Delaware Tech Administrators, Instructors Take Trip to Cuba
Think Cuba in 1963, when families were living under Fidel Castro’s communist regime. For one Delmarva woman – who was a little girl at the time – her family had an opportunity to come to America, and took it.
Dr. Ileana Smith, vice president and campus director of Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus in Georgetown, joined us to share her story. Lisa Peel, instructional director of education at Delaware Tech’s Terry Campus in Dover, also joined us. Several other Delaware Tech educators in the DelmarvaLife audience accompanies those two ladies on a recent trip to Cuba to share their experiences with us.
Smith spoke about her family making that anxious journey to the United States.
Her father was an orthopedic surgeon in Cuba. During their time in Florida, her father picked tomatoes all day and studied all night to pass the medical boards in English and become a doctor again. Delmarva was the place where he got his first job offer, leading to the family to Delaware.
Peel spoke about Delaware Tech’s opportunities for faculty and staff to participate in professional development programs. The college offers an international professional developmental program each year, which is what led Smith’s group to Cuba.
“It’s baffling how different life is [in Cuba],” Peel said. “The only that I can equate it to is thinking back to how my grandparents probably lived because life is simpler in the sense that they are having to buy things in cash. They just recently gained access to Wi-Fi – it’s a very simple life.”
WBOC’s Evan Koslof and Lauren Holloway recently paid a visit to the Delaware Tech Owens Campus to speak with Smith and Peel in-depth about their trip. Check out that interview and article here.
Comments From Other Delaware Tech Educators Who Took the Trip To Cuba
Maribeth Dockety, director of human resources at the Owens Campus, said, “I was very excited to learn about the Cuban people and the spirit they bring to their everyday lives. They’re very positive, amazing, resilient and inspirational.”
Dockety described every Cuban dish she tried as “amazing and delicious.”
Tina Downs, a business instructor at the Owens Campus, said, “My husband and I always wanted to go to Cuba because we’re classic car buffs. We rented a 1958 Thunderbird and cruised around Havana. We bought some cigars. We were amazed at the beautiful architecture. Many buildings were rundown, but many others are being preserved.”
Downs also said, “The food was delicious and the people were so warm and welcoming.”
Mark Swarbrick, instructor of automotive technology at the Owens Campus, and a classic car buff, said, “It’s amazing how they can keep cars running so long without a parts store down the street. I saw old cars with diesel engines, an old Chevy with Toyota steering… They’re very resourceful and old cars are everywhere. They’re everywhere – not just in Havana.”
When asked if he would like to return to Cuba again some day, he replied without hesitation, “I would go back.”
Charlotte Lister, director of human resources at the Terry Campus, said, “The Cuban people are incredibly creative, resourceful and it’s amazing how well they make do with limited resources. They’re very friendly and hospitable.”
Commenting on Cuba’s future and its relationship with the U.S., she said, “While they’ll welcome trading with the U.S., I don’t know if they want to destroy the essence of Cuba.”
“I came back with a sense of how fortunate we are, because Cuba’s economy is quite bad,” Lister said. “However, the people are resourceful, everybody has a job, education is free, healthcare is free, the people are very well educated and they make it work.”