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Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

by High Atlas Foundation
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

The Farmer to Farmer (F2F) program is a USAID development initiative that is implemented throughout the world. During the past 20 years, I had the opportunity to volunteer for 80 assignments in 14 countries. In Morocco, the F2F program is administered by Land O’Lakes International Development (LOL), a U.S. agricultural cooperative, who provided me with the opportunity to volunteer in Morocco for the first time.

 

My assignment title was (Improvement of schools tree nurseries) and was hosted by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakech.  HAF is a US non-profit organization founded in 2000 for the purpose of advancing sustainable development in Morocco and assists communities in achieving their projects in agriculture, education, health, and multiculturism. HAF is headed by Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and very dedicated staff members.

 

SAMI’s PROJECT enables students to thrive in a healthy school environment. The Project spreads the culture of planting among students so that they may discover and practice innovative agriculture techniques. HAF assists primary schools through to universities to develop and establish plant nurseries and wild gardens. These school nurseries provide students with hands-on learning opportunities in organic green culture and sustainable income development.  The Project also promotes school infrastructure, such as building classrooms, bathrooms, and clean water systems.

 

The High Atlas Foundation has eleven nurseries in five provinces of Morocco, where they produce varieties of organic fruit trees, forestry trees, and herbal and wild medicinal plants. Trees include; almond, Argan, carob, cherry, fig, grape, lemon, olive, pomegranate, quince, and walnut.  Plants also include Calendula officinalis.

 

Since 2003, HAF planted approximately 3 million seeds and trees with farming families and schools, which impacted thousand household incomes. During this 2018 planting season (January through March), HAF’s SAMI’s PROJECT planted 15,000 trees with 155 schools engaging 18,000 students in 23 provinces.

 

During my assignment I visited middle and high schools, met with staff and observed students while they planted trees in their schoolyards. School boys and girls worked together, were full of energy and enthusiasm, and expressed connection with the environment.

 

Planting trees helps the environment, builds forestry, produces food and a source of income for families, connect students and communities with nature, and promote organic green growth. HAF provides a good model that is transferable beyond Morocco for green organic growth and development.

It is amazing when people work in sustainable development with the aim of helping humanity in the present, as well as thinking about the well-being of future generations. What makes the work of Sami’s Project so great is knowing that this initiative will help you after death as the prophet Mohamed () said: "If any of you have a sapling on the doomsday he should plant it - if possible."

Planting trees for the last five years with the High Atlas Foundation has been a wonderful experience for me. The first time I planted trees in schools was when I volunteered with the HAF in January 2013. That year I planted trees with the students, teachers and an association at the Imgdal School in a small village in the High Atlas Mountains.  Now I have completed 5 years of tree planting with schools in many villages and communes throughout Morocco.  After this year, I have participated in planting at more than 100 schools in total.

The HAF team and I celebrated the first day of planting trees this year on January 15th. The day was rainy, which suggests a good agricultural season for Morocco. I spent the day at 2 schools in the Tahanout Commune of Al Haouz Province, 35 km from Marrakech, and another school in the Ourika Commune in Al Haouz Province, also 35 km from Marrakech. I was accompanied by Si Abdelghani, Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Coordinator; Karam, a volunteer with HAF; Claire, a volunteer from the United States; and Majda, a student at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech.

In the beginning of the day, we met with Si Abdelmjid from the Delegation of Education in Al Haouz province and began our day of planting at Al Kayrawan School in Tahanaout Commune at noon, after the students completed their exam. In order to ensure the comfort for the students, we just planted trees with the director of the school, the teachers, school guard and the volunteer that is helping the students in school. I was surprised when I saw the olive trees and sour orange trees that HAF planted in 2010, and I was happy to hear that the olive trees born fruit this year. This inspired me and gave me the energy to continue to participate in the day of planting for years to come, Incha Allah.

After we completed planting at the first school, we then traveled to Ibn Habous school not far from the first, and we found that the students and the director had already prepared holes for the trees to be planted. I began by introducing the HAF project, our activities through Sami's Project, and the importance of planting trees. The students were happy planting, and we invited the girls to participate in planting almond and pomegranate trees as well.

I would like to share with you a moment that I still feel deeply in my heart. I feel that I will never forget when in the third school, Abdelaziz Ben Driss in Ourika commune, we met a group of boys as the students gathered in the door of the school once they finished the exams. We went with them to the place where we wanted to plant trees and during this time I asked the students about how the exam had passed, and they said: "The exam was good and we are wishing the results will be good Incha Allah".  When we arrived at the place where we would plant, I introduced the students to HAF, and I told them that the almond trees were from the nursery in Ourika that is managed by HAF in partnership with the women of Aboghlou Cooperative. I asked the students if they knew this cooperative, and they said yes. In the group, I discovered that one of the students’ mothers was one of the women in the cooperative and that she had died. Now her son is planting with other students the same trees that his mother had planted seeds for with three of the women of Aboghlou cooperative.

For the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to plant trees with the HAF team every year during January, February, and March. During these years of planting, I have learned that for me, happiness does not come just from receiving something, but that being happy is when you give your time, your energy, and your help to other people. The best feeling is when you see the results of your work.

We would like to share with you the first Sami's Project touch of the ground in our new planting season.  Sami's Project started its 6th edition.
Sami's Project is not only a great HAF initiative created for the schoolchildren and their communities, but it's transforming education in rural areas. Fruit trees transform the school landscape providing green spaces and shade while providing educational activities, nutritious food, and increased income. 
The group of primary schools in Ait M'hamed in the Azilal province had a special day on the 27th of December 2017, as the first schools to benefit from more than 60 almond trees from HAF in this new planting season. Both girls and boys were extremely excited to be involved in the planting activity, as well as contributing in organizing the event.  HAF Sami's Project continues to raise development with more schoolchildren and their communities.
We would like to share with you the first Sami's Project touch of the ground in our new 2018 planting season.  Sami's Project started its 6th edition.
Sami's Project is not only a great HAF initiative created for the schoolchildren and their communities, but it's transforming education in rural areas. Fruit trees transform the school landscape providing green spaces and shade while providing educational activities, nutritious food, and increased income. 
The group of primary schools in Ait M'hamed in the Azilal province had a special day on the 27th of December 2017, as the first schools to benefit from more than 60 almond trees from HAF in this new planting season. Both girls and boys were extremely excited to be involved in the planting activity, as well as contributing in organizing the event.  HAF Sami's Project continues to raise development with more schoolchildren and their communities.
Happy New Year all.

A world created is one that begins with a path taken by an individual who gives time, energy, thought, and care without personal material return, to people seeking a genuine change.  The volunteer-of-oneself may begin this journey with heavy concern over the unknown, with boundless belief in the infinitely possible, and with even outright alienation from the people to benefit.  The giver-without-recompense may start a dialogue within oneself, asking why am I here, what can I do that really matters, and must I do this and feel cold, tired, hungry, and alone? 

The passage of time, persistence, and remaining true to the ideal of service-to-others leads to people’s familiarity with the volunteer.  Stories of joy and hardship are sometimes shared, dreams and fears may be expressed, and trust emerges from the people’s observations of the volunteer during setting after setting.  Finally, the people’s acceptance opens a pathway for creation.  

There can be no set timetable for this new path to development becoming open.  Social and environmental factors that are understood, that could take a lifetime to precisely identify, or that are oftentimes uncontrollable, bear upon the pace at which a volunteer’s service may become supported by the people.  At a certain point, however, a moment is reached after the volunteer passes an unacknowledged and informal trial set by the community when they become willing to gather for a meeting, facilitated by the volunteer.  At this time, there are methods – call them participatory, action research, community management, or by more than 100 other names – that assist the local participants in assessing their priority needs and viable project options. 

The volunteer plays a key role in launching this analytical process taken by the community.  The giver to local sustainable change helps to coordinate a suitable time and location for people to meet.  The volunteer works to ensure that all people – women and men, homeowners and homeless, youth and retirees, all and one – are part of the conversation about the first and following initiatives they create.  The volunteer shares information about prospective public and civil, local and distant, partners to a given development project.  The volunteer organizes the community’s data, searches for synergies, writes proposals, identifies funding – and builds the capacities of the people so that they can carry forward this change process for themselves. 

What exactly is the new world created from this evolving experience? An empowered path taken by the people; a discovery of a future far more fulfilling than the future prior imagined; new and changed relationships derived from a new and changed sense-of-self; and a new world gained from livelihoods derived from one’s own production that is achieved in conjunction with others.  In Morocco – where I have given as a Peace Corps and civil society volunteer and then supported others in their giving – this means women’s healing and legal recourses from abuse, drinking water in schools and deserts, organic fruit trees stopping eroding places, university students once volunteers facilitating change and now employed to accomplish change, and Muslim, Christian, and Jewish people restoring together their scared sites as a strategy for poverty-alleviation.  It involves program and policy advocacy at all levels to advance the sustainable development the nation has envisioned for itself.  It means consequences that we can measure, and generational ones that have yet to enter our imagination. 

For many volunteers, they may not have to blaze that initial beginning difficult pathway to new worlds, the winding road with its enough measures of doubt, misunderstanding, and even risk.  They may instead find a placement to help already-accepting-others to further along an existing development pathway to transformation, or maybe even evaluate the tangible empowerment changes that have been generated by new projects. 

In any case, there are also new worlds formed for and by the selfless traversing of the volunteers.  They may be introduced to a profession that provides the wonderful flexibility to promote the people’s self-growth.  Their studies may take an action-orientation, which recognizes that to explain a social problem without improving the situation leaves the research design incomplete.  They move along a new way they would not have otherwise, meeting people, forming relationships, and effecting communities never before projected.  They discover more of themselves, love more themselves and others, and find higher meaning that a harsh reality cannot take away.  They become filled with the people’s stories, and can with time and the accumulation of the narratives, communicate on behalf of the marginalized.

Advocates of including service in schools and the workplace remind us that we are three times more likely to volunteer if we are asked to do so.  With December fifth’s International Volunteer Day mobilizing thousands of volunteers, let’s join this chorus and energy that will forge better worlds that reflect our giving-selves and the sustainable projects that are just steps away. 

 

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Fatima Zahra Laaribi
New York City, NY United States
$36,086 raised of $50,000 goal
 
507 donations
$13,914 to go
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