Centre professor and students return from study in Cuba
DANVILLE, KY - Centre College professor and chaplain Rick Axtell, along with three Centre students and three recent graduates, recently returned from a travel-study program in Cuba. They joined a larger group of 14 persons drawn from across the United States.
The participating Centre students were Molly Alvey of Louisville, Andrea Zawacki of Georgetown and Doug Donaldson of Franklin. The three recent Centre graduates were Nute Bonner of Lexington, Emily Cash of Princeton and Adam Hinton of Flemingsburg.
Witness for Peace, which has a permanent presence in Cuba, hosted the group as part of its on-going efforts to promote international peace and understanding.
The trip took the students to a variety of sites in urban and rural settings. They visited medical and scientific facilities including a pediatric hospital and cancer ward, a biotechnology research lab, and a medical school that trains students from throughout Latin America. They toured an elementary school and a factory, enjoyed a Cuban jazz club, took in a national volleyball match and visited several churches.
One of the most instructive parts of the visit, says Axtell, was their visit to the U.S.
Interests Section. This agency serves as a substitute for an embassy in Havana, and staff members explained the official U.S. position on the embargo and other matters related to the relationship between the two countries.
Axtell described the trip as "tremendously enlightening." He said of the Centre participants: "Our students saw both impressive strengths and disturbing weaknesses in the Cuban system. They were affected by the poverty and disturbed by the artificially low salaries and consequently tough lives of average Cubans. They were surprised by Cuba's impressive achievements in literacy and universal health care. They were impressed by the friendliness of the people and the vitality of religion in Cuba. They were troubled by the negative consequences of the U.S. embargo on the
health and welfare of average Cubans. They were thrilled with Cuban music, sports, dance, and scenery. And they were surprised by the level of participation in Cuba's elections (different as they are from ours). Our students departed from the U.S. -- and returned -- with lots of questions about the post-Castro era."
Although none of the students applied for formal academic credit for the trip, says Axtell, at least one of the returning students plans to incorporate the experience into an independent study project at Centre.
- end -
Public information coordinator: Patsi Barnes Trollinger