By Isabel Clark
World Challenge Team Member
As part of my World challenge trip to Morocco I was expecting to work on a local initiative in the Tizian village but I never realised how rewarding the experience would be.
On the 7th of July my World challenge team and I said ‘Salam’ to Morocco. We were welcomed to the country and its culture during our workshop with Eiesha, a world challenge leader, and Errachid the project manager from High Atlas Foundation (HAF). The Responsible Traveler workshop helped my team to appreciate the importance of volunteering and the impact voluntourism can have on small Moroccan communities. We discussed how social media can be a great platform for raising awareness and tackling the problems faced by communities in Morocco and other areas across the world. The most important lesson I took away from the workshop was that my work as a voluntourist in the Tizian village should not be motivated by what I could gain from the experience, but rather how the community could benefit. Voluntourism should not be about capturing the perfect Instagram shot but immersing yourself in the project, community and culture.
After a great breakfast we were ready with our shovels for an early start to work alongside locals to preserve an area of irrigated land near the village. During our project we helped heighten ridges to prevent surface run-off for close to 100 trees previously planted by the village and we planted 200 Cocoa trees that my world challenge team had donated through our fundraising. Although we weren’t used to the heat, the village children boosted our spirits by keeping us well fed on local plums.
I’m also proud that we contributed to the construction of a village wash room during our time spent in the community. I understood that this would be a great asset to the community as it would allow families to wash their clothes without having to trek to a local stream.
I was extremely impressed by the inclusive approach that HAF have in listening to the concerns and ideas of the communities they work with. My team got involved during the participatory meeting with locals to identify issues of the highest priority in the village through a method of Community Mapping. I was pleased that the locals highlighted a need for a Women’s association center in their top 3 priorities: the future projects for the village will benefit different members of their community.
It was wonderful to be a part of the village’s development and to have the opportunity to live with a local family during our project. Sharing our delicious meals and joining in games we were made to feel extremely welcome by the whole village. A young man called Mohammed had taught us various Berber phrases to involve us in the community.
Our time working on the project in Tizian was over too quickly and we were sad to say our goodbyes to the friends we had made. I feel grateful for everything I learnt from Morocco and the people we met and recognize the good work being done by the High Atlas Foundation. Hopefully through the GPS coordinates of the locations that my team planted the trees, in years to come we will be able to follow their growth through regular updates from the village.