What inspired you to first join CorpsAfrica?
“What inspired you to join CorpsAfrica?” is a question that everyone who joins CorpsAfrica will be asked from the day they first decide to apply and probably for the rest of their lives. For me, the inspiration began with my interest in development in general, and voluntary work in particular. During my undergraduate studies, I took a broad range of exciting courses, which related to culture and media to tackle the broader issues of international development as well as local development in Morocco. One of these courses, “Representation,” helped me to acquire a deeper understanding of certain significant concepts such as human rights, servant leadership, poverty, and cross-cultural communication. This track inspired me to pursue a career working in non-governmental organizations with a focus on these issues. When I graduated from my university, I thought that I would pursue studies at the graduate level to further enrich my academic profile; therefore, I was looking for an opportunity to apply for graduate school scholarships. I went to an American cultural center to inquire about graduate scholarship applications but found that the deadline had already passed. Before leaving the center, I walked around looking at brochures for other opportunities available for students and recent graduates. My eyes fell upon an opportunity for Moroccan young people to serve as volunteers. I read the pamphlet, and I instantly became fascinated with the idea of volunteering with CorpsAfrica.
This organization provides the opportunity for African young people, like myself, to volunteer in their own countries to help find solutions to poverty through working at the community level. By working directly with poverty-stricken communities, volunteers can assist in the search for solutions to a problem that the community has chosen. In my opinion, the concept of CorpsAfrica came to redefine the historical concept of development and volunteering, which is often associated with Western volunteers who come to African countries with little knowledge of the country, language or culture. However, to do justice to Africans, it is necessary that we find ways to reconcile our complicated history, widely characterized by imperialism and exploitation, with the necessity of the search for solutions to improve the futures of our countries. To do this, it is necessary to promote the independence of Africans who are, in reality, the ideal group to discover innovative solutions to the problems facing their countries.
I was fascinated by the idea and realized that this is in fact what I want to do. I want to volunteer and serve my country, develop myself and have an impact on my community.
What was/were the project(s) you worked on with your community?
After an extended period of community meetings and discussions, the village that I was stationed at decided that the issue of poor water quality and supply was the village’s top priority to solve. Therefore, CorpsAfrica collaborated with the members of the community as well as with some charitable organizations throughout Morocco to complete a project that would establish a new and more efficient water supply system in the village. With the help of CorpAfrica and other NGO’s, we were able to provide the villagers with new pipes as well as a new water infrastructure. The villagers contributed and did the labor work and installed the new water infrastructure with the help of a water expert, which solved the issue of high pressure and limited access to water. Now as a second phase of the project we want to find a solution to the limestone that the water contains and provide the villagers with water that is clean and filtered. Therefore, I am working with People to People water committee students at the Casablanca American School and an organization that is called H2OpenDoors to collaborate on the second phase of the project which is finding a viable solution to the issue of limestone.
You can also watch this infield documentary about the water issue in the village for more information.
I enjoyed teaching the kids and conducting different fun activities and workshops with them. Even though things were hard at the beginning because there is no school in the village, I just gathered students in a small house; brought some chairs and a board and we start the fun lesson. They were all smart and eager to learn. I remember even when sometimes it was snowing in the village; they would come and knock on my door asking me if we will have a lesson today or if we will play soccer in the valley. After spending some time with the young students, I realized that using teaching methods that encouraged the students to have fun and release their energy would be the most productive learning environment. Through using the Total Physical Response to teach vocabulary, the students were able to scream, jump, sing and dance inside the classroom while learning action vocabulary. What is fascinating is that the students never forgot the vocabulary that they have learned. Teaching with kids in the village taught me to be more flexible, and to think quickly and creatively and this part of my service that I will cherish throughout my entire life.
What is your favorite memory from your service?
In fact, they were many favorite memories, but since I spent a lot of time with children in my village, I remembered the memory of the first day in which snow fell in the village. I gathered kids around me and taught them how to build a snowman. We worked on it all together, and divided tasks; some brought shovels, some went looking a carrot for the nose and walnuts for the eyes. A lot of villagers stopped to observe what we did! The children and I had never built anything with snow and were excited to find out how our snowman would look. I rolled a big ball of snow for the head, and one of the children stuck the carrot and walnuts to make the face and wrapped a red scarf around his neck. I felt amazing moments of joy with the kids. I felt happy when I saw all of them wanting to take pictures with the snowman, talking to him, kissing him, and dancing around him.
What do you miss the most about living in your host site?
I miss everything about living in my host site especially the villagers. The villagers, younger or older, men or women, were like a family to me. They embraced me and welcomed me to their small little world. I developed an excellent relationship with them based on trust, love and mutual respect. They helped me throughout my service since the first day I came until the last one. I experienced challenging days as well as good days, but they were on my side in both ways. Integrating with my community wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Despite the obstacle of language at first, despite the rain and the cold weather, the villagers’ helpful attitudes and kindness made me feel warm and cozy inside! I feel like I belong to the community and that I became one of them. I learned something from every interaction and had profound realization. Everyone was my teacher, from the younger kids to the elderly. It feels good to belong to this small community of people who genuinely care about each other’s well-being and the development of their village. I will also miss my loving host family that took good care of me and offered me a comfortable place. I will miss going down to the river playing music, soccer or just having fun activities with the kids. I will miss those moments when I used to hike up the mountains and to contemplate about its beauty, and that of the valley. I will miss taking the truck on the twisted roads to go to the weekly souk. I will miss meeting other volunteers and having a free range chicken tour (Read my blog to know more). I will miss every single thing about my site and service, and I will try to come back whenever it is possible.
How has your CorpsAfrica experience changed your personal perspective?
I believe that volunteering shapes a person's heart, mind and soul completely. The chance to share the humble resources I possessed with the community which I eventually considered my home was an incomparable opportunity. By simply opening your eyes and heart to the culture of a new place, you can have an entirely beneficial, life-changing experience.
I also started counting my blessings twice. The lack of resources and the poverty lead me to be more thankful and grateful of what I had, and the struggling and fighting of others around me taught me to stay positive and motivated to keep going. I find myself a more understanding, compassionate, and empathetic person simply by having contributed my time and hard work for the benefit of others. I realized that sharing the struggles of those in need will help a person become less judgmental towards others.
I appreciated experiencing a different way of life. Living a completely new and different way of life helped me to get out of my comfort zone, get to know people from all over the region (and globe), learn a new local language and become a more adaptable person who is able to overcome challenges much more easily.