For me, the highlight of the trip was working with the wonderful house-mothers, Latifa, Aicha, Khadija, Badiaa and Fatima – as always they were so welcoming and went out of their way to be helpful. I was delighted to be able to spend time in all five of the boarding houses, including a visit to the newly opened house, Dar Tinmel 2, in Talat n’Yacoub, which will enable girls from this rather remote town to access full secondary school education without having to move down to Asni.
However unfortunately the developing coronavirus pandemic not only meant our placement had to be cut short, it also dominated the second week I was there as I tried to balance the work I was doing in Morocco with the need to maintain regular contact with all our volunteers about the rapidly developing situation in the countries where they were planning to volunteer, and to keep abreast of developments in countries where volunteers were already on their placements. I would like to thank Latifa in particular for allowing me to be so flexible in the use of my time with her.
Having to leave early was difficult – instinctively I wanted to stay and see how I could help our friends in Morocco rather than leaving early to come home. However I knew this would be irresponsible – our guesthouse needed to close for their own safety, the house-mothers needed to be free to return to their own villages without the responsibility of looking after volunteers, and as strict social distancing was introduced very quickly it would have been impossible to work alongside local people anyway. So we managed to move our flights back a few days, and even though the borders were closed by that stage we were able to get a rescue flight home (and how good it was to have an air traffic controller nephew who tracked flights for us so we knew a flight was coming to get us even before the ground crew at Marrakech airport!)
Since returning home I have kept in regular touch with Latifa and Karima from Education for All. Despite my strong desire to stay and work with them, it has proved just as easy to continue our work from home – all the work I had planned to do in my final week has been completed electronically, and although it would have been lovely to talk everything through with Latifa face to face working together remotely has been effective. If the school closures continue for a long time in Morocco meaning that the girls have to do their school work from home, or if international travel is slow to get going again, both Wendy and I have offered to support their English work via the Internet, much as Wendy was doing in situ in Morocco, and in this way, if they wish, our support for their learning could continue. Education for All’s current focus is to support the girls in their villages – their house-mothers remain in touch with them and the Moroccan government and schools are producing online lessons and learning resources – EfA are currently raising money through a JustGiving appeal to provide smartphones and to pay Internet access charges for those who need it to make sure all girls are able to access this learning and support.
We know that, like us, many people are desperate to offer support to projects where they have volunteered in the past. I for one am finding it hard to wait – however I recognise that everyone is struggling to deal with the impact of the pandemic on their own community and that the time is not right for us to rush in. We will get there though – we are committed to continuing to support all our volunteer projects in whatever way is appropriate when the immediate crisis of this pandemic is over, and you can be sure that as soon as we know what kind of support each of the projects needs we will let you know.
If you are able to offer support for this or any of our volunteer projects remotely, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to learn more about volunteering in Morocco please read here https://travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/projects/257/Education-Support-for-Girls-in-Morocco-(ED)