Once a country sealed off from the U.S., Cuba is slowly revealing the formerly untapped resources it has to offer. You can now experience this cultural revolution firsthand with our Cuba Educational Exchange, a journey that exposes students to new and exciting experiences never before offered.
As a result of the Cold War, Fidel Castro’s dictatorial reign, and decades of a less-than-neighborly relationship between communist Cuba and the U.S., Cuba has become the mythical unicorn of international travel from the U.S. Yet now that Fidel has relinquished power to his more progressive, less dictatorial younger brother, the Cuban political climate has started to shift. With that, the 50-year-old travel restrictions are slowly dissipating, making it easier than ever before to journey to Cuba and learn about this once isolated culture.
The Rev. Raúl Suarez, founder and director of Cuba’s Martin Luther King Center—a stop on Explorica’s exclusive educational exchange to Cuba—recently met with lawmakers and Obama administration officials in Washington, D.C. He was there to talk about the half-century old embargo the U.S. placed on the Caribbean communist country.
“We have always known we are very different: I am Cuban, you are North American,” the Rev. Suarez said. “We speak different languages and have different cultures. But today, through sitting here and talking together, I think we all realize how similar we are. At the core of it all, we are all human.”
A study reveals that Americans, for the most part, would actually prefer stronger ties with the island country. Political isolation for more than 50 years may have in fact helped to perpetuate an anti-capitalist ideal, rather than prevent it.
Since the induction of Raúl Castro as president in 2008, the country’s doors have slowly creaked open to free enterprise.
The Cuba Emprende Foundation, a nonprofit concerned with incubating small business in places like Old Havana (another stop on the Cuban exchange), gives people the independence to rely on themselves, rather than the state. Engage with these community members on your educational exchange for front-line perspective of the grassroots restoration in the Historic Quarter and also to glimpse into the evolving economy of this Cuban cultural epicenter.
About 30 miles outside of Havana, the Mariel port, once exclusively the exit for Cuban refugees desperately seeking freedom in the United States, will now open its wharfs to incoming world trade. In fact, with financing from Brazil’s government—$900 million or so—and a separation from state authority with PSA International (out of Singapore) overseeing its operation, Mariel represents Cuba’s biggest bet on global capitalism, writes the NY Times. It’s also indicative of a nation readying itself to share with the world economy.
Explorica offers an exclusive educational exchange to Cuba for North American students. Uncover the mysteries of this island country in the Caribbean that has been closed off from North America for more than half a century.
|Go on our Cuba Educational Exchange and unearth this island country’s vibrant culture. Engage with local professionals to learn about the industry and artistry of this uniquely self-sufficient country, and immerse yourself in authentic Cuban culture.|
In a recent post, “Class trip crowdfunding: Fundraising for the digital age,” we highlighted crowdfunding as an effective way to raise money for your class’s educational tour. Crowdfunding utilizes the Internet to collect small donations from a vast pool of supporters, anywhere in the world.
The principles of crowdfunding, however, have existed long before the digital age. Traditional forms of fundraising—bake sales, car washes, school performances, etc.—employ the same community concepts, just on a local, rather than global, scale.
We asked two Group Leaders of our Explorica educational tours to talk about how each fundraising model—online crowdfunding and tapping your local community—can benefit the class trip kitty. The moral here is that neither is necessarily better. In fact, a balance of both could maximize your class’s potential to reach its monetary goal.
Dinner and a show will get you to your destination
Justin, an Explorica Group Leader, says dinner theater has been a great way for his class to raise funds.
“We live in a small town that doesn’t have much entertainment,” Justin said. “So giving the community something to do is always good.”
Charging $20 at the door, Justin and his class aim to make sure people get their fill of good food—traditional Southern cuisine with a “creative flare”—and laughs, he said.
The local restaurant where his class performs is very intimate. This allows the perfomers to involve the audience, uniting school and community. The community gets an entertaining, firsthand demonstration of what Howard’s class is all about. (They’re going on a London Theater tour this year.)
Step into one of the grand Romanesque or Victorian theaters in London’s famed “theatreland” to see a modern-day play and travel back in time to learn what it takes to put on a Shakespearean play in the open-air Elizabethan Globe Theater.
When Justin’s class performed “And They All Lived,” the big bad wolf lurked through the crowd scaring guests. A woodsman chased after him to bring happiness back to the people. The cast-audience engagement really allowed his kids to shine, Justin said.
“If you can entertain and involve [the audience], they will buy into your cause,” he said. “And it teaches the students a valuable lesson in hard work.”
The benefits of traditional fundraising—in this case, dinner theater—are pretty straightforward. The class involves its community. They inform the audience of why they’re going on the trip, through performance, while actively engaging them to donate. Plus, it’s fun!
Although, what happens when you’ve exhausted your local community’s resources?
It may be time to go online, where you’re no longer restricted to a zip code. Finding the right community on the Internet, however, can be overwhelming. The World Wide Web is your oyster, yet too many choices can seem like a prison. In short, a bottomless donor pool is worth little with no vantage point from which to launch a fundraising campaign.
Enter DonorsChoose.org. Launched in 2000, DonorsChoose.org makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. According to the site, American public school teachers can post classroom project requests online, allowing anyone to contribute any amount to their cause.
DonorsChoose.org clearly defines this mission on its About page. It’s backed by A-list celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Colbert. And its transparency of use lets donors know where exactly their money will be allocated in the teacher’s project.
Furthermore, fieldtrips get funded 14 percent more often than comparably priced projects, according to an infographic from Column Five.
Explorica group leader and DonorsChoose.org Director of Teacher Engagement Walter successfully funded seven international class trips for his Harlem, N.Y. students, via the online platform.
“The site makes it easy for teachers to spread the word about what they are trying to accomplish,” Walter said.
Since there’s no minimum donation, DonorsChoose.org allows classes to set smaller, more attainable fundraising goals online.
“Don’t try and raise all the money with one event or online proposal,” said the seven-year veteran of New York City public schools. “Instead, break up your lofty goal into smaller projects that will quickly add up!”
Since teaching in NYC public schools, Doyle went on to work for DonorsChoose.org full-time. He founded the Kids n’ Culture program which allows inner city students to travel abroad and conduct global cultural research.
If you’re interested in immersing your own class in world cultures, learn more about these enlightening Cultural Immersion Tours…
Catching the crowds at Sacre Coeur, in Paris
You’ve booked an educational tour with Explorica. You’ve held an informational meeting with students and their parents (Step Three in the tour process). Everybody’s on board.
Great! Now what?
Establish a plan to reach your fundraising goal for the overall cost of the class trip.
Nowadays, online crowdfunding can be a powerful asset. Think of holding a bake sale where anyone, anywhere, and at anytime can donate to your cause.
Though crowdfunding—raising money in small amounts from many people over the Internet—is still somewhat of a new phenomenon, a multitude of sites have sprouted up within the last few years. They’re not all for everybody, but these three sites may help you and your class get to your destination.
Three crowdfunding sites for class trips
It’s important to note which sites are appropriate for your specific needs. Kickstarter.com, for instance, is a popular crowdfunding site, but caters to causes attempting to finance creative projects.
You won’t find much support for a class trip on Kickstarter, but these three sites may show you and your students some love…
“I had an idea that it should be easy for friends and family to come together online and raise money for life’s important events.” — Brad Damphouse, co-founder and CEO of GoFundMe
GoFundMe.com is great for individual fundraising. It’s the #1 crowdfunding site for personal causes and life events, according to its media page.
This may come in handy if, as the group leader, you decide that each student should raise their own fare. You could even show kids how to set up their own fundraising page during your trip’s informational meeting.
Fees for this site amount to about eight percent. So certainly aim higher than the bottom line to pad this cost. Unlike other crowdfunding sites, however, there’s no time limit on your campaign. In this case, time really is money. And you’ll have more of it to reach your monetary goal. GoFundMe collects donations through a third-party website called WePay.com.
Like GoFundMe, Fundly processes donations through WePay.com, as well. And much like GoFundMe, it’s also geared toward the individual fundraiser.
The site walks users through a step-by-step process, when setting up their online fundraising page. It taps into their Gmail or Yahoo contacts for an email blast that will drum up donations. Fundly also avails the user options to connect Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts for further promotion. And the page provides embed code so that the user can feature their Fundly campaign on any website or blog they administer.
The upper-left corner of the screen—prime real estate on any webpage—provides space to upload a video or engaging picture. Further down the page, the user’s wall features campaign progress in the form of comments and blog posts. The blog is particularly useful, when the user needs more content (they can share on social media spaces like Facebook and Twitter) to generate buzz about their trip. Fundly gives fundraisers 60 days to reach their goal.
Indiegogo.com is a bit more basic and sports a slightly pricier, 9-percent processing fee. Its comments section is not as prominent. So funders have to click around the page, if they want to check progress.
A unique feature to Indiegogo, however, is its right margin, which allows users to display prizes based on the amount of donation. Depending on decided rewards, these conditional incentives could convert more people to support your class trip.
Perhaps, for $5, you’ll promise to send supporters a postcard from one of these life-changing tours…
Taken back by London landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, travelers will cross the English Channel in the Eurostar Chunnel to Paris. There they’ll feast eyes on the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and many other breathtaking Parisian wonders. Other destinations include Zurich and Munich, Germany.
Included in this tour: the sacred Sensoji Temple; Tokyo’s Imperial Palace; Mount Fuji. Choose to complete the tour in Osaka or Hiroshima.
Destinations: Johannesburg, the magnificent Lisbon Falls, Kruger National Park, and the tiny country of Swaziland.