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Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

by High Atlas Foundation
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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

Ask an American college student what they want to do in their life and inevitably, at some point, they will say some version of “to make a difference.” Ask a young professional why they are transitioning in their careers and you are likely to hear “I want to find more meaning in my work.” Despite high levels of education, we young Americans struggle to find opportunities to create positive change in the world.

 

In 2014, Unesco ranked Morocco among the 21 poorest countries in education. According to USAID, the likelihood of a first grader going on to complete high school is less than 15 percent. But there is no shortage of opportunities to create lasting change here. This week, on a volunteer trip with the High Atlas Foundation to distribute school supplies donated by Fre Skincare, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who was doing just that.

 

In the 1990s, Lalla Fadma Abjar moved from the city to Tidzi, a small village in the semi-desert Sous valley of southern Morocco, 25 km from the beach town of Essaouira. At that time, just over a quarter of women in Morocco were literate, and this was of course much lower in the rural areas. Lalla Fadma was one of the few.

 

Around the same time, Moroccan professor Zoubida Charrouf recognized the extent of the decline in the ancient, hardy Argan tree, whose dry bark is reminiscent of a juniper and whose fruits could be mistaken for olives. While it once covered all of North Africa, preventing desertification and providing many benefits to communities across the region, by the 1990s the Argan tree could be found only in the Sous valley. To motivate local communities to protect the argan forests and to empower women, Professor Charrouf began developing women’s argan cooperatives and marketing and raising awareness of the products internationally.

 

In 1998, UNESCO declared the argan forest in the valley to be a biosphere reserve, and a movement began. As one of the few literate women, Lalla Fadma was sought out to establish one of the first cooperatives in the region. She bought the land herself and, with a small group of women, created the Cooperative Feminine Izourane Ouargane and began processing the “liquid gold.” For the first time in their lives, they earned income and had a place to socialize outside their homes.

 

Now, Lalla Fadma’s daughter, Lalla Amina Amchir carries on her mother’s work, expanding the opportunities for women and their families. There are now 40 women in the cooperative, most of them widows or divorced. In the last 2 years, Izourane women’s cooperative was able to plant 2,000 new trees thanks to the partnership with HAF and Fre skincare. In addition to the income that these trees will help to generate, the partnership provided training in women’s empowerment, educating the members about their rights, and provided school supplies for their children, to help combat the high dropout rates that are still pervasive in rural Morocco.

 

With only a third-grade education, Lalla Amina administers the cooperative herself. She proudly showed us the impeccably organized cabinet where she stores the financial records. She explained how she has worked hard over the past two years to complete the seemingly endless series of paperwork required to become certified by the ONSSA which would enable the group to access a more consistent and reliable market, with greater guarantee of payment. Hopefully, the Izourane cooperative will receive the certificate soon, as this will also help to differentiate them from the many argan shops lining the road, which Lalla Amina explained are actually for-profit enterprises masquerading as cooperatives, but which do not truly support the women.

 

While the argan industry has become increasingly established over the past two decades, Lalla Amina and the other cooperative presidents have done all of this work with very little support. The Ministry of Agriculture provides some trainings on administrative matters, but these are offered only in French, a language not spoken by most of the presidents. Similarly, while an association of presidents exists in name, no activities are carried out to enable the presidents to practically support one another.

 

While she perseveres through these challenges, Lalla Amina sees the fruits of her efforts and the benefits of the support of partners like the High Atlas Foundation every day. She explained that earning income brings women purpose in their lives, and invest their earnings in their homes and in their children. In addition, the provision of school supplies, donated by Fre Skincare helps to ensure that kids go to school and have the resources that they need to learn.

 

As we distributed backpacks and notebooks to the 30 children on our visit, Rachid, a HAF project manager, asked each child what they want to be when they grow up. Most aspire to be teachers or doctors. Thanks to Lalla Amina, as well as the support of HAF, Fre Skincare, and Izouran’s other partners, these dreams are increasingly likely to become a reality. When they do, whether the children will know it or not, each of them will carry a piece of the dedication, work ethic, and empathy of Lalla Fadma and Amina, and they will continue to change the world.

 

Photos that could be included:

P1010212 (Note that Lalla Amina is on the far right)

 

 

References

 

http://www.highatlasfoundation.org/blogs/939-the-journey-of-empowerment-in-the-oriental-region

 

http://www.euricse.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/1331560843_n1986.pdf

 

http://www.wipo.int/ipadvantage/en/details.jsp?id=2656

 

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-cooperative-movement-cooperatives-as-a-means-to-developing-local-economies-and-alleviating-poverty/5646300

 

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Day 3
Today was our second full day in Morocco, but our first day of service. We first met with the CEO of High Atlas Foundation, the foundation we are partnering with here in Morocco. HAF works to help communities participate in the development of their own village's infrastructure through planting trees, enhancing schools - as mandated by the Moroccan government. The CEO, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, spoke to us in a charismatic manner that not only showed how much he cared for the foundation, but how he cared for us as volunteers.

Dr. Yossef urged us to remember two things. The first is to not bring doubts with us when the future is unknown. Don't be doubtful of the uncertain, but rather find hope that the work you are doing is bringing a positive impact beyond your knowledge. Dr. Yossef related this to our athletic experience; don't have doubts about your next play, because it involves factors you cannot foresee. The second piece of knowledge was that implementation of law (or in any case of cultural attitude) comes not from strategies and ideas being told, but from the participation of those whom it will be affecting. This is why HAF insists on working with communities to plant trees and relay their communities' other needs to government officials. It is how Souls4Soles works with local foundations to ensure that the implementation of donations of shoes is not brought with false promises, but rather brought with hope for the future of one's community.

We saw Dr. Yossef's words come to fruition during our first day of service in Morocco. After taking a short drive into the High Atlas Mountains, we visited two villages whose inhabitants greeted us with smiles on their faces and Moroccan tea in their hands. Once we had the shoes set up for sizes and placement, each child had their feet washed and they received a pair of shoes based on their size. The first village was a little tricky for me. I could see the hesitation on each child's face when a shoe may have been too small at first, the uncertainty they had. However, once we found the right shoe for each child, their smiles grew exponentially. The spirit with which we greeted the villages, and with which they reciprocated, showed the unifying capability of the human soul. The language barrier was difficult, but singing and dancing do not have to be understood to be felt.

Leaving the villages was a challenge, but I was not sad while saying goodbye. I knew that Dr. Yossef was right, in seeing HAF's project manager with his friends and coworkers of the villages, that HAF is helping in the implementation of change for each village. Souls4Soles is also a vehicle of that change, helping each child one shoe at a time.

With the joy and excitement of our first service day fresh on our minds, it was safe to say we were all looking forward to our second day of distribution. Our group spent the day at another small village outside of Marrakech, where we distributed more than 200 pairs of shoes. Along with our distribution we also spent time painting and decorating a wall at the local school. It was clear that the kid at heart came out in all of us when we began to draw and paint pictures on the walls.
 
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Here at the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center for the Protection of Children, HAF’s team in Fes and the youth living at the center are appreciating all the visits of our partners from other places in Morocco.  Not only visitors from Morocco come, but also people travel from far away, outside of the country.  They have come to meet the children and see our work together.

The project is about a fruit tree nursery, which we started building May last year.  When the kids receive guests they feel happy and more encouraged about their work in the nursery, and to learn more about agriculture.

Mr. Jamal Mimouni who is one of our partners from the Oujda region, is that area’s director ‘’ANDZOA’’ - the National Agency for Oasis Zones Development and Argan. He came by the center one recent Friday afternoon. We visited together all the nursery parts and he expressed how he liked the idea of building a fruit tree nursery with youth.  

We talked about how the children engage in the project and learn many skills and receive environmental education.  Every day the kids join us in the nursery. He talked with the children.  The children were happy to walk together to the nursery and show Mr. Jamal all the trees we planted these past months. They were happy as they are all the time, when people come and visit the great work they are doing in the nursery!  Some of them say: “Look at to the seeds and cuttings we planted together, they are now trees, they are growing very fast! We were with you that time, Mr. Said, do you remember that?”

Children from the Fes area and other cities are hosted at this center.  Some people come are rural areas, which means they already have an idea about agriculture and work in farming and planting trees.  Some of the children are very helpful with naming all the local plants, which grow in the nursery. All the time we hear the children talk to each other about the types of plants and trees, and what they are used for at their hometowns.  For those who are having their first experience with an agricultural project, it is hard for them sometimes to understand what is going on in the nursery.  But, with more time attending the activities, they learn more about the actions we implement here at the center. This collection of children of all ages and backgrounds allow them to learn from each other, coordinating with the HAF team in Fes and the Center staff.

Furthermore, we mentioned to Mr. Jamal our visitor that we are looking to work in the same way at the Oujda center, which we started to do in recent months, planting argan and carob seeds. 

It seems like those activities with youth from different ages and environments can help build leaders for community development.  With more training and workshops we organize for the children, will transfer capacities to improve the way they live every day.  In other words, this kind of this project is helping to have more active youth in Moroccan society.

HAF sincerely thanks Ecosia of Germany and Morocco's Ministry of Youth and Sports for making this youth and tree planting project a reality.

"Give to this project."

 

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The High Atlas Foundation’s initiation of Sami’s Project in 2011 led to remarkable success throughout the rural communities of the Kingdom of  Morocco. The sustainable development project seeks to improve the education system by creating green spaces through distributing and planting trees at local schools. The green spaces encourage the transformation of students into environmental agents, in which they develop an appreciation for their surrounding environment, while building innovative agricultural techniques to aid students in the future.

Inspired by Sami, who passed away at five years old amidst his struggle with cancer, the project upholds his admirable devotion and gratitude for the environment around him. His story empowers students across Morocco to transform into environmental stewards. Through cooperation of the organizers, volunteers, teachers and students, Sami’s Project instills the core values of fellowship, mutual respect, trust and dedication. 

Holding events such as environmental workshops within the local communities engages the students in sharing their personal visions for the school environment, while building vital skills to take initiative in not only the tree planting project, but in their future endeavors. The participatory approach of the High Atlas Foundation creates transformational and lasting change in these communities, a key contributor to Sami’s Project outstanding success.

Sami’s Project additionally builds necessary infrastructure, that tend to be weak in poor, rural communities, to encourage a productive learning community including clean water systems, bathrooms and classrooms. Thus far, the High Atlas Foundation contributed to the construction of efficient water systems and bathrooms for twelve schools, along with three classrooms in various provinces.

In the first three months of 2018 alone, HAF worked across 23 different provinces with 156 schools - involving 19,000 students – to plant 16,763 trees. Since 2013, HAF conducted interactive environmental activities and planted approximately 33,000 trees with nearly 350 schools. Considering just over 3,000 trees were planted in 2015, the progress of Sami’s Project is a testament to the hard work of the volunteers, students and teachers dedicated to the mission.

The project is continuing to expand as students and team members contribute valuable input regarding the direction of the project. There is a movement towards expanding the types of trees planted, which now include both fruit trees and medicinal plants, a demonstration of the immeasurable potential of the project. Constructing environmental clubs and competitions between schools are just a few of the additional goals the project aims to develop.

Empowering disadvantaged youth from agricultural families by cultivating knowledge and tangible skills in modern arboriculture, generates substantial benefits for both the local environment and the students’ lives by expanding employment opportunities. Sami’s Project illustrates how prioritizing investment in fostering productive educational environments results in an empowered, youth force that are capable of creating valuable change that transcends their communities.

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Just as every other nation in the world, Morocco faces consequences of climate change including higher temperatures, more extreme weather conditions, and rising sea levels due to the human population’s collective treatment of our earth. Morocco particularly struggles with waste management and rising urban air pollution. Without implementing preventative measures, the country’s ecosystem, agriculture, and economic activity will be severely impacted. 

Citizens throughout Morocco, like many others around the world, are therefore educating themselves about how human actions are threatening our world, climate change and its detrimental effects, as well as different methods of environmental protection. As a result, many are inclined to educate their peers in hopes of spreading awareness and inspiring them to do the same.

On 4/26/18, students at the Lycée Collegial Guemassa in the Chichaoua province did just that. In conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day earlier in the week, students organized presentations, workshops, and projects regarding a variety of topics including climate change, recycling, sustainable energy, and innovative agricultural methods, such as electric irrigation techniques, for their peers and provincial delegates. Thanks to an invitation extended by the director of Chichaoua’s Delegation of Education, HAF staff members were also able to attend the event. He made it clear that it was a very selective process in choosing which school would host the event, and the Lycée Collegial Guemassa more than deserved the honor.

After our welcoming, we moved from classroom to classroom where students taught us about their selected topic in various ways. A few examples include: One student created a PowerPoint presentation to share his findings on climate change; other students showed us creative ways in which to recycle waste such as by crafting decorative pieces or even by making useful home good items including containers and rugs; and two girls impressively created a display showcasing the process of irrigation powered by electricity and explained its benefits as a useful agricultural technique. There were many more impressive projects and presentations made by the students. What we witnessed was not only the hard work, resourcefulness, and intelligence of Guemassa’s youth, but also their passion for the environment and preventing further damage to our home. 

To conclude the event, the school’s principal, the delegate of education, and HAF staff took part in planting the first of 50 fruit trees in front of Lycée Collegial Guemassa. HAF has previously planted 833 almond trees, 223 pomegranate trees, and 124 fig trees with schools in the Chichaoua province as part of our nursery program.

It was a great day full of education and celebration—of our earth, Moroccan youth, and relationships, including the partnership between HAF and Chichaoua communities, and how we can all continuously work together to positively impact the environment.

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High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Fatima Zahra Laaribi
New York City, NY United States
$42,024 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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