Greetings to friends, supporters and beneficiaries of the High Atlas Foundation. My name is Lillian Thompson and I am a Peace Corps Response Volunteer. Since my arrival in Morocco in May, I have been working with the High Atlas Foundation to develop its curriculum in participatory development. I hope to use my blog to keep you informed of our progress and to learn from you—so please comment.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, I worked with an area-based program of the United Nations Development Program in Crimea. The program used participatory development methods to promote economic development and the re-integration of a returning Diaspora of Tatars. As Program and Training Officer for Peace Corps in Romania, I developed training in participatory development and project management for Peace Corps Volunteers in diverse program areas. New Orleans is my adopted home town, where participatory development has gained new meaning in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.
Part of being new in a place is the temptation to make comparisons. I cannot say that I have lived in places where life is more or less hard than it is in Morocco’s rural villages and bidonvilles. I can say that, like the city of New Orleans, the country of Morocco is a place to love. Art, family and religion are inextricably woven into their cultures. As is vulnerability—and this is why so many people are drawn to these places.
I have spent my first few weeks in Morocco visiting the Center for Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development in Mohammedia, talking with people and observing “experiential community-based” workshops where students from the Hassan II University and officials from rural communes have come together to learn about participatory development. The Center is a partnership between the High Atlas Foundation and the University which operates out of a modest office in a classroom at the University—you can read about it in the Training tab.
I believe that the Center’s impact on development in Morocco can have a far-reaching ripple effect, as more people learn and use participatory methods in their work and in their communities. The program serves a national need for empowered communities to fulfill the monarchy’s commitment to regionalization (decentralization). Communities that choose how they will develop and ensure that they can maintain projects donors help provide will make more sustainable progress. And communities that become active participants in Moroccan-led development programs will become part of a stronger nation.
In future blogs, I hope to share some of the nuts and bolts of the curriculum we are creating—it will benefit from using the participatory development approach itself, with your help.