RPCV Christian Fowkes Visits HAF funded Ain Bechar Women’s Cooperative

From Christian “Karim” Fowkes, RPCV Taza (1998-2000) : I returned to Morocco this summer to show my wife why Morocco holds such a special place in my heart. We traversed the country, making our way to Taza and Tazekka National Park. In Taza, we were welcomed by my former Parks counterpart, Aziz Rahmouni, and his family. Early the next morning, Aziz, his son Azar, a park employee, my wife, and I set out to Ain Bechar to see how the construction of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF)/ Peace Corps women’s co-op was proceeding.

Walking through the bleddi-style scaffolding, it was a marvelous site. The outline of the co-op showed that there would be two rooms of ample size. Aziz and the quiad explained that one would be a general meeting room, while the other would be used exclusively to help educate the women of the village. There would be sessions held there on women’s health, hygiene, and skill-based learning like carpet weaving.

I asked Aziz how this HAF/Peace Corps project was different from projects in the past. He spoke about how much better it was because the village decided on what the project would be. The process of selecting a project and implementing an action plan was monumental for the village. The attitude of villagers is exceptionally positive. They all spoke with pride when recalling the process and how it brought the village closer together. The possibilities of what the co-op could do are endless and those in Ain Bechar are aware of that potential. Through the HAF/Peace Corps partnership, Aziz spoke about how the entire village would turn out for meetings and vote on what they felt would best benefit the village. Perhaps this, voting for the betterment of their village, will have the greatest impact on the village.

The people of Ain Bechar are well on their way to completing a beautiful women’s co-op and the rest of the park is taking notice. Aziz is very proud to be associated with HAF and the good work it is doing in his little part of Morocco. As we pulled away from the Ain Bechar, bellies full from homemade harsha and mint tea, I was energized by the level of co-operation between Peace Corps, HAF, and all members of the village. The possibilities of projects are endless, not only in this village, but in Morocco as a whole. Perhaps the lasting effect of the HAF project isn’t just the bricks and mortar building, but the creation of a model for an entire village to use in order to address the needs of their community in the future.

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