Why some Cuban Americans are funding trips for dozens to visit Cuba for free

Posted: 20-May-16 18:01

While many travellers have to abide by a certain budget, some lucky visitors to Cuba will soon experience a life-changing trip at no cost. A small group of Cuban Americans started a foundation that is paying for dozens of young people to visit Cuba who may not otherwise have the funds to do so. They view it as a way to help fellow Cuban Americans learn about their culture and make some connections in their ancestral homeland.

Why some Cuban Americans are funding trips for dozens to visit Cuba for free

Matador, a website focused on travel writing and photography, recently published an article outlining the CubaOne Foundation. According to authors Maria Murriel and Bradley Campbell, the foundation is currently setting up paid trips for dozens of young people to visit their native homeland.

According to the article, four young professionals living in the Miami-area, Giancarlo Sopo, Daniel Jimenez, Andrew Jimenez and Cherie Cancio, came up with the idea for the foundation. Their goal was to pay for 10 Cuban Americans between the ages of 22-35 to travel each time on a series of four trips to Cuba. Murriel and Campbell suggest the organizers came up with the idea based off of Birthright Israel. That organization helps young Jews make connections and learn more about culture in Israel.

Sopo tells the authors:

“It was incredibly inspiring to see how my friends who have been on the Birthright Israel trips, how that helped them form emotional connections to Israel and to Israelis and how that helped foster ties in both countries on a people-to-people level.”

Right now, the article claims that founders have about $100,000 of their own money to use. That’s enough for 40 people to visit Cuba over the summer, including flights from Miami, lodging, transportation on the island, visas and most meals. The writers say the four founders have spent time regularly travelling to Cuba themselves in an effort to find locals to provide their visitors with lodging, transportation, food and tours. The first group is set to arrive in Cuba in June.

According to the published article, they want to make sure the Cuban Americans can meet real people and not just have a state-run experience. The founders tell them it’s important to show visitors the difference between life as a Cuban American and life in Cuba as well as to initiate conversation between private citizens.

Sopo tells the authors he hopes for the foundation to expand the idea beyond the initial 40 visitors in the future.

“We see this as a proof of concept, if you will, and we want to take this idea to donors and to funders, foundations here in the United States, who can help us jumpstart this initiative and grow it. Our belief is that we’d like to take our entire generation to Cuba to meet its peers.”

At some point, the authors write, the founders also hope to sponsor specifically themed trips, such as those connecting US and Cuban art students as well as American tech professionals to their counterparts in Cuba.


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