By Ramzi Talbi
A group of sixteen students from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts visited the High Atlas Foundation today to learn about our mission and projects, along with their Professor Peter Fraunholtz. The day started early in the morning with tea at HAF’s office in Marrakesh, while Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the foundation’s president, talked to the group about sustainable development and it’s place in Morocco. The talk highlighted HAF’s participatory approach to human development, focused on training in self-reliance to help the rural communities come up with plans to develop the region for themselves. This concept is very different from many current world aid fund models, who simply give money to communities who do not know how to use it to their best advantage, for developing long-term goals. It was a great interaction between the group of students and Dr. Yossef, and it was also an open discussion in which the students had the chance to ask questions about HAF, its projects, and Dr. Yossef’s vision for the future.
After an interesting morning discussion, the group went on our way to Ourika valley, where we stopped at one of HAF’s tree nurseries and met with the Aboghlo Women’s Cooperative. The women had begun their day in the field at 5am, but even though they had already had a long morning, they also generously made breakfast and served it under the olive trees for our whole group. The students had chance to have nice dialogue with all the Aboghlo women in the cooperative and exchange questions in the field under the olive trees. Amina and I were assigned to facilitate dialogue between the two groups through translation. From Arabic to English, Berber to English and vice versa, we played an intercultural role for the day.
The Aboghlo Women’s Cooperative’s hospitality even included making delicious couscous for the whole group, as well as for the co-op’s members. We had lunch at Ourika’s Women’s Development Center, where the co-ops usually have their meetings. After enjoy a nice herbal tea, Professor Fraunholtz and his students were very grateful for the Aboghlo Women’s Cooperative’s hospitality, and were inspired by the amount of work they do with minimal resources. The Aboghlo Women’s Cooperative members were also happy and grateful for the visit, and they invited the group for more visits in the future. I was happy to see the great interaction between the two groups, the exchange of thoughts and ideas, and the fun day everyone had.