The High Atlas Foundation’s sun has started to rise in the southern provinces of Morocco particularly in Boujdour. The HAF proved its persistence to reach remote, disadvantaged, and excluded regions; so neither the severe frost of snow in the mountains nor the harsh storms of sand in the desert would be a stumbling rock in front of HAF’s noble goal; which is precisely to make a better change and happier life for the local people of any part of Morocco. This is how the HAF, the Moroccan-US organization for sustainable development, has become finally part of the Boujdour local community and the local community in its turn has become part of the HAF’s organization. This great combination didn’t come easily or between a day and night, but after six months of building relationships with the people and their representatives.
May 2, 2013 was a historical day on which the HAF has given birth to its new local branch, this time in Boujdour many miles away to the south of Morocco.
Si Larbi Didouqen, Former director of the Toubkal National Park and vice president of HAF, came from Marrakech to Boujdour to attend this special event: The General Assembly of the HAF’s local branch. It was 11:30 am, while we were waiting for the representative of the local authority who was also invited, Si Larbi began to talk about the prehistorical time of HAF; ie, before HAF was founded. He went back through the years when he was working at the office of Waters and Forest for the High Atlas of Morocco.
“At that time, I often worked with Peace Corps Volunteers who came to Morocco every year. When I met Dr. Yossef Ben Meir, who is a Former Peace Corps volunteer and co-founder and current president of HAF, I found him someone different, someone who really considers work as divine. If a project comes out, he doesn’t rest until it is achieved. We worked together for many years up until now. Si Yossef is someone who doesn’t surrender, especially when trying to achieve noble goals of serving disadvantaged areas of Morocco. And, this is how the idea of founding this organization came out.” Si Larbi added, “Many Peace Corps volunteers served in Morocco, and when they returned to the United States, they created this organization in 2000 to continue helping Morocco’s rural communities. Today, the HAF is expanding throughout many provinces of Morocco in the north. And now in Boujdour province in the south part of Morocco.”
We were having Saharawi tea together and listening to Si Larbi respectively moving through the growing stages of HAF when Mr. Erramadani, the representative of the local authority “Al Maqaddam” arrived. Almaqaddam took some information about the place and time of the general assembly, names of Board Members and list of the attendees and left, he was in a hurry.
After an hour and a half, we gathered around a table for lunch, discussing many issues. I asked the local people attending about their catalyst for joining the HAF’s board in Boujdour. Hanna, a woman from Ait Alhcen (a Sahrawi tribe) and who lives in Boujdour, stated that the thing pushed her to join HAF today is that she was completely convinced of HAF’s real objective of communicating with people about their needs. She also mentioned that the participatory method applied by HAF is very interesting in achieving the local development, inshaa alah. The other thing she admired was that the HAF works a lot in the social, economical, and environmental domain and tries to help the marginalized people far from politics. Bouchra, from the Almukhaiam “camped” community, a young girl who was looking to the beautiful skyline of her hometown, assured that she was happy to join HAF for it was a chance for her to improve her experience in the development domain and know more about sustainable development and participatory approach. Sidi Boumahdi, from Elaarussyin Saharawi tribe and who lives in Boujdour, liked the way the development projects integrate the local people throughout the project process. He added that the thing he appreciated most is that the HAF’s global objective is to help people.
Personally, I’m happy to live and feel this time, to talk with these people and see the deepest change the HAF made for this moment – succeeding to bring many different members from different Moroccan communities who has never met before, though they are from the same place, to sit around one table sharing dialogue, food , pictures. For me, as the HAF’s site manager and before that a Moroccan citizen, I’m so pleased to participate in this event and see each member of this group talking about our Morocco regardless to which community we belong to. Each one of us comes from a particular tribe or community. Si Larbi is Marrakchi, Bouchra is from the Al Mukhaiam community, Hanna is from Ait Alhcen Saharawi tribe, Sidi Boumahdi from Elaaroussyiin Sahrawi tribe, Zohra, an attendee, is from Ulad Tidrarine Sahrawi tribe, and I’m from the Amazighe community, but we have one common goal – which generally stands for taking part in developing our local society. I like the role the HAF always plays in bringing Moroccan diversity to work together in peace and harmony. So, I’m not regretting six months of waiting for this moment to come, we will not regret the hardest effort the HAF’s team made to achieve this moment.
I would like to thank Hanna who hosted us in her house, thanks to all the new Board Members for joining HAF’s local Boujour brach, many thanks to Si Larbi who bore the burden of travel to attend the general assembly. Many thanks also to the local authority of Boujdour and to all the people who made that day successful.
Boujdour Site Manager