As an American student at Al Akhawayn University I have been an intern with the High Atlas Foundation this summer. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in and observe first-hand the work that the High Atlas Foundation is doing in Morocco. Last semester Professor Ben-Meir (the Foundation’s president) introduced participatory development to my class and a student service organization through an experiential workshop. We used the process to build consensus on student priorities and make recommendations about student life to the University administration. At a workshop near Mohammedia, I met Moroccan students from Hassan II University and worked with a disadvantaged urban community to identify and understand their needs. Some of the community members were cynical because they had met developers before and nothing had come of it. Through participatory development, they will have the opportunity to become involved in determining the outcome of our visit.
The work of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco has been felt by top government officials as well. In a recent speechentitled “HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.S.-MOROCCAN RELATIONSHIP, 2006 – 2010”, Minister Counselor Robert P. Jackson said the High Atlas Foundation “continues to make a difference here, specifically by helping Moroccan communities in the High Atlas Mountains achieve socio-economic development.” He praised recent initiatives including the “planting of thousands of trees and training of young students in participatory development.” Based on my experience, I would say that the High Atlas Foundation’s work will continue to be a “highlight” of U.S.-Moroccan relations for many years to come.