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Picking up the Pieces and Rebuilding the Village

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Blog
byHouria Chouhab
onFebruary 19, 2024

Quickly responding to the destructive earthquake that shook Al Haouz, Chichaoua, Ouarzazate, and Taroudant Provinces, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) initiated the Psychosocial Empowerment Program in October. This program, designed to bring hope and healing to the affected villages, has been making a significant impact. Since we began, the HAF team has conducted 27 workshops, touching the lives of 693 women and 454 children.

Our most recent workshops were conducted in the villages of Imi N'Tala and Inghede, both located in Anougal commune of the Al Haouz province. Despite their close proximity, these villages tell a contrasting story of the earthquake's aftermath.

Nestled 90 km in the High Atlas Mountains, Imi N'Tala was once known for its vibrant green valley and a community that lived a seemingly normal life. Children attended school, men tended to farms, and women actively participated in cooperatives. The seasons of spring and summer were joyous, marked by weddings and traditional song and dance performances called Ahouach.

Now, Imi N Tala stands as a haunting reminder of the earthquake's fury. Once full of life, the village now bears the scars of destruction. Initial conversations with the local association's representatives unveiled the staggering magnitude of loss - not just houses, jobs, schools, and mosques, but 87 lives, including 30 children. The grief in Imi N Tala is palpable, and the community is profoundly grappling with the aftermath.

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The local association graciously provided two shelters side-by-side for the four-day workshop, reflecting the resilience of a community determined to rebuild. One shelter was devoted to the workshop with 12 children, ages 2 to 14. The educational instructor faced the challenge of separation anxiety, as the younger ones clung to their mothers, fearing abandonment post-earthquake. Over four days, children engaged in drawing, play, and educational activities, offering a glimmer of normalcy in their lives.

In the second shelter, 28 women, each bearing the weight of tragic loss, gathered for support. Personal narratives unveiled heart-wrenching stories, such as Badia's, who, having lost her twin girls, faced an unexpected pregnancy. The team's psychologist and facilitators worked to shift perspectives, emphasizing the opportunity for renewal.

While the workshops are a critical intervention, they are just one step in a larger journey toward recovery. The resilience of these communities is evident, and the impact of the program extends beyond the workshop days. As we reflect on the transformative power of the psychosocial empowerment program, it becomes clear that the desire to move forward and rebuild is strong among the women and men who have endured so much.

In Imi N Tala, despite the immense grief, the women long to return to their cooperatives, where they used to bake fresh bread, couscous, and Moroccan cookies. The cooperative was not merely a place of work; it was a symbol of community, resilience, and shared purpose. However, the reconstruction of the cooperative and the provision of essential materials pose significant challenges.

Similarly, the men are eager to return to their farms, resuming the work that sustains both their families and the community. Yet, the path to restoration is met with obstacles, and assistance in rebuilding their agricultural infrastructure would be invaluable.

As we stand at this crossroads, the call to action extends beyond emotional support to practical and tangible help. The women of Imi N Tala yearn to rebuild their cooperatives, and the men aspire to revitalize their farms. Any kind of support can play a pivotal role in turning these aspirations into reality.

Let's join hands in empowering Imi N Tala, Inghede, and other villages on their journey to reconstruction. Together, we can turn the page towards a future where these communities thrive once again, standing as a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of collective action.