Alumni Spotlight: Brothers from Different Worlds

When Lester Triguero arrived in Canada in 1996, it was his first time flying on a plane and his first time leaving the country. From a rural town in Cuba, Lester was studying to be a teacher when he applied to go on a Canada World Youth exchange.

“It’s a big thing, to have the opportunity to travel as a Cuban person,” said Lester. “Few words can describe how happy I was,” he said, after having been accepted for the program.

For Cubans to leave the country, they are required to obtain a permit from the government, which costs money, and is not always granted. But CWY partnered with the Cuban Ministry of Education, granting 21 students from teacher’s college the opportunity to visit Canada to further their teaching education. 

That is how Lester came to meet his “Canadian brother,” Andrew Browning, a first year University student and one of 21 Canadians participating in the same CWY program. Over the next seven months, Lester and Andrew would spend almost all of their time together. 

Lester overlooking Jasper, Alberta.

First, they traveled with a group of seven Canadians and seven Cubans to live in the town of Loyd Minster, a small community on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. There they worked in a high school, sharing bunk beds at their host families house. “Lester was an atrocious snorer,” recalls Andrew with a hearty laugh.

“It’s quite an experiment,” said Andrew, “We put together a group of very diverse participants in the first place, with a really diverse set of life experiences, then you transport that group to a new community and import seven Cubans.” He said it was a trial of how to communicate, work as a team, and live independently. 

In Cuba Lester and Andrew lived with another host family, this time in a small town in the province of Sancti Spiritus. There they worked at many different placements, including coaching baseball, gathering and distributing produce to the community and even working in a cigar factory!

Andrew and crew working at an agriculture distributor in Taguasco, Cuba.

“It had a pretty profound impact on my way of thinking about the world, and my place in the world,” said Andrew “I have life-long friends from it, huh Lester?”

“100 per cent positive, yes that’s correct,” agreed Lester, “I would say Drew is my family.”

Long after the program, Andrew and Lester have continued a close relationship, and some years ago Lester immigrated to the United States with Andrew’s help. Now he teaches English as a second language to high school students. “It is a wonderful thing to bring to my lessons, these life experiences,” said Lester. “I would love that this program continues, and people like me have the same opportunity that I had.”

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