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School Supplies For Cuba


See the bottom of this post for the subject we started a year ago about taking school supplies to Cuba. We’ve seen from this posting that people have been taking school supplies to many areas in Cuba. Those who can, deliver them directly to schools (which can, at times, be difficult if you are a stranger) or to churches. Others give them to resort workers such as maids and gardiners. All the school supplies are useful and will certainly find their way into the hands of students and teachers.

In early March, 2005, Cheryl and I spent a day with Ceidel delivering school supplies to two rural schools. My wife, a teacher, gave her students the opportunity to contribute and Air Canada allowed us to take the school supplies - 50 lbs of them - with us at no charge.

Ceidel’s schools are in pretty good shape for the next few months, thanks to the many donations he has received from guests worldwide. However, there are other schools and churches that cannot say the same things right now.

Ceidel wants to thank everyone who helped and encourages visitors to Cuba to assist where possible. For those who might like to take a large quantity (like us, who took a full suitcase and got questioned by the airport guards) it might be better to get “official permission” if you are trying to bring a lot of supplies. Perhaps you could contact the resort several months before leaving to see what the best process is. However, any amount - big or small - of school supplies is greatly appreciated.

Ceidel is an incredible individual and there are “Ceidel’s” all over Cuba. They still need our help.

PS The kindergarten children were very proud of their colouring books so those + crayons are things to think about.

My wife, Cheryl, and I just got back from Cuba. A lot of Canadians take items to leave with the staff - cosmetics, toiletries, school supplies, etc. In some cases, people bring school supplies to take
on an excursion and leave at a school or home.

We learned from one of the hotel managers that an employee at the resort we stayed at (Ceidel, a bellman, at the Iberostar Daiquiri in Cayo Guillermo) actually sponsors a small school (22 students - Grades 1, 2 + 3) in his village using his tip money. Cheryl, being a
teacher, sought him out and had quite a discussion with him about what he was doing.

He told Cheryl that, at many resorts in Cuba (and, I suspect, the Dominican Republic) there are individuals doing what he is doing (ie. using tip money to sponsor schools). He asked her to publicize this and ask guests who bring school supplies to see if such a person
exists at their resort. Then they would know for sure that their gift actually got to students.

Ceidel said not to mail things to Cuba because it was unlikely the contents would arrive. He said if a tourist wants to ensure that school supplies get to the school, they should try and give them to someone actually connected to a school - or the school directly.


I think it would be better to had over the school stuff the the Major of school in question.


DMW - was there specific mention of certain items that would be needed for the school? We have pens, pencils, crayons that we will be taking to Iberostar Daiquiri in April and just wondering if there were specific items that were mentioned as being needed?? Would love to hear back from you - two of our party of 10 are teacher’s aides and want to specifically bring school supplies.


Hello, for supplies - all of the above. In fact, anything that could be used in a school. Please ask for Ceidel (if he is not working that week (which is unlikely), Yunior at Guest Services will see he gets them. Please tell Ceidel the people who promised to get the information on the Internet did just that.

In terms of giving supplies directly to a school, that is also a good idea. However, most guests ar resorts in Cuba do not go anywhere near a school so this is another way to get supplies directly to a school.


I’m curious about this. I thought Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. This would indicate to me that their education system is one of the best. Is this true? Why do they need school supplies if this is true. Not trying to start anything…I’m genuinely curious.


Last year while staying at Brisas Guardalavaca, my daughter (age 9) went with the kids club to visit a small zoo and a school. We had brought things to hand out so she took them all with her. The teacher let her hand out things to each student and then the principal came out and thanked her and she got to take pictures of them. We had taken construction paper, bottles of glue and glue sticks, crayons (especially the Crayola "Canadian" colour pkgs you can get at Zellers), pens, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, scissors, chalk for the teachers and chalkboard erasers, coloured pencils, picture books, Spanish/English dictonairies, rulers, small staplers and staples - anything in the school supplies section of your local store. We also brought some used baseball gloves and bought some new baseballs to go with them, frisbees, skipping ropes, hackisack balls, small toys that a number of children could play with at a time etc. Hope this helps.


Yes, Cuba has a very high literacy rate. From our experience visiting Cuba and schools there, this achievement is possible without the “bells & whistles” type school supplies our children in Canada seem to want or claim they “need”. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen our students with one of those plain yellow Eagle HB pencils- they all have the fancy much more expensive stuff (thanks to the parents). Do they learn better because they have fancy supplies? I don’t think so! When we take school supplies to Cuba, quality is far more important to us than quantity or “fancy”. I don’t buy pens, pencils, crayons at dollar stores because these items often lack quality. Nothing more frustrating for a Cuban student than to have the pencil lead of a shiny multi-print pencil break constantly while you try to sharpen it. Don’t forget to take some pencil sharpeners! I buy large packages of pens and pencils at Costco or Office Depot type stores. After the Back-to-School rush is over, many items are discounted- like Crayola colour pencils, felts and crayons. That’s when I buy and stock up for our next trip to Cuba. I am also very reluctant to give my school supply gifts to a “middle man” simply because of the black market economies so prevelant in places like Cuba. Please don’t misunderstand and think I don’t trust the resort worker mentioned in previous posts. I’ve never met the person, so I can’t judge. I just get a lot more satisfaction giving my donations directly to the school head master and students as I know they have gone exactly where I intended them to go and the many smiles from the children are the only thanks I need.


Hi, maybe I should add that we were told at the reception for returning guests by one of the managers we met at the resort last year about Ceidel - he did not approach us. In fact, Ceidel spoke of the “black market”, thefts from mailed packages and airport guards all taking school suppiles from the intended destination. I agree - don’t leave school supplies with anyone but check with the hotel manager or guest services department if you are not going to be at a school yourself. Personally, at the Iberostar Daiquiri, we had little doubt about Ceidel’s honesty - particularly after being told at the returning guests reception by one of the managers we already knew and corresponded with most of the year.


For Sueheb. In response to your comment, I would add that Knowledge and the opportunity to learn is abundant in Cuba; Supplies are not abundant because of the governmental system they live under. The kids in Cuba don’t have much to distract them from their studies so their minds are more open to learn. You find highly educated Cubans working in such jobs as bartending, tour guides, etc in the resorts simply because of the opportunity to earn 10 x the amount of money their chosen professions would pay.

We visited a small country school in Guardalavaca last month and our guide explained the educational system at length. It is true, that their education including University is free (mandatory through high school) and university takes 7 years to complete because there is work (volunteer) time involved with that education…be it working in the fields, a factory, or in the school system itself. Although free, many young men and women must join the workforce after high school to supplement the family income and must forego the opportunity for higher education; others are more fortunate when the families can sacrifice the extra income to allow their children to attend university. The little schoolhouse we visited was three rooms, grade 1 to 6 (two grades per room), distinguishable by the colour of neck scarf worn by the children; it was very sparse …wooden desks and chairs, one blackboard…each classroom seated 20 students with one teacher and three assistants per room so there is a lot of one on one with three teachers/assistants per classroom.


For Sueheb … This is not intended to be sarcastic.
In another thread “DVD players” you said you were bringing your 8 year old who is learning Spanish. You also asked the question … "how to broaden by children’s horizons when we will be spending 80% of our time here … an all inclusive Spanish-owned (fake) resort…"
Here is the opportunity to answer your own question. Take 10 - 20% of the remaining time to bring your children, especially the 8 year old who is learning Spanish, to visit a (real) local school. You could bring some school supplies which are desperately needed and provide an opportunity for your children to interact with some Cuban kids and have some fun and provide some good memories.
Just an idea.


YVRrck and Trillium-thank you for responding to my question. I have the CIA World Fact book in my ‘favorites’, so I looked up Cuba to see the ‘facts’ on literacy. According to this fact book, Canada, the US AND Cuba are all at a 97% literacy rate. I’d really like to know how they compile this information though. :stuck_out_tongue:
It appears they’ve achieved this even without abundant school supplies. (I like the suggestion to bring quality pencils btw…)

Trillium, it would appear the kids might be better served in Cuba with the teacher ratio. It certainly beats ours! :wink: I’ve read that in S Asia, where literacy is at it’s lowest, they have a ratio of 60 to 1. I’m perplexed about their government system though. (sorry if I appear ignorant here but I’ve never taken a political science course) If under their system, everyone is supposed to receive basically equal pay for work, why is it that some families have an easier time than others regarding their child’s university attendance? How does the gov’t keep tabs on this?


“how to broaden by children’s horizons when we will be spending 80% of our time here … an all inclusive Spanish-owned (fake) resort…”

is called quoting out of context. :slight_smile:

It wasn’t a question but a rhetorical statement in response to Osoblanco’s suggestion to leave the gameboy and books at home and ‘get out and interact’ with the people.

I think you just really need to give advice for some reason even. I think that it’s kind of obvious that if I’m On the resort 80% of the time…I will be Off the resort 20% of the time. ::slight_smile: I also believe that by me saying this:

"If we arrange for the cab and go to a nearby village…are we going to let the kids bring their gameboys…OR even books?"

It would be pretty obvious that we would probably be going into the town or village, although I didn’t overtly say that we would be visiting a (real) school.

KittyAnne, I think it’s wonderful that you are so passionate about Cuba and helping the school children receive supplies. Please understand though, that people have different agendas from your own and sometimes when you think you are helping, you may be doing the opposite. :sunglasses:


I sure will continue my passion for Cuban children (or any children, anywhere) to have school supplies, clothing, shoes, vitamins, food, water, medicines, etc.
And I will also continue to understand that people will have different agendas and dance to the tune of different drummers.


For Sueheb

"equal pay for equal work"…the payscale in Cuba has its lowest to highest levels. Professionals earn more than the field or factory workers although in comparison to our professionals, it is pittance. I would presume that it is the children of the doctors, lawyers, scientists, researchers and those serving in government positions that are in a better position for their children to continue with their free education. Additionally, professionals do not have to pay rent as does the, if you will, "blue collar worker" or labourer.


We have met many resort workers who are professionals- doctors, marine biologist, professor, etc. and many of them came from families of blue collar or field workers, so I’m not sure your theory holds true that the children of professionals are the ones who go on to university. I do understand also that in Cuba, there is a “selection process” similar to that in some european countries where children are streamed at an earlier age depending on their academic abilities. Since education in Cuba is compulsory until the end of grade nine, and is free or certainly very heavily government subsidized thereafter, anyone with the brains and ambition to get a university education seems to be able to do so regardless of what job their parents may have. A farming family we met off resort, were fiercely proud that their son was at university studying to be a doctor.


YVRck…this sounds true to what I’ve read so far. Trillium, it was my understanding that their wasn’t a payscale such as the one you stated and that sometimes, a taxi driver might even make more than a scientist or doctor. I wonder how one would find out more about this. I seem to remember reading something about the school streaming as well…and that they have a separate school for the very ‘bright’.
sigh…I’m off to the Dominican boards… I have to say, I don’t find the Dominican half as interesting as Cuba.


From my observations and experiences… IMHO.

The ‘Official’ pay scales in Cuba range from about $9.00 USD per month (paid in Cuban Pesos however) at the low end to a high of about $25.00 USD per month at the high end. So the difference between someone like a gardener, farm worker, waitress, etc., and a professional like a doctor, laywer, scientist etc., is only about 2 1/2 times. Not like in our society where the difference can be hundreds of times greater for the professional.

This is why many professionals in Cuba choose to leave their profession and work in the tourist sector. Working in tourism gives them access to hard-currency tips and as you can see, a tourist worker can easily make more than a professional worker in tips alone. This is the inherent structural problem when a closed socialist economic system comes into contact with a market and services driven capitalistic system like tourism. But when the former Soviet Union pulled its’ support out of Cuba in 1990, the Cuban government was forced to embrace tourism as a source of external hard-currency revenue. Prior to that time, the US dollar was not even legal to use in Cuba (the US dollar was used illegally on the Black Market however) and there wasn’t the same economic pressure for professionals to change careers.

As to education, well in some ways it is very similar to here, with one major difference. Higher education here is often based on economic ability to afford university. In Cuba, it is much more based on the academic ability of the person. There is still competition for University positions, but this is based on academic ability and no child is prevented from higher education because his/her parents cannot pay. But the Cubans also don’t waste higher education resources on a student who isn’t motivated, or has the ability to succeed.

Sadly, one of the things that is now happening is that a Cuban child is motivated to succeed academically and get a good education, so that he can emmigrate and sell that good education in a first-world country. When countries such as Canada for example, admit immigrants based on points, language and education, they contribute to the brain drain in poorer countries. Cuba is unfortunately no different. Most of my Cuban friends here in Canada are very well educated, but Canada, not Cuba benefits from that education.

But back to topic.
As to school supplies, just like here in Canada, government resources for education are limited and it’s this limit on supplies that Canadian tourists can help out with.
Basic things such as notepads, paper, binders, pencils and pens or even a basic calculator. Even things like dictionaries. Each classroom MIGHT have a single one to be shared amongst all the students. But no Cuban student dreams about having his/her own. So these type of things are what Canadian tourists can help out with. And there are basically two ways for us tourists to help out. General supplies donated to a school to be shared by all, and specific items that you might wish to give to a specific family to help their children with their studies. This works best once and if you have befriended a specific Cuban family.

Anyway, enough of this tome. It’s all my personal opinion and observations, but I hope it helps explain things a bit better.



My sister is a grade 5 teacher and she is asking all her students to bring one item = new pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil sharpeners, etc that they will package up and I will take with me to Cuba. She is basically telling them to bring one item - either something they would need for school work or something they would play with at recess. They are going to write a note and I will deliver everything to a school while I’m in Cuba. I think it’s a great idea - will probably have to pay for overweight luggage but well worth it!!! :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


At the resorts you will meet "workers" who are trained in all kinds of professions … teachers, university professors, engineers, nurses, musicians, artists. They have opted to work at the resorts because they can access US $ They earn approximately $33 US a month but the tips and gifts add a lot more to the monthly income.
Many of the resort workers are supporting an extended family with their tips and gifts. They take trips on days off and holidays to the country to bring things to their families.
Tonight I just sent $50 US to a friend in Cuba, which we do every month, because he no longer has access to the tips, etc. at the resort. This friend is looking after an elderly father and five children and god knows how many relatives and neighbours.


Hola YHZ
What a great idea! A friend of mine just went back to Ghana for the third time. A lot of students, church groups and unions did various things to raise money or solicit school and other supplies for her to bring there.
At one time we had the Cuba-Nova Scotia Association which arranged a container shipment of goods to Cuba. This was really good. You could bring computers, text books, scribblers, pencils, pens, etc. which would eventually make their way to those communities most in need in Cuba.
It’s really good to hear about people like yourselves who take the initiative to obtain those badly needed items to a country (children) in need.