Sancti Spiritus Adventure

April Mandaliti
GCELE – Pathways to Community Food Security – Sancti Spiritus, Cuba (May 2017)
Bridging to University Nursing – Flex

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Where do I even begin? My friends and family keep asking me about my time in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, and I am still struggling to find the right answers. People would ask, “well what did you learn about?” I would respond by saying, “Permaculture. Do you know what that is?” When my friends and family would say no, I would simply describe it by saying, “basically, it is nature working with nature to create and sustain life”. But no one would really understand. It is so incredibly difficult to understand the experience that we were given without truly being able to experience it.

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I was part of a group of Centennial College students who were tremendously fortunate to be given the opportunity of participating in a GCELE. Our project was Food Insecurities. While I applied for this experience, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, nor was I aware of any food insecurities in Cuba. I was so naïve. I heard about GCELE through a friend, and decided to apply impulsively, for no particular reason. The next thing I knew I was offered an interview, only to find out shortly after that I had been accepted. I was in shock; my impulsive application landed me here, and it had all happened so quickly. I was honestly debating accepting the trip. Luckily at that moment I made the best decision, I accepted the offer. I had no idea what to expect, no idea what I would be doing, who I would be meeting, or what I would be learning. The most I could think of was that I was going to Cuba to lend a helping hand, to help those in need, to assist Cubans with their food insecurities. I was so wrong.

I have never learned such an immense amount of knowledge, 6 months worth to be exact, in such a short 10 days. I thought that we were going to be helping the Cubans; turns out the Cubans helped US, taught US, changed OUR lives, and broadened OUR scope of knowledge. What did we learn most about? Permaculture and compost. More information on our experience with permaculture and compost can be found in my next blog. Additionally, I am a nursing student and was able to practice many nursing skills such as splinter removals, wound care, rash and skin irritation care, sunburn care, and more, for my peers and Cuban friends.

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I cannot express how much this trip has changed my life. On top of all of the incredible experiences we had regarding education, my group was selected so technically, and successfully. Each and every group member, which consisted of students, Centennial College faculty leaders, and our trip guide/leader, Ron, got along so incredibly well, worked together as a team quite efficiently, and became one big family. Every single member keeps in touch, and we are all currently working on future plans as a team to use our knowledge to implicate permaculture and organic food production in Canada, as opposed to forgetting what we learned and failing to make a difference. Not only did our group get along so well, but we also got along so well with the Cubans that we had the privilege of meeting, and built friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Cubans that we met were all extraordinary and brilliant individuals, not to mention some of the hardest working people I have ever witnessed. The amount of knowledge that we learned was mostly taught from them. Even though many Cubans that we met did not speak much English, we still found different ways to communicate and form unbreakable bonds. Overall, this trip was simply incredible. It surpassed my expectations. Thank you Centennial College for allowing me the opportunity to fall in love with the city and people of Sancti Spiritus. You have forever changed my life.

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