Our new Education Advisor reports from Morocco project

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in project news  |  
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Dianne with the girls from Dar Asni

Dianne Ashman, a retired  teacher who has volunteered with us in India and The Gambia, contacted us earlier this year and asked if she could help people and places to develop and improve our education projects  – we said “YES PLEASE”! Neither Kate nor Sallie, nor indeed our local partners, are professional educators – we just knew that this was a great opportunity to improve our work with the education projects. Dianne has just returned from Morocco and –  my what a difference she has made to the quality of information we have and the confidence the projects have in the volunteer programme. Here is an update from Dianne.

My name is Dianne Ashman and I am delighted that Sallie and Kate have agreed that I can volunteer for people and places as their education advisor.

I first started volunteering for people and places in 2008, shortly after taking early retirement from teaching.  I volunteered first in The Gambia where I helped Lisong to write her teacher training course, and then in India where I taught English to the older children at Chitardai school – both fantastic and very worthwhile experiences.

Like most volunteers, I imagine, I had many questions before I went to both these places.  By chance, both were very new projects when I went on them, so there was little advice from earlier volunteers to help me.  Kate and Sallie were able to answer some of my questions, but I had to wait until I got to the countries concerned to find the answers to specifically education-based questions.  Having been a teacher for 32 years, 8 of them in senior management,  I began to wonder whether the most useful way for me to use my skills and experience would be in an advisory capacity.  My aim would be to find out the answers to all the questions a teacher might have in going out to an education-based volunteer project and to pass this information on to future volunteers before they go.

My first trip as education advisor was in March – I have been to Morocco to look at the new  project based at Asni in the Atlas Mountains.  We will be working with a charity that builds and runs girls’ boarding houses near secondary schools, thereby providing the only opportunity for selected girls from remote, Berber villagers to continue their education beyond primary level.  I spent time in all three of the boarding houses which the charity runs, meeting the house-mothers and working with the girls, as well as meeting some of the directors of the charity and talking to them about their aims for the project.  The girls in the boarding houses are all incredibly hard-working – they know they have been given a great opportunity and that their place on the project depends on them doing well at school, so they are really keen to work and to learn.  They are very eager to learn English, though only the older girls learn it at school – their home language is Berber, their school lessons are nearly all in Arabic, and the main European language spoken in the country is French, so English is a new language to many of them which they love to practise.  I found my ‘O’ Level French a little more rusty than I would have liked, so they also helped me to practise my French!

The living conditions in the girls’ home villages are incredibly basic, so they also really appreciate the supportive, comfortable accommodation which the boarding houses provide.  While at the boarding houses I tried to find out the answers to all the questions  I thought I might ask if I were going there as a volunteer to help teach the girls, and since my return I have been writing up all this information to pass on to future volunteers.

I also stayed in the guest house which volunteers will use and was able to pass on information about a couple of things that could be done to make this (already good) accomodation a little more practical for future volunteers.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and feel I have gathered some worthwhile information for  volunteers– I hope Sallie and Kate agree!

The only negative thing about my trip was the weather – I thought Morocco would be warm and sunny – which it was for the last four days of my ten day trip.  What I hadn’t expected was the rain and snow of the first six days!  I now know that being prepared for anything as a volunteer includes the weather as well!

My next fact-finding trip is to look at the new projects in Cambodia and Thailand – two projects in each country.  I leave for Cambodia on April 22nd, and will tell you about these projects in the next newsletter.

Read more about the Morocco project here Morocco project

“If you educate a woman you educate the next generation as well”

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