Though I’ve made some posts in the last few months, it’s been awhile since I’ve given some updates about my work and projects. I’ve been really busy since February with various things, including several large events and a bunch of smaller, continuous projects in-between. It’d be too daunting for me to list everything I’ve been up to for the past few months (and probably really tedious for you to read), so I’ve selected a few of the things I’m most proud of and summarized them here. I snagged a few of the summaries from my volunteer report that I submit to Peace Corps, so forgive the detached, report-style writing that’s present here and there!
Training in Fes for the new trainees
I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the training process for the new volunteers of the stage that arrived in country in January. For 6 days, I worked with a training group of 5 trainees on PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action), English teaching, spring/summer camps, and leading clubs/activities. In each of these areas, I presented training material, offered advice through positive experience sharing, fielded questions, and facilitated discussion and idea-sharing among the trainees. I was also responsible for guiding the trainees through hands-on practice with each of the new skills they learned, in the form of having them each lead activities and classes at their training site Dar Chebab. You might be thinking, “wow, that is a heck of a lot of stuff to cover in 6 days,” and you’d be right – it was a TON of stuff to cover in such a short amount of time, and we were super busy. Everything went extraordinarily well, though, and we covered everything we needed to. In fact, during their PACA community mapping practice, the conversation centered on the issue of women’s access to cafes and other public spaces, and by the end of the activity, boys were openly calling for greater equality for girls. Talk about success, right?!
I was super excited about doing this from the beginning, mostly because of my love for PACA (you can read about it here and here), but also because I’ve always wanted to help Peace Corps Morocco operations on a broader scale. Plus, I was lucky enough to be able to work with my former CBT site, which meant tons of visiting time with my host family! For reasons I can’t fully put my finger on, this experience was one of the most fulfilling things I’d done in my service up until that point. Facilitating discussions and skills practice, returning to my “roots” of Morocco in my CBT site, having a part in shaping the future of Peace Corps Morocco, and benefiting from the unique, refreshing perspective afforded by spending time with new trainees – it was well-worth the long trek back up north.
Goal Setting Workshops
In partnership with my counterpart, I led 2 goal setting workshops with the members of 2 local women's associations. The workshops had an association-wide focus, meaning that the participants identified and discussed goals that they wanted to achieve as an association as a whole, rather than as individuals. We designed the workshops as a way to not only help the associations with planning their future activities, but also as a way to give the women practice with the process of setting attainable goals and developing realistic plans to achieve those goals.
The workshops were a huge success, with 40 women attending the first and over 150 women attending the second one. Many of the women expressed their enjoyment of the workshop, and requested that we come back to do something similar in the future.
Here’s an outline of how the workshops went:
1) We began with a general discussion of what goals are, reasons for their importance, and methods for achieving them
2) We read the association's official mission statement and goals, and together wrote the goals on flip-chart paper in simplified language, in order to help everyone understand what the broad goals of the association are.
3) Through large group discussion, participants chose one broad association goal that they felt was especially important. This became the broad goal that we would focus on for the duration of the workshop.
4) In small groups, participants brainstormed possible projects or activities within the area of the large goal chosen by the group. They were told to focus only on projects or activities that could be achieved within a 1 year timeframe, and to choose their best idea to share with the group.
5) Each group shared their idea with the larger group, and each group's idea was written on flip-chart paper. Through large group discussion, participants then chose one idea from the list to focus on for the purposes of the workshop, with the knowledge that each idea was valid and potentially attainable.
6) We then had a general discussion of long-term goal setting, using the metaphor of a set of stairs to illustrate the concept of working "step by step" to achieve a larger goal. Participants were shown a drawing of stairs on flip-chart paper, with "1 year" written at the top, "6 months" written in the middle, "Now" written at the bottom, etc. The project idea they chose was written at the top, next to "1 year," and it was explained that in order to achieve their goal in 1 year, they would need to plan for all of the steps they would need to take in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc.
7) In their small groups, the participants were asked to think of steps necessary to achieve their goal, starting with "now," and working their way up the stairs. Each group was given 7 pieces of paper and asked to write each step on a sheet of paper.
8) Each group shared the steps they thought of with the large group, and placed them on the stairs according to when on the timeline that step should take place. The large group gave their input on each step and where it should go on the timeline. The finished product was a complete timeline for achieving their project idea.
At the end of the activity, the association had, on flip chart paper:
- Their broad mission and official association goals, written in simple language for all to understand
- A list of project/activity ideas for one of their broad goals
- A 1 year timeline plan for achieving one of their activity ideas.
- A blank sheet with stairs drawn on it, for planning additional activities and replicating the goal setting activity with themselves in the future
International Women’s Day Event
I partnered with Tafoukt Souss, a local women's development association in Agadir, to hold an interactive discussion for International Women’s Day. We decided to show the film “You Can Dream: Stories of Moroccan Women Who Do,” and use the themes in the film as a starting point for discussion.
Three girls from the association came to my site and led an interactive 2 hour-long event with over 70 women. We screened the “You Can Dream” video, and paused it between each woman’s story to facilitate discussions about the themes in the film and how those themes relate to the lives of the women present. The discussion was very participatory, rather than lecture-style, and women in attendance frequently shared their thoughts and experiences with issues presented in the film The vast majority of the women participated and seemed genuinely interested in the topic. Several women stayed afterward to talk more with the women from the association, and several more requested that we host more discussions like this in the future.
Field Trips with the Dar Chebab kids
My mudir, some older students of the Dar Chebab, and I coordinated a field trip to a nearby mountain and natural spring for the youth of our Dar Chebab. We left early in the morning, traveled to a town near the spring, and hiked with our things to a suitable spot near the spring. Throughout the day we set up camp, played games, went on hikes, and had lunch and kaskroot at our campsite. The older boys took care of all of the logistics regarding food: botagaz, ingredients, supplies, dishes, cooking, etc. While we were there, I led 2 hikes to the nearby spring and hills, taught the kids Ultimate Frisbee, played cards, and led informal discussions about nature and pollution.
|Piling in to our mode of transportation of choice!|
|Near the natural spring|
My Dar Chebab also led a girls-only field trip to Agadir. Approximately 20 girls joined us for a trip to the beach, lunch in Agadir's famous souk l-hdd, and a walking tour of the city of Agadir. The field trip was girls-only because of girls' expressed discomfort with boys harassing them or bothering them, particularly when in their bathing suits at the beach. My Mudir and I wanted to give the girls an opportunity to enjoy themselves free from the added pressures of discomforts resulting from the presence of boys.
Diabetes Screening and Awareness Event
This event was part of a two-week long annual program organized by the Ministry of Health in Taroudant. The program consisted of diabetes screenings and educational discussions in several towns throughout Taroudant province. The diabetes testing and educational discussions were conducted by 4 Belgian nursing students, 1 Belgian doctor, 1 Algerian assistant, and various Moroccan staff from the Ministry of Health. The Belgian nursing students were in Morocco as part of a volunteer program jointly facilitated by their university and Morocco's Ministry of Health. I contacted the Taroudant Ministry of Health early on in the program's planning process, in order to coordinate the inclusion of my site, Sebt el-Guerdane, into the program for the first time.
The event in Sebt el-Guerdane consisted of free diabetes screenings and a diabetes educational discussion, both aimed specifically at women of the community. Over a 5-hour period, 147 women were tested for diabetes using a two-test approach: one test before breakfast, one test after breakfast. If they tested positive for diabetes, they were given brief counseling about their test results, as well as an official reference to the local clinic to receive further medication and treatment options. Over 120 women also attended our diabetes educational discussion, which focused on the basics of diabetes, symptoms, prevention, treatment, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles.
Several of the women who attended the event had never before been tested for diabetes, and were receiving testing and medical information about he disease for the first time. While many women who attended were from Sebt el-Guerdane central, many came several kilometers from small villages outside the town in order to benefit from this free service.
In addition to the diabetes screening and educational discussion for women the first day, the team and I also led a 1.5 hour educational discussion with the girls at the local Dar Taliba the following evening. The discussion focused on diabetes awareness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles.
Taroudant Spring Camp
Every April, Peace Corps Morocco partners with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to put on dozens of camps across the country during students’ two-week spring break. Most of these camps are English-intensive, and are staffed by PCVs and Moroccan counselors alike. I had the pleasure of coordinating the Taroudant camp this year, the biggest spring camp in the country, from what I’ve learned! It was enormously successful, and I had such a great time. We had 160 kids at the camp - that's 10 more than we were expecting and 40 more than the previous year - and still managed to not only keep everything under control, but to have a really successful week of camp. There were 6 PCVs working the camp, in addition to 10 absolutely wonderful Moroccan counselors. All of the PCVs were flexible and hard-working, handling class sizes of 20-30 youth and club sizes of 45+. Those are huge class sizes for camp groups, and I was continually impressed by how well they handled it. In addition, the Moroccan counselors were true professionals; they were always present, helpful, respectful, and truly creative in the activities they led with the youth. Throughout the camp, we had English classes in a wide variety of levels, club/workshop activities (environment, team-building, art, and gender&development), sports time, and a variety of Moroccan-led activities. What’s more, among the 10 counselors were 3 professional musicians, who led a great music club in the evenings that was a big hit with the youth. The camp also included an outing into the Taroudant medina and a large, scavenger-hunt game on the camp grounds.
|All of the PCVs, counselors, and staff|
|Taroudant's famous medina walls|
|Some of the kids on the last day|
Before working this camp, I would have been daunted by the thought of organizing, teaching, and engaging 160 youth in one camp, and it was truly amazing to see how well everything came together. The mudir, counselors, and PCVs worked together every day to make this one of the most successful camps I've been to in Morocco, and I am proud to have been a part of it!
Upcoming: Souss Girls' Soccer Camp
The biggest project on my plate now is the Souss Girls’ Soccer camp that I, along with my PCV partner, John, and our community partners, are organizing for the first week of July. This is an ambitious, unique project – the kind of thing that has the ability to define our services and stay in our memories for a lifetime – and I’m so excited to tell you about it! We got the idea from the various PCV-organized girls’ soccer teams that have been starting in the region, despite multiple obstacles and some cultural stigma attached to girls’ sports here. We wanted o give the girls an opportunity to practice their soccer skills, meet other girls with similar interests, and give them the opportunity to meet some older role models who have found success in the sport despite cultural norms. The plan is to bring 4 soccer teams, from 4 different towns, together for one large, week-long, all-girls soccer camp. We’ve got a local association partnering with us, and the women from the awesome Taroudant women’s professional soccer team are coming to act as coaches for the girls. We’ve got a good foundation going, but this is still a HUGE project – building a week-long summer camp from the ground up in Morocco is challenging enough as it is, let alone the fact that we are really pushing some boundaries by offering such a sports-based opportunity to girls. We have about a month and a half left to pull this off, and its going to be a busy ride until then, especially because there will be a lot of Peace Corps related travel happening between now and then. Plus, we are still waiting to hear back about our grant funding – so cross your fingers for us! More updates on this to come!