The following was sent out to our Reality Tours email list today. Sign up here to receive this free monthly email update filled with past trip participant experiences and upcoming opportunities to travel with Global Exchange, plus a whole lot more.

This Thanksgiving, we at Global Exchange are giving thanks to our members, supporters and leaders in our movement for social, economic and political justice.

We are thankful to all of you who have traveled on a Reality Tour – you met the people, learned the facts and you make a difference.

Below we’ve profiled Bill Patterson who learned about Cuba, traveled with us on a Reality Tour and continues to make a difference by supporting our work. We’re also hard at work planning an amazing Reality Tour to Cuba for New Years. We have over 40 people signed up. We warmly invite you to register as soon as possible.

When Bill Patterson happened across a book about Cuba over a decade ago, he had no idea it would change his worldview forever. The book’s author happened to share his last name, except the author’s last name had one ‘t’ instead of two. He picked it up and started reading.

From this initial chance encounter, Bill’s interest in Cuba grew, and he started absorbing whatever he could about the small Caribbean nation, from books to magazines articles. He was struck by the contrast between U.S. propaganda and reality, shocked by statistics about the pre-revolution lives of Cuba’s citizens: 3 million people without any electricity, 39% illiteracy, 50% unemployment, 80% of the best property owned or controlled by U.S. interests. He read more about the embargo and the other long term destabilization efforts of the U.S. against the Castro government.

After finding this new information about Cuba, the conclusions were inescapable.

If you are concerned about Cuba, you know that our country is pretty shameful… I read a great deal about Cuba, and our conduct is really beneath our stature,” Bill said.

Cuban farmer working the field

Reading is one thing. But seeing is another. And Bill knew that the only way to get the real scoop on Cuba would be to go there.

In a country suffering under decades-long travel ban imposed by Washington, this was easier said than done. He eventually settled on a Global Exchange Reality Tour as the best way to make it happen. In the spring of 1999, he began making arrangements to travel where few Americans have. And in June of that year, he found himself stepping off of an airplane in Havana.

While there, he was able to see for himself, without the biased filter of the US press, how Cuba’s people lived and to hear about both their challenges and their triumphs. He also witnessed their vibrant cultural and social life. The experience was a game changer for Bill.

He liked it so much that he did it again the next year.

Since he first traveled with Global Exchange, Bill’s become a solid supporter, giving every month as a member of Global Exchange Monthly Supporters (GEMS) program. Like us, Bill sees the great value in building people-to-people ties, and he feels pretty confident that he’s putting his money in the right place.

You do things so well, and you’re so disciplined, it’s quite easy to be comfortable.

Support from our members like Bill makes our work possible. We sure are glad he happened across that book.

We hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

~Leslie Balog
Cuba Reality Tours Director

P.S. Who else are we thanking? Read Gratitude to All Those Who Have Stood Up to Resist Injustice and find out!