Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Fountains of Morocco... Drink it in!

I cannot get enough of the beauty of this country... from the tiles, to the lamps, to the doorways, I'm pretty much taking photos of everything I see! Today, I bring you some of the beautiful fountains of Morocco - from simple to incredibly ornate, each one is unique and breathtaking.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

An apple a day...

The newest updates: Last week Justin and I returned from an "In-Service Training" (IST) in Marrakesh for the newest group of Peace Corps Volunteers, where we gave a presentation about our awesome Job Skills training workshops. After IST, I participated in my very last meeting with the Gender and Development Committee in Morocco and was able to sit back and really appreciate how far my efforts have gone in the last 2 years to promote gender equality activities in Morocco.

So all in all a productive week! However, my excitement faded quickly upon getting back home last Tuesday, as that evening I managed to slip in the shower and bang my chin against our bathtub, breaking open a pretty deep gash all the way to the muscle. 

But this blog post is not to complain about the injury - Rather, I want to gush about the medical treatment that I have received in the Peace Corps, which is better than I  have ever experienced! As soon as I banged my chin, I called the after-hours Peace Corps medical duty phone. Within a minute I was connected to a doctor who told me immediate actions to take with supplies from the medical kit that Peace Corps provided us with. First thing the following morning, I went to Rabat where I met with the same Peace Corps doctor, who brought me to an amazing plastic surgeon for a quick consultation followed by stitches in my chin. All within about 18 hours of my injury.

From my fractured leg bone to now this, I have been so impressed with the medical attention that I've received in the Peace Corps. Before we left for Morocco, there was some negative press about medical problems with the Peace Corps, but for me I have had nothing but positive experiences. Even so, I have promised myself that the chin injury will be my very last medical issue, because I need to return to America in 1 piece! :)

In other news, we are finalizing most of our projects and beginning the packing process. I can't believe that our return to the US is getting closer and closer! Over the coming weeks we plan to spend lots of time with our Moroccan friends and family and do some final sightseeing too. More to come soon!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Drew U. Visits Tiflet! [Guest Post]

When I was in college, my school had a pretty amazing program called the Drew International Seminar (DIS). Participants enrolled in a course at Drew focused on a particular issue related to a specific country (occasionally two countries). Then for three to four weeks after the semester ended, the students visited the country/ies they had been studying for an on-site seminar to continue studying the same topic. The DIS program was like a mini study abroad, and in addition to the academic component, students had time for sightseeing, to learn about the country and its culture more generally, and to meet people from the country. 

In February of 2012 I happened to be on Drew’s website and was suddenly curious whether the DIS program still existed. Several years passed since I had been a student, and given the way the economy has been the last few years, I knew many schools have had to cut costs due to financial difficulties. It turned out that not only did the DIS program still exist, but two professors would be bringing a group of students to Morocco in May or June of 2013. Their DIS is on mobility and identity in the context of globalization (seminar description here).

I got in contact with the professors to offer to help however I could, met up with them last July while they were in Morocco making arrangements, have been in correspondence with them, and last week they and sixteen students visited Tiflet during their DIS. It is exam time in Morocco, so a lot of young people are busy studying, but we were able to bring the DIS together with a group of five strong English speakers from our site, and it was a great opportunity for Goals 2 & 3. We have of course explained to our Moroccan students about American diversity, for example, that we have people from all over the world and with all kinds of backgrounds. But us telling them is different from them seeing a group of Americans where the people look very different from one another. The Moroccans loved the opportunity to practice speaking English and both groups seemed to enjoy meeting the new people.

Here's a group photo (a few more are on the DIS Facebook page):

The DIS spent most of its time in Morocco in large cities – Rabat, Tangier, Fez, Meknes, and Casablanca. While in Rabat the Drew students met up with some Moroccan university students, who told them that they needed to get out of the big cities. Some Peace Corps Volunteers also will dismissively tell people that those are not “real Morocco.” It’s not true, as there is no single “real Morocco.” As with anywhere else, Morocco is multifaceted, and particularly since the majority of Moroccans live in urban areas (source: CIA World Factbook), large cities represent a large facet of Morocco. The DIS also visited Chefchaouen, which while small receives a lot of international tourists. But in Tiflet the DIS participants got to experience yet another facet, seeing a minor city that is not often a destination for foreigners and meeting with its youth. While Tiflet is by no means the smallest community in Morocco, the mere thirty-five miles which separate it from the capital city make it far removed from big city life. According to one of the professors at least, the Tiflet experience provided a good point of comparison to some of their other experiences.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Job Skills Workshops Conclusion

This past weekend, Justin and I, along with our two Moroccan counterparts Abdellah and Badr and new Peace Corps Volunteer Tim, presented certificates to 25 Moroccan youth who completed our month-long "Vocational Skills for Moroccan Youth" training workshops. 

Workshop participants with us and our counterparts

Participants attended 7 workshops in total, ranging from writing a CV, preparing a "Demande d'Emploi" or "Lettre de Motivation" (the Moroccan equivalents for our cover letters), interviewing, job search and social media skills, entrepreneurship, financial management, and career planning/goal setting. Participants completed homework assignments including making a CV, writing a cover letter, and even doing a mock interview.

Here, I'm talking about needs and wants, related to financial management.

When Justin and I first began the process of developing these workshops with Abdellah and Badr, we were blown away by how little education students receive here on goal setting or potential career/educational paths and what it takes to realize their potential. We've been told that there's one person in our community who is like a guidance counselor and visits each of the high schools once a year, gives a long-winded speech to students, and leaves without spending individual time or taking questions. Many students end up on a career path based on what a family member or friend does because they don't have a sense of what opportunities are out there, and no one has ever encouraged them to think about their interests and pursue them. Then, when it comes time to look for jobs, not only do many students not know how to create a good CV but many also lack the knowledge of where or how to look for jobs or the self-confidence to express themselves to a company.

Justin in action! He is teaching about the qualities of a successful person.

For our final session, we gave out certificates, had a small party, and asked participants to fill out evaluations about their experiences in the workshops. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. Not only did participants highlight tangible new skills that they learned in the workshops, but they also noted some unexpected new qualities that they gained: self-confidence, motivation, and leadership. One participant said that in the interview she/he "learned how to be me in that moment." Another participant learned that he/she "could be a manager, not just a worker." And another participant told us about learning "how to reach my dreams, how to have a will for success, and how to be an accomplished person." Many participants said that the mock interview was one of their greatest experiences. For many it was their first interview - two participants were so nervous that they actually walked out before the interview! Their peers were able to get them to come back in; the group as a whole was really supportive and the mock interviews presented a great opportunity to learn how to express themselves in a safe and comfortable space.

The workshop team! 

Next week, we'll be going to Marrakech to share the program with other Peace Corps Volunteers. We hope that we can encourage others to replicate the workshops in their communities, and maybe this will be one of the legacies that we can leave behind here. For us, it was one of our last big projects and it was great to end things on such a high note. 

A signed banner with all participant names.

A big shout out and special thanks to Abdellah and Badr, who were the primary facilitators and worked with us in every step of the planning process, and without whom we could NEVER have pulled this off.