Dear parents, families, and friends of the Cuba semester,

We’ve now heard from a few of you as the press coverage about Hurricane Matthew continues to grow and I wanted to specifically address the concern that some of you have shared regarding the evacuations at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base. Guantanamo Bay has evacuated about 700 of the 5,500 people living at the base. Those evacuated were non-essential personnel and family members, having been explained as a way to ease demand on hurricane shelters and supplies on the base. The almost 5000 people remaining have been advised to take shelter in homes or other designated locations exactly as our students and staff are doing – albeit at a location we think even safer than the coastal location of Guantanamo.

Neither the US Department of State nor their Overseas Security Advisory Council have recommended the evacuation of any US Citizens traveling or residing in Cuba. The Cuban government has also not recommended evacuation in Santiago, where the group is. In fact, Raul Castro himself has traveled to Santiago to be there during the hurricane in support of the people there and to oversee preparations.

I want to emphasize that we are taking the storm seriously, and, we remain confident that the current plan to stay in Santiago through the storm is the safest of all available options. Santiago has continued to prepare for the hurricane by taking down stop lights, certain power lines and poles, and other infrastructure that could potentially cause damage to houses or buildings from high winds. They have taken down a number of the wifi towers as well, so the group will not have access to internet again until after the storm and infrastructure has been re-installed. However I continue to be in touch with our Overseas Educators Kevin and Michelle via cell phone (which is expected to stay active throughout) as well as our Cuba expert who has likewise chosen Santiago to stay through the storm.

As I said in my previous email, I will be in touch again on Monday as soon in the morning as we can reasonably run through our final checks. You can expect an email and a blog post at that point, as well as regular communication via both email and blog until we’re safely on the other side of this. Hopefully, the normalities of life on Cuba will return quickly post-storm, and the group can get back to being ‘on program’ shortly.

All the best,

Heather Vaught

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