This blog post will help you know what you can donate to Cubans, how you can donate, and who you should donate to.
Updated: July 2019
First and foremost, THANK YOU.
When it comes to tourists coming to on holiday to Cuba, a question I often get is “Can I bring anything?” “How can I help the Cuban people?”
There’s probably no better question I love answering than that one.
There’s several reasons why the economic situation in Cuba is the way it is. The combination of the economic embargo alongside the internal situation has stifled the country at low monthly wages at high cost of living.
Unfortunately, many items that are easy to find in other countries become extremely hard to find in Cuba even if you have all the money in the world to buy it.
But as I sit here trying to google “donations to Cubans” that search becomes just as hard to find as the items Cuba needs.
I’m shocked there isn’t more out there in form of blog posts given the almost 2 million Cubans living in the United States alone.
So that’s why I’m here.
Here is a list of essential items you can donate to Cubans –
Many of them you’ll likely be packing for your vacation anyways.
There is nothing more necessary in Cuba than medicine. Sure, there’s free health care but care is limited when vital medicine is in low quantity. And, its really no secret.
Over the counter medication is in high demand. Some of these include:
- Anti-inflammatory cream (Cubans love Bengay)
- Cough syrup for children
- Cough drops (!!!!!)
- VITAMINS OF ANY TYPE!!
- Other over-the-counter
And Cuban Liquid Gold is always, always: BENGAY
As of 2019, pre-natal pills are in need.
Bandaids, gauze, and medicine tape are very expensive. A roll of medicine tape costs around $2CUC (a huge expense if you’re making $20 a month).
Bandaids are extremely light and small to pack and probably the most important item to gift a Cuban household.
Outside your Cuban resort and/or Cuban casa particular, toilet paper is a huge luxury for a lot of Cuban families. Its 90 cents a roll an trust me, its no Charmin. A few rolls goes a long way.
If deodorant was a drug, it could kill. Sweat and Smell go hand in hand on that island. That $1 bar from the 99 cent store costs nearly quadruple.
Soap/ Shampoo/ Conditioner
See above for explanation
Good quality shoes are essential, especially for kids. It’s not rare to see people outside in the countryside especially barefoot or children running barefoot. Shoes are extremely expensive and very low quality.
Shoes break in 2 weeks if they aren’t an American recognizable brand. No joke. One time my shoes broke in the middle of the Olga Tanon concert in La Habana just by walking. No bueno.
Mari Pro Tip: If you want to bring shoes, working shoes in the countryside and boots are always needed. Many people in our little rural town of Pilotos have shoes with holes in them because of their long hours in the field.
Brushes – Hair, Tooth
Here’s a story: It took me 3 days to find a hairbrush in Pinar. 3 days. Then it broke… 2 brushes later. #noesfacil
Toothbrushes and toothpaste are in huge demand as well. Children go nuts for the themed ones they sell outside the island.
Sheet and Towels
Another two items that are in huge demand. You’ll likely see the same sheets in a Cuban home used for years.
Some items you’re likely already carrying are:
- sun block
- Hair gel
- Hair ties for the ladies!!!
Outside of high tourist areas like La Habana or Cienfuegos, many women have little to no access to choice within feminine products. Meaning, theres no tampons.
Tampons are light and small as well and will go a long way to helping any lady out.
Children love toys and unfortunately toys are expensive in Cuba. The #1 item you can gift a girl of course is a Barbie. A boy? A soccer ball. Move over baseball, soccer is HUGE in Cuba.
But most importantly are basic school supplies for Children: coloring books, pens, crayons, pencils, erasers.
13. Diapers – Baby and Adult
Diapers are extremely expensive in Cuba. A package of 8 can cost $10! For an American salary, thats A LOT so imagine for a Cuban one. Many older citizens, like our grandma, are bed stricken due to illnesses such as arthritis. Getting them cleaned is a LOT of work and causes bed sores. Diapers would really help.
Same thing for babys. While its common to use clothe diapers, many babies are sensitive and can only use diapers. Please bring if willing, a variety of sizes.
How to Donate to Cubans?
GOING OUTSIDE THE RESORTS- Tour Cuba Locally!
The biggest help you can give is is tourism. Tourism helps the economy in so many different ways: From helping the taxi man earn more money, the the dancer on the street getting tips. Its funnels through the economy.
There’s no better way to spend your time in Cuba than actually SEEING THE COUNTRY. Forget the cheap resorts you can find anywhere else in the Caribbean. This is a unique island with unique culture and we’d love for you to see it as authentic as possible.
Donations can be done multiple ways, but one thing is for certain. DO NOT DONATE PUBLICALLY ON THE STREETS. The Cuban government is concerned not only for saftey but its public image. No one wants to be seen as the country who needs American saviors for basic items, especially when there is already so much political tension.
Cuba is tricky when it comes to donations. If you are bringing large quantities of 1 thing, Cuban government officials might get a bit suspicious you’re trying to supply black markets than donating.
Mari tip: If you are so kind enough to donate, please bring a variety of things. Do not bring 50 USB sticks or a luggage full of shoes.
Who to Donate To?
Cubans are inventors, but you might not know there are different economic classes on the island like any other country. Most casa particulares owners are living very well off tourism and same goes with any tourist driven employee (that’s why its so hard to get a tourist license).
We suggest going to places that are off-the-grid. In Havana alone there are several marginalized communities who would love donations. We can help in arranging that.
I also suggest thati f you don’t have time to go outside of Havana to leave donations at Cuba Libro. Cuba Libro is a local coffee shop run by an American. They always take in donation and do their best to distribute.
Mari Tip: I suggest if you want to give to please donate items to a community project or any family living in the countryside (not Vinales because, again, very touristy). Many Cubans are not as fortunate to have family on the outside that can send them remittances. Plus, you’ll get a very local and cultural experience doing it that way!
If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
AND MIL MIL GRACIAS!