28 Sept 2017

Join Jenny & Andrew for a creative adventure in Cuba, Jan. 31-Feb. 7


Want to explore Cuba's creative landscape?

I'm calling this the "Creative Landscape" trip for several reasons. The landscape of Cuba can be very inspirational in many ways! It inspires some people to relax and let go of their usual stress. Others become more energetic and enjoy horse riding, hiking or swimming, as well as more creative physical activities such as dancing. Some folks find artistic inspiration here, and begin exploring creative outlets like drawing, painting or photography.

For me and many others, however, Cuba inspires creativity in the form of writing. Andrew Wagner-Chazalon will be the catalyst for getting writers' juices flowing during a series of workshops he'll be leading throughout the week. I encourage you to sign up for these sessions but, if you're not interested in writing, you're still invited to be a part of the larger group! The poster above shows pricing for the basic package; the workshops are an additional $280 that will be well worth it, if you know anything about Andrew. (If you don't know anything about him, read the bio below.)

If you're on this mailing list, then you probably know me – Jenny Cressman – as the creator and intrepid leader of JennicaCuba tours. Besides operating this small travel business that specializes in group trips to Cuba, I'm also a writer and editor. I recently finished the manuscript for a novel that is primarily set in a fictionalized version of the resort where we'll be staying on this trip. If you twist my arm (gently!) and ply me with rum, I may read a few excerpts.

Andrew Wagner-Chazalon has been a full-time professional writer for nearly three decades. He has written for newspapers and magazines in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, been a regular contributor to CBC Radio, written or contributed to half a dozen non-fiction books and a young adult novel, and much more. Like most writers, at any one time he has about nine thousand story ideas, fragments, half-written plays, travel blogs and character sketches in his files, awaiting the right moment. He is currently the editor and CEO of Dockside Publishing.

SPECIAL NOTE: The Feb. 8-15 "Literary Cuba" tour that Andrew and I were scheduled to lead in Havana has been postponed until 2019. A revised agenda and new prices will be announced later.

26 Sept 2017

First urgent-aid shipment goes soon

The Dubois Charitable Foundation will be sending a container of disaster relief supplies to Cuba on Oct. 14 - woohoo! Thanks VERY MUCH to everyone who has contributed. Will a second shipment of aid be possible? Hope so! Keep those donations coming....

Dubois foundation to ship disaster supplies to Cuba Oct. 14

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the most devastating storm to strike Cuba in recent years, aid organizations and individuals have been scrambling to provide assistance. On Oct. 14, the Dubois Charitable Foundation (DCF) will be shipping a container packed with humanitarian supplies to the beleaguered island and, if enough donations come in, they hope to send a second one.

Based in Woodstock, Ontario, the DCF has shipped a total of 84 containers of medical and household materials to Cuba, says John Dubois, who founded the organization with wife Marion Dubois in 2001. During one particularly catastrophic year, when a series of hurricanes crisscrossed the island, the DCF sent 11 aid containers to Cuba. “That was kind of over the top for us,” he notes with a chuckle. They usually send less than half that amount annually, and some go to other countries.

On average, it costs approximately $5,000 (CAD) to ship a container to Cuba, which the Dubois family generally pays for out of their own pockets, along with the DCF’s very modest administrative expenses. All monetary donations are used to purchase supplies for filling these large containers. Each shipping container is allowed a maximum of 25,000 kg but, most of the time, the total weight per container is roughly 10-12,000 kg. For disaster relief supplies, however, the weight can quickly add up, John explains, because some building materials, such as metal roofing, are both heavy and compact. If the DCF is able to send a second urgent-aid container, they would likely focus on building materials, most of which would have to be purchased using money donated to the organization.

The first post-Irma shipment will include a lot of household goods, and these donations are pouring in from all parts of the province. “We have some people who are really working hard to collect things,” says John, mentioning groups in Hamilton, Ottawa and the Lindsay area in particular. One family loaded up their station wagon and drove to the DCF depot in Woodstock to deliver donations, including toys the children had chosen to give from their home. Those kids were very proud to be able to help, he notes, and you could see it in their eyes. “The response, over all, has been marvelous,” he says, but adds that, in his experience, donations gradually taper off in the weeks following a disaster. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that the DCF will be able to ship another container of aid to Cuba this year.

Material donations – clothing and household goods, tools and electrical supplies or any construction items – should be dropped off at the DCF warehouse: 1290 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON  N4S 7V9. Anything that is not sent to Cuba on Oct. 14 will be stored to use for the next shipment.

Monetary donations can be made in either Canadian or U.S. funds. Thanks to an affiliation with a local Woodstock business, credit cards (Visa or MasterCard) are now accepted – call 519-537-5665 during regular business hours, Monday-Friday. Canadian cheques/U.S. checks, money orders or parcels can be sent directly to the Dubois Charitable Foundation: 686681 Highway #2, RR #1, Princeton, ON  N0V 1J0. If sending a parcel from the U.S., the DCF suggests using Federal Express, since their custom brokerage fees are more reasonable. Charitable receipts are available upon request.

To learn more about this not-for-profit group, please visit: www.duboischaritablefoundation.com


[Media release by Jenny Cressman, www.jennicacuba.com]

13 Sept 2017

Cuban hurricane recovery work begins

The Dubois Charitable Foundation is a small volunteer-driven organization with no fancy offices. They work from the heart, on a shoestring budget. I've assisted their team in loading containers of humanitarian supplies for Cuba in the past and can wholeheartedly vouch for them! If you're considering where to donate towards Cuban hurricane recovery efforts, this group is a great choice. Here's a link to their website.

UPDATE: Thanks to an affiliation with a local business in Woodstock, Ontario, the Dubois Charitable Foundation can accept monetary donations by credit card (Visa or MasterCard), in either Canadian or U.S. funds. To donate this way, please call 519-537-5665 during regular business hours, Monday-Friday. Or, you can mail money orders or cheques/checks (in Canadian or U.S. dollars) directly to the foundation: 686681 Highway #2, RR #1, Princeton, ON N0V 1J0. 

Parcels of donated goods can be shipped to the above address, preferably through Federal Express, since their custom brokerage fees from the U.S. are reasonable. Donations can also be dropped off at: 1290 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON N4S 7V9.

Please note that 100% of the donations made to this charity will go to Cuba. All expenses, including shipping, are being covered by the Dubois family. Thanks VERY MUCH to all those who have donated to date!

Canadian charitable foundation prepares to send aid to Cuba

Hurricane Irma rolled along Cuba’s northern shore on Sept. 8-9 as Category 5 storm, leaving a wide swath of destruction in its wake. Due to the tremendous size of the storm and the associated high winds and flooding, the devastation stretches almost the full length of the country.

Irma first hit Cayo Romano, north of Camaguey, about 9 p.m. Friday night as it thundered into the Cuban archipelago. The eye of the storm sliced through popular resort destinations such as Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa Maria, and then moved on to the beachfront town of Caibarién before clawing its way northwest along the coast of the main island. It turned back out to sea before directly striking Varadero but, because of the hurricane’s magnitude, broad bands of wind and heavy rain extended deep into Cuba’s interior and the storm surge sent massive waves crashing over malecóns (seawalls) in Havana and other cities.

There is major damage in numerous provinces and reports are still coming in. It will be a long time before electricity, gas and other services are restored in some areas but clean-up work is already well underway. Reconstruction will begin soon and the Dubois Charitable Foundation (DCF) is ready to assist. This small Canadian organization is awaiting word from Cuban officials as to which area(s) they should target, once the full impact of the storm has been assessed. The DCF has been sending container loads of humanitarian supplies to Cuba since 2001, including special shipments following other hurricanes, so they are very experienced regarding government protocols.

“We prefer to have a big impact in a small area, rather than have a shotgun effect,” explained founder John Dubois. Once damage assessments are done, they will tailor the shipments to the specific needs of the locations they’ll be assisting. “We try to match what we send with what is needed.” He anticipates that building materials and tools will be on the list, in addition to clothing and household goods. During previous hurricane relief projects, they twice purchased and shipped about $60,000 in construction materials in two containers for families needing to rebuild homes. The DCF has also sent thousands of beds and mattresses for people who lost everything, and volunteers put together “family kits” of vital items like dishes, cutlery, frying pans and other basic necessities, packed into large plastic pails.

When not assisting with disaster relief, the foundation normally relies on donated goods for their annual shipments, which include a variety of essential items for schools and homes, as well as an assortment of medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, clinics, orphanages and seniors’ residences. The need for medical equipment in Cuba is what inspired John to begin sending shipments to the country over 17 years ago. While taking a Spanish language course in Havana, he became acquainted with a doctor there and learned that, despite the skills and training of the medical personnel, they often lacked basic resources. Once back home in Canada, John heard of a hospital that was being closed and its equipment decommissioned. He connected the dots, completed an enormous amount of paperwork and was able to facilitate a shipment of medical equipment to Cuba.

Since then, the non-profit foundation he created has sent over 80 containers of humanitarian aid, primarily to Cuba. In order to do this work, they rely heavily on volunteers, mostly located near the DCF base in Woodstock, Ontario, and on donations of all kinds. To learn more about this organization and how you can help, please visit their website: www.duboischaritablefoundation.com


6 Sept 2017

Havana will be our base, Feb. 8-15...

UPDATE: This trip has been postponed until 2019. A revised agenda and new prices will be announced when possible. Meanwhile, perhaps you would be interested in taking a writing-themed trip in southern Cuba. Andrew & I will be leading a group to Marea del Portillo, Jan. 31-Feb. 7. Click here for info.


You're invited to join us for this exclusive exploration of Cuba but, don't worry, you don't have to be a writer to enjoy this tour! We'll be doing plenty of things that will be interesting for everyone, authors and otherwise. If you wish, you can also extend your stay in Cuba and do some exploration of your own.


Get ready to explore and be inspired

Did you know Cuba has a 99% literacy rate? This nice big number translates into a culture that promotes reading and grows writers like pernicious weeds, within the confines of the island as well as beyond it's beautiful shores. For many decades, Cuba has also inspired writers from other countries to explore this intriguing land on paper and in person.

Jenny Cressman and Andrew Wagner-Chazalon will guide the group through an exploration of the Cuban literary landscape during a Feb. 8-15 trip to Havana and Varadero. The dates for this adventure have been chosen to coincide with Cuba's 27th International Book Fair and it is definitely on our tour agenda! Other writing-related sites we'll see include Ernest Hemingway's home and hang-outs, the José Martí museum, a literary coffeehouse called Cuba Libro and a collective workshop that publishes incredible hand-made books.

Along the way, we'll have a chance to chat with Cuban authors, enjoy ample samples of the local rum, taste some cigars and discuss the fine art of writing. As well, we'll visit as many paladares (privately owned Cuban restaurants) as possible, stroll through UNESCO-protected Old Havana, take a joyful ride along the Malecón in classic '50s cars and see a myriad of interesting, historic spots in and around Cuba's capital. On Valentine's Day, we'll head for an all-inclusive resort in Varadero, where we'll stay for our last night together in Cuba.

Here's a little more information about your non-Cuban guides for this trip:

ANDREW WAGNER-CHAZALON - Andrew has been a professional writer for nearly three decades. He's written for newspapers and magazines in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, written or contributed to half a dozen non-fiction books and much more. Like most writers, he has thousands of story ideas, fragments, half-written plays and travel blogs, awaiting the right moment. Currently, he's the editor and CEO of Dockside Publishing.  

JENNY CRESSMAN - Jenny's love of writing and travel began in her childhood, inspired by parents, both published authors, who founded a Mennonite travel company called TourMagination. Although her first published piece was a poem, journalism became her primary career. In the last few years, she has gradually shifted her focus to writing fiction and to establishing a travel business that specializes in group trips to Cuba.


While in Cuba, we will have Cuban guides to assist us in our exploration and to provide information about what we are seeing, as well as the country's history and culture. 

Don't hesitate to contact me, if you have any questions or are ready to sign up.
I'm always happy to talk about Cuba, so I'll be happy to help!

~ Jenny