It is spring of 2014, and we are a year and a half into the life cycle of our project in Mohammedia for training and capacity building in participatory democratic planning and project management with Moroccan members of civil society organizations and university students.
When the program first started, its aim was to promote social responsibility and good governance by training Moroccan student activists and local CSOs to work collaboratively to develop community initiatives. The training program is now almost at its end. Having provided the beneficiaries with training in planning for and implementation of local development action plans, we are now at the part of the program where the beneficiaries should put into action the skills they have learned. This phase should be the culmination of our program where the participants are able to independently rely on their competencies to suggest concrete actions and duplicate development initiatives in their societies.
With the first buds of spring, the buds of project ideas from the community members start to form. At six months away from the end of the program, the beneficiaries have acquired substantial knowledge, developed solid skills in community planning and project design, and have reached a level of maturity that allows them to initiate new project ideas and design projects for the benefit of their communities.
In this regard, the HAF Mohammedia center has been experiencing lately a new dynamic, with the organization of regular meetings with the students and CSO members to discuss multiple potential initiatives for the local communities.
On different occasions we have discussed with the students an ambitious program to develop a structured community service and volunteering program to the benefit of their fellow students in the Faculty of Law and Economics. This program is expected to bring important outcomes and positive impacts – for students, the faculty and the communities. The benefit for the students will be to gain work-related experience, skills, and qualifications that can help them in their education and careers.
With a human capital of 12,000 students, the faculty of Mohammedia can play a leading role in developing a volunteering culture and in spreading it throughout Morocco. At its beginning the program aims to benefit 100 students, then it is hoped to scale up to all other Moroccan universities.
Currently being assessed by the students, the program’s goal is to take advantage of the capacities and energies of the young to benefit different communities in Morocco, by reaching out to youth in different organizations working for development and involving them in different volunteering programs. This will help to embed a more structured and organized volunteering culture in a country where this is still very limited.
On the other hand, our trained university students have demonstrated their engagement for volunteerism, and their ability to initiate individual development actions. One of the students shared with me her volunteering experience during the past week in the village of Tifalouine in the province of Azilal, which she described as a life-changing experience. With a group of students and association actors, she organized a medical caravan, and collected clothes and covers, which were taken to one of the most isolated villages in the mountains of the province. The village comprised only 110 houses. She, as the rest of the group, was surprised to discover this unknown part of rural Morocco where people are living in hard conditions, have no access to water or electricity, and where the only existing school is in a deplorable condition. Having listened to the members of the community describing their hard lives and having been extremely touched by the villagers’ happiness with the initiative, she and the rest of the group of volunteers are determined to repeat the experience in the month of May.
Along with similar initiatives, the students are currently involved in the organization of different activities in the Faculty, including outreach activities and cultural activities. One of the students is developing the idea of a training program that aims to reinforce a civic culture in support of the active participation of young people in public social and political life, to contribute to the development of the country.
When we talk about grassroots community development, we can’t omit to talk about its most active actors, namely the members of civil society organizations. Involved for a year and a half in our training program, they have led the process of the creation of two coalitions of associations in Mohammedia that are currently operational. Since its creation, the members of the first coalition of associations, called CAM, have initiated a training program to the benefit of the association actors of Mohammedia with the objective of helping them design projects to be implemented in their communities. One of the ambitions of the coalition discussed among the members is the development of a project of “training the trainers”, to enhance the competences of a group of leaders in different fields, who will later play a leading role in their communities.
As for the second coalition of associations called ‘Development Space of Ben Yekhlef’, the members have initiated a project to celebrate the culture of the region of Ben Yekhlef through a spring festival with a project called “The social, cultural, artistic, sportive, educational spring week for the season 2014” with the participation of different associations from the communes of Mohammedia. The members also intend to develop a training program to the profit of the local association members.
Other initiatives emerge from the association representatives with whom we meet to discuss project possibilities and to whom we provide orientation and guidance. During the past week, we met two association members who presented ideas for two projects for women in difficult situations, such as women with special needs, school dropouts and widows. I was particularly touched with the humanitarian objective of these projects which aim to benefit this vulnerable sector of the population.
With the different development project ideas coming from the communities, we hope to witness the implementation of many projects that will help pump new blood to the development body.
Our mission will be to continue to support these initiatives and provide guidance to the project initiators to guarantee their success and sustainability, especially those to the benefit of the under-served communities. Our hope is to see the buds turning to flowers in the city called “City of flowers”.
by Safae Lacheheb, HAF Program Assistant, Mohammedia