I recently had the privilege of leading a group of Bonner students on a service trip to Cuba. Now this was no ordinary service trip. Shovels were not wielded, schools were not built, and in the end we left little physical impact on the country. Now this is far different from my typical service trip, but bridges were indeed built. Just a different kind. Let me back up a little.
Bonner by my definition, is a diverse group of students who have been selected to serve their communities as their job through their college career building skills that will enable them to live richer and more fulfilled lives. It is a scholarship that requires active participation throughout your college career and if you are successful they send you on service trips when you are a Jr and Sr. They partnered with Conscious Cuba to provide a culturally engaging experience in Cuba. A perfect match if you ask me.
So here we are in Cuba trying to make a difference through service without actually accomplishing physical goals. How do you serve when you can't work for the community you are in? You open your heart and mind and engage. We toured the country with an emphasis on visiting social projects and also took a good look at the art that is so prominent in Cuban culture. Back all this up with lots of reflection and personal engagement and well you have a recipe for growth.
In the end I think the communities we served the most were the ones were these students will settle in the future. They became more diverse humans and saw first hand how people with limited resources can still start very impacting projects. They can look at the world through a new lens and understand the power of their actions. The places they will call home in the future stand to gain quite a bit from their growth.
I feel that we represented the United States well in a country just beginning to understand our culture. We faced both hard ships and opportunities. We had moments of bliss and moments of nausea. We took in the world around us and in the end I think we are all better off for our experience. Here is a short video of our experience.