Sandra Moe of Vancouver, BC, had this to say: "I'm writing stories from my journal and find my head filling with memories of all the wonderful experiences that were made possible by your invitation to be a part of this project, by all the effort your group here in Canada and the people in Cuba put into the project, and by the wonderful and delightful people who I met and interacted with on the island."

For information on how you too can become part of one of these unique people-to-people learning experiences, visit

To view photos from all 15 Cuban provinces, plus the city of Havana, see

A comprehensive Cuba links page is available at

About the Author
Organized by the Vancouver-based nonprofit Cuba Education Tours, ESL CUBA VOLUNTEER is supported by the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, the Cuban Movement for Peace, the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana, CubaNatura Tours, and the University of Havana. The program is endorsed by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation.

(The current U.S. administration attempts to deny its own citizens their constitutional right to travel freely to Cuba, and official U.S. government "licenses" to visit Cuba are almost impossible to obtain. However, Americans are treated exactly the same as Canadians once they've arrived at the Canadian gateway airport. Prospective ESL volunteers with U.S. passports should call Cuba Education Tours for confidential advice.)


Marcel Hatch
Program Coordinator
Cuba Education Tours
2278 East 24th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5N 2V2
Toll Free 877-687-3817
Tel 604-874-9048
Fax 604-874-9041

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