Emma Levine

A Villager in Cuba - Grow & Tell

Emma dances in Cuba for Grow & Tell. Part 1 of 3.

Tanned, sweaty and operating on pure adrenaline, last Friday I jumped off the bus on Hunter Street with my suitcase having come straight from the airport, and stumbled into the Village.

“8s! Welcome home! How was Cuba?”

You might find it odd that my first stop straight off the plane was into work, but The Village of Useful isn’t exactly your typical working environment and my recent trip to Cuba proves it.

In case you haven’t heard the story, allow me to explain how my recent adventure in Cuba came to be.

At the end of 2014, after my first year as a full-time Village employee, Adam and Andy explained that they wanted to thank me for such a good year and give me a bonus. Adam put a large cardboard box on the table and said, “we’d like to offer you either the money, or, you can have what’s in the box.”

Of course I chose the box!

Inside was wooden plaque with plastic letters spelling out ‘Grow and Tell’.

“Oh? Thank you…I think?” For a second I thought I should have taken the cash.

“Congratulations on being awarded the first Grow and Tell. It’s a bonus to help you grow. A grownus.

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“We are giving you an extra week of holiday and some money to go anywhere in the world that you want to, so that you can have a learning experience and grow. Then you can come back and tell the world what you’ve learnt. The only condition is that you need to pitch your trip ideas to us and sell us the idea.”

I’d never heard of anything quite so amazing.

In January, I pitched two potential Grow and Tell ideas to a panel consisting of Villagers, clients and friends. The first idea was to attend the Sarajevo Film Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the second was the learn to salsa dance in Cuba. Film festivals and dancing are my two favourite things and I would have been ecstatic to have the chance to do either.

After questions, heated discussion between the panelists and ultimately a vote, it was decided that I would be heading off to Cuba. Hurrah!

And so I set out to travel Cuba solo for 18 days. It was incredible, sweaty, intimidating, eye-opening, life-changing.

I’m absolutely bursting with stories to share and so I’ll be posting a blog post every week where I talk about some of the things I saw, experienced and learnt.

Still to this day, the most amazing part about my whole trip is the fact that it was a gift from my employer. My ‘grownus’ has ultimately been a way to show me that I can live and work in modest Newcastle, but still have insane worldwide adventures.

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