After 25 years as ASU professors, David and Sharon Moore weren’t quite ready to stop educating.
The 72-year-old Peoria retirees headed to Cuba to teach English for two weeks, putting a modern spin on combining traveling and volunteering, or “voluntourism.”
The two-week trip was organized through the nonprofit Global Volunteers, which brings volunteers to partner countries to help with existing projects.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Sharon said. “We are educators and we give back. That’s why we became educators; not for the money but because we like helping other people.”
The volunteers will work on different projects, but, Sharon said, everyone is expected to teach English in the community centers when they have time. Sharon said she worked with small children and grown men. One man wanted to learn English so he could get a job as a scuba diver instructor.
David, on the other hand, spent time working in the fields, pulling weeds with residents. He said working closely with the locals was a “cultural exchange” unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
“The local project director said very clearly that our role was not to come in and save them but to build bridges. It was a two-way street,” David said. “We learned as much from the Cuban people as they did from us.”
When they were not helping the community or teaching English, David and Sharon experienced Cuba’s true culture and customs. Occasionally, they visited museums and attended events.
“It’s a nice blend of a service project and a tourist event,” David said. “You really do get below the surface when you are working in the service aspect of things and you get to learn the culture at a level you don’t get on a cruise.”
Sharon said her favorite tradition involved New Year’s Day. The locals create a doll and dress it with old clothes and stuff it with old items. At midnight, they place the dolls on the curb and burn it.
“Out with the old, and there’s a bucket of water that you sluice out your house to get rid of all the old and you are ready for the new year,” Sharon said.
One thing Sharon said she learned is that money isn’t as important in some communities. Cuba cares deeply for one another and is happy despite the poverty that exists.
“It was wonderful to meet and to spend two weeks with a group of people who share your values and who are there for the same purpose,” Sharon said.
When they are not volunteering, the Moores try to stay busy. Sharon said she’s transitioning to a writing career that involves her “culinary mystery” books. David keeps busy by playing pickleball during his off-time. Together, they’ll travel again for Global Volunteers, most likely to Poland.
Cuba, however, will always be a special experience for them. They said they already miss the culture.
“There’s support, there’s community, there’s a shared responsibility for one another, and as a group people were happy and music was 24/7,” Sharon said. “There was always music.”