Written by: Soufian A. – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: June 28, 2015
It is spring and everything is green, as they said. Well yes indeed, the valley looks lovely and charming and has won over my heart. The trees put forth new leaves and filled with coming apple, walnut, and cherry fruits. In the early morning I hear the birds twittering in trees next to my room. It is delightful to walk through the corn-fields. The green plants please the eyes. Spring transforms the Azzaden valley into a paradise and its sweet notes enchant me (don’t miss this video!). It is so peaceful and tranquil, I have found spending time in the valley to be a deeply healing experience. The air, whether it flows through the trees has a cleansing quality as it interacts with my mind and body. The mountain grounds my being and lifts my imagination to a higher place. I always leave the Azzaden Valley to go back to the civilization refreshed, grounded, and uplifted, living this moment made me realize again that I’m such a lucky man (I humbly thank God).
I lived my life for a lot of years failing to understand inner peace is a choice. I am not sure what I thought. Perhaps I didn’t believe anyone could feel a lasting peace inside. I did know that my own feelings of peace were always transitory. There were many ups and downs in my life, too many claims on my time and too many difficult situations to be dealt with. I think I actually believed inner peace could only be achieved by monks and saints, or anyone living a reclusive life that didn’t have to deal with everyday struggles. This required me some self-reflection and making a commitment to be engaged within myself in order to be engaged to my community. Because sincerely I believe that social engagement of any kind requires that people connect with something outside of themselves, true, and that’s what all of these approaches focus on – Cheers to the opportunity, cheers to CorpsAfrica.
I’ve been busy reaching to engineers and for contribution, and you can easily guess my dear reader since it been a while since my last blog – in fact I’ve been out of my site for more than one month and missed a lot of thing happened in the village. The amazing thing that people missed me – that was impressive, I found. It happened also that I was invited as a speaker guest at two events organized by Students Ambassadors of Peace at the ENCG in Agadir, and by Pages: The other side of Morocco event in Casablanca. This was my first opportunity ever to share my experience of social initiatives and project management with Wake up Agadir Association with a public where I revealed also the experience and future projects with CorpsAfrica. I feel very blessed sharing my story and seeing the appreciation I received from people gave me more energy and inspired me to get back to the village and shine.
Well, this month was productive, since some of the people that I had reached out to confirmed their contribution and interest to the project. When I came back to the village I held a community meeting, with the objective of explaining the challenges I am facing with the hammam project, and tried to make them understand the difficulty of providing hot water for the hammam, as well as providing a heated floor, by using the solar water heater. I also explained to them the difficulty of creating a hammam that would have a low environmental impact and also respect the forestry regulation of Toubkal National Park, in which their village is located. The community seems to have understood that, but they were also disappointed, which motivated me to give them a chance to think of a more feasible project, instead of waiting for the hammam project. Of course means that I will still be working on the hammam project in the meantime.
Surprisingly, the community came back to a very feasible project idea proposed in the brainstorming phase: building access stairs in the village. In other words, building stairs that will not only help villagers walk through the village, but also they will help the villagers have a way to get rid of the melted snow easily from the street – because there will be cement instead of dirt as stairs – and solve the problem of the muddy streets in the winter. The building of these stairs will contribute to a decrease in the incidence of injures – by reducing falling because of slipping – of children and women of the village. The added benefit for the project is that the majority of the construction materials can be found in the riverbed.
Mr. Brahime, Mr. Lahcen (members of the local association), other villagers and I measured the distance from the main street (480 meters) to different parts of the village and households. I collected the data, local materials and measurements as well as community contribution and wrote the proposal and submitted it to CorpsAfrica/Maroc. However, I had to convince the project review committee that our focus by doing this project is strongly to assist and gain the trust of the community by providing them with the finances resources to implement stairs in the village as well as building strong internal community governance.
Thankfully, our project was approved and we started directly after we received the funds. The implementing process coincided with the visit of the Casablanca American School high school students and some teachers. This visit motivated the villagers to show that they care about their village, and it was an exchange experience as well for the student who achieved getting out of their comfort zones and fancy lives in Casablanca by being in the village. I was expected them to complain about every single thing starting from paper toilet, as I told Chris, one of the teachers. But amazingly the students were just fine, integrating and enjoying the implementing process with the villagers. We helped with the beginning of the building process by collecting the necessary local materials for the construction, then cleaning the street and facilitating the shaping of the stairs by putting stones and even actually helping the main mason design the stairs.
This stair project does not require many resources to sustain. It depends on the work of the villagers and their commitment to that work. We gave the community a challenge of 80 by 80 meters as a performance test for the community to identify the capacity of individual members, but also a framework for understanding the village’s commitment to their projects.
I’m really glad to say that my community exceeded my expectations and made me realize that we inspire them to work hard and care about the future of their community.