Update from Morocco – temporary houses are open and e-volunteering resumes

Update from Morocco – temporary houses are open and e-volunteering resumes

It is only 3 months since the devastating earthquake struck the High Atlas region of Morocco, destroying homes, schools and the entire infrastructure of the area.  The town of Asni, location of 4 of the Education for All (EFA) boarding houses supported by our volunteers, was badly very damaged and the small town of Talaat n’Yakoub, location of the other 2 EFA houses, was completely destroyed. When we published our last newsletter in September the earthquake had only just happened – we reported that all house-mothers were safe but that the fate of the girls was at that stage unknown.

Making contact with all the girls from the EFA houses was extremely difficult as roads were blocked and phone lines down, but EFA staff and former pupils worked hard throughout September to create lines of communication, and we can report that just one of the 185 girls currently on role was killed, along with her family.  Others were injured, most lost their homes and all of them lost friends, family and neighbours.  Three months on many families have moved away from the area and may others are still living in tents.

However it is not all bad news – although things are still very far from normal remarkable progress has been made.  Five of the six EFA houses will need rebuilding but the EFA appeal has succeeded in raising a large amount of money so they will be able to start rebuilding as soon as is appropriate.  The schools attended by the girls in Asni are not yet repaired or reopened – the whole point of the houses is to enable the girls to go to school so rebuilding the houses is not a priority until repair starts on the schools.  All school students from the areas affected by the earthquake have been transferred to schools in Marrakech, including to a newly built school in a very new suburb, Chwitter.  EFA has been able to rent two large houses near to this new school, so they are able to provide a safe and secure home for around 70 of the girls, and these temporary houses have been operational since late October. 

EFA says: ‘After two challenging months since the earthquake, we are happy to announce that we have signed leases for two rented buildings in Chwitter, the new location for 70 EFA students from Asni!  It’s not the same as being in a purpose-built EFA boarding house in the mountains, but the joy in being able to bring the girls together with their community of friends and house mothers is special. Chwitter 2 is our newly rented house for lycee girls from Asni. The building is new and already has the hallmarks of a cosy, welcoming EFA boarding house! Chwitter 1 is a 5 minute walk away and houses our collège girls. We miss our beautiful boarding houses and the wonderful Atlas communities they were nestled in: but life takes unexpected turns and we remain as committed as ever to providing educational opportunities to teenage girls in the High Atlas’.

Receiving the keys to one of the new houses
House-mothers and girls happy to be ‘back to normal’ in one of the new houses

We at people and places are of course keen to restart our volunteer programme in Morocco as soon as possible.  In-country volunteering will have to wait until they are able to return to Asni (hopefully for the start of the new year in September 2024 but nothing is guaranteed) – for various good reasons it is not possible for volunteers to work at the temporary houses in Chwitter.  But the great news is that e-volunteering is about to resume!  The only remaining obstacle is waiting for high-speed Internet to be installed in the news houses but this work is booked and should happen any day now. E-volunteers Jane and Ruth are raring to go and their first sessions with the girls will hopefully take place just after Christmas.   We are thrilled to be involved in active work with EFA again and we know our e-volunteers will play their part in re-establishing a semblance of normal life for the girls.

Volunteer Jane working with girls on a previous e-volunteer placement

Finally, we would like to say a massive thank you to our Morocco volunteers, for their concern for the people they have worked with in Morocco, for the support they have offered ranging from financial support to finding a counselling service for a traumatised house-mother, and for their ongoing loyalty to Education for All and to people and places. Nobody who had expected to volunteer with EFA since September has dropped out, asked for a refund or been impatient in any way – everybody has shown total understanding and a desire to carry on supporting the girls and house-mothers in whatever way possible – ranging from being happy to wait a year or more to start a placement to being ready and willing to start an e-volunteer placement at a week’s notice and prepared (if the Internet had been installed in time) to work over Christmas. We think you are amazing – thank you!

For more information about this volunteer programme take a look here or email dianne@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk.

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