St Kevin’s College pupils are still buzzing after their recent trip to Cuba.
Organising the trip was a labour of love for teacher Michelle Buckham and her helpers, and the results were as memorable as they had hoped.
Stepping off their plane in Cuba was like stepping into a new world, and none of the group knew what to expect.
Getting over jet lag was one of the initial challenges the pupils faced.
“It was just confusion – there were so many times where it constantly seemed like day time or like night time,” pupil Anna Craig said.
After recovering from the flight, the group started to embrace their surroundings.
The first stop in their journey was the town of Vinales in the cool mountains of western Cuba.
“We went to into the mountains straight away to acclimatise to the heat and also because it’s a quieter place,” Mrs Buckham said.
Activities included cruising around Havana in a classic American car, snorkelling in the Bay of Pigs, walking through preserved military trenches from the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and visiting a tobacco farm.
Riding through Havana in the American cars while listening to Ed Sheeran was a highlight for the pupils.
Instead of staying in hotels, the group lived with various families in Cuba.
“You could probably go to Cuba and go to a resort or a hotel and not meet any Cubans,” Mrs Buckham said.
“We did it the complete opposite where we stayed in people’s houses.”
Staying with the families put a unique spin on the trip because it showed what the country was like behind the scenes.
Veronica Jack, one of the St Kevin’s pupils, remarked on how friendly and welcoming the locals were to the group.
“They treated us like we knew them for years,” she said.
Veronica gave a violin, on behalf of St Kevin’s pupil Rata McMullan, to a Cuban woman who aspired to start up her own music school.
For Anna, watching families flourish without the use of technology struck home.
“It’s got that real sense of culture. The people .. don’t have lots of phones so they’re so interactive with each other.
“That’s what I’ll probably always take away from it – how different the world is without hearing your phone all the time. You become so much closer to the world.”
The group also supported residents of Barcoa, a city in Western Cuba devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, by giving them supplies donated by the St Kevin’s school justice awareness group.
Mrs Buckham said there were no immediate plans to organise another trip to Cuba.
“It is a one-off. We won’t be doing it again. Most people don’t get the opportunity to do that.”
All members of the group believed the trip was something they would remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.