The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) hosted the US Consul General, Brian Shukan, as well as Political Officer Ann Meceda and Public Affairs Officer Andrea Appell from the US Consulate in Casablanca at three project sites in the Marrakech region on May 14th and 15th. This visit was an opportunity to understand the needs of people in rural areas, as well as to see projects from community development that have been implemented through funding from the United States. Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF President and Larbi Didouqen, HAF Vice President accompanied them on the visit, as well as HAF Country Manager Alexandra Stein and HAF Site Manger Malika Kassi.
Mr. Shukan first visit was to Ait Talib, a rural village in Rhamna Province, where HAF implemented a grant from the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI), which offered trainings on leadership to locally elected women. HAF has also planted and irrigated 12,000 olive trees in the commune, and built teachers housing, classrooms, and restrooms at local schools. Singing children greeted Mr. Shukan and his team, and he returned the warm welcome by giving a gift of pens with US emblems to each student and to the teacher. The group shared lunch at the home of Abderrahim, president of the parents’ association.
On May 15th, Mr. Shukan, accompanied by Ms. Meceda, Ms. Appell and the HAF team participated in a community meeting in Tamslouht, Al Haouz Province. A locally elected woman, who participates in the training program funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and implemented by HAF, led the community meeting. During the meeting, local women discussed the issue of clean drinking water and the challenges they face, which revealed the emotion and benefits of the democratic process.
The group then traveled to Tassa Ouirgane, a village in the mountainous area of Al Haouz province, to visit the site of a co-op that HAF helped to incorporate and support with funding from members of the Chief Executive Organization, Morocco College, individually pledged during their Morocco College visit last year. Mr. Shukan saw the women knitting items for the home and purchased some of their goods, as well as he and his team offered very helpful advice and ideas on product marketing.
This visit was an important opportunity for all community participants to understand that their work towards development is a model and this model is supported by the United States. It was an important day for HAF, a Moroccan association and a US 501 (c) (3) organization as well, as it reinforced part of HAF’s identity as a bridge to the United States and built goodwill for supporting future rural development projects.