Monday, April 30, 2012

Volunteerism

Before Justin and I came to Morocco and during our training period in country, we were told by many people that the concept of "volunteerism" is very much rooted in American culture and that volunteering is not something that people in many other countries (Morocco included) either do or understand.

After about 7 months of living in Morocco, I am here to tell you that this statement (at least related to Moroccans) is totally false. The youth of Morocco not only say that volunteering is important, but they back up their words with actions. In only 5 months of living in Tiflet, we have witnessed some absolutely amazing volunteer activities, all planned by youth and for the betterment of the community:
• Providing free eye exams at our youth center for the entire community - along with free glasses
• Planning and running a 3-day Arabic poetry festival, bringing in poets from Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and all over Morocco
• Doing ongoing educational activities for children - puppet shows, clowns, music, videos - about things such as the environment or the importance of studying
• Running sports tournaments for children
• Developing workshops to educate the community on issues such as AIDS and women’s rights

And that's not all. Justin and I recently worked with the U.S. Department of State in Morocco on a program called "Youth and Volunteerism." Last week, we met with 35 students from high schools and universities around Rabat and led a presentation and open discussion about volunteerism. After hearing about some of the work that they have been doing, we thought that they could have given the presentation! Here are a few highlights:
• Helping single mothers and sexually-abused women
• Running clothing drives in schools
• Helping released prisoners re-enter the community and find jobs
• Developing girls' leadership and empowerment programs
• Visiting orphanages, elderly homes, and hospitals

Justin and I ended our presentation in Rabat with the below quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the last sermon that he delivered (at Ebenezer Baptist Church, exactly 2 months before his assassination):

I left our volunteerism meeting feeling inspired and in awe of the youth of Morocco. We're just finishing the month of April, which was National Volunteer Month in the U.S. Hopefully some of this inspired you, too.

P.S. If you are interested in seeing our presentation about volunteerism (the history, what it's like in the U.S. and what we've seen in Morocco), you can view and download it here. And below are a few photos from the event!



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