Thursday, October 20, 2011

A training update

The weeks are going by faster and faster! It has now been 5 weeks since Justin and I arrived in Morocco, though it feels like months with all that we have done and learned. In 2 weeks, we will find out our permanent site placement for the next 2 years, and in 1 month, we will (hopefully) be sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers and leave for our final site. 

I’m very much looking forward to having my own space and exploring a new community, but there’s a LOT to do in our training site between now and then. Every 2 weeks a new “Phase” of training ends and a new one starts (there are 4 Phases total). Right now I am in Fes with our full training group to mark the end of Phase 2 and the beginning of Phase 3. In Phase 2, we conducted in-depth community assessment work to try to understand some of the issues that youth in our community are facing (we are Youth Development volunteers, so all of our work is very youth-focused). We had a number of interviews and meetings with community leaders along with creative exercises with youth. 

The 2 most pronounced concerns for youth that have come out of our assessment work are education (primarily English education) and empowerment of women. In our community, students are only required to go to school through the 6th grade. We have a school for students from the 7-9th grades but many students in the community are not able to continue going to school, typically because they must work outside or inside of the home to help the family. There is no high school in the town, so after 9th grade, students have to take a bus or taxi every day to Fes to continue their education. For most families, this is a financial strain and there are also concerns for girls’ security, so few students in the community continue their education after 9th grade. Particularly for women, there’s not a lot of encouragement for education or the pursuit of their skills and talents. In my host family, I have two sisters age 16 and 17 who are no longer in school but are working in a women’s center in the community that is helping them train to become dressmakers… but in many families girls don’t even have these opportunities. 

Our group is planning a program at the end of our training to help address the issues of education and female empowerment. I’m planning an activity geared toward young girls, helping them to think about and discuss their individual talents or talents/skills that they would like to learn, in an open and supportive environment. It’s a bit frustrating that we are only in the community for another month and as such there is only so much that we can do for them, but at the same time I’m happy that we’re able to give something and to gain lessons that will help us in our permanent site.

 More to come on our training and the program planning as the weeks go by! I’ll end with a few more photos from the past week:

View of our community from the mountain - so beautiful!
My host sisters dressed me up on
Sunday in a traditional Moroccan dress!
Then they paraded me around town
and got me some henna - on the side
of my hand is "Layla," my Moroccan name here :)
An example of a daily "traffic jam"
in our community :)
your weekly allotment of food photos!
This is a tagine with kfta, onions
and olives... soooo good!
I miss everyone very much, and hope all is well!

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