American Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco spend two years living and working at the local level – often in very remote areas. They live with families and create projects that meet the needs of the communities, in the areas of health and sanitation, maternal child health, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. A typical project might involve educating young mothers on the need for clean drinking water, especially for babies. In many cases, mortality rates dramatically decrease in a very short time as a result of simple hygienic practices. Many Volunteers have known women who gave birth to a number of babies, only to have a majority of them pass away from preventable causes such as contaminated drinking water. When a father was asked how he carries the grief of losing eighteen children, he responded that pain of the loosing his last was as totally overwhelming as his first.
The memories of these projects have stayed with Volunteers long after they return to the United States. In 2000, they were moved to create a nonprofit organization called the High Atlas Foundation, whose mission is to establish community-based projects in rural Moroccan villages. Five years later, they are working across the High Atlas (and beyond) to plant thousands of fruit trees and implement potable water and irrigation projects benefiting tens of thousand of people. The strength of the High Atlas Foundation is their ability to develop understanding, communication, and productive relationships between rural villages and Moroccan government and nonprofit organizations. They emphasize the inclusion of all community members (particularly women) in the design of projects, which often takes great determination to achieve. Their Peace Corps service taught them that people are more invested in projects that they feel ownership toward.
The goal of the High Atlas Foundation is to empower people and ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable men, women, and children are heard and addressed. The Board of the High Atlas Foundation stresses that the organization allows them to serve as a constant bridge between United States and the country (and especially the people!) they came to love as Volunteers. They work to mobilize broad-based support from across the United States including former Peace Corps Volunteers, Moroccan ex-patriots, and anyone who cares about Morocco’s future. The High Atlas Foundation will host a reception in New York City on Thursday, September 15, 2005. For more information, visit www.highatlasfoundation.org.