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High Atlas Foundation

Rating: 4.32 stars   19 reviews 617

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332 Bleecker Street #K110 New York NY 10014 USA


Developing a self-sustaining future for Morocco

2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Reviews for High Atlas Foundation

Rating: 4 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I was an intern for HAF for about 4 months in the Marrakech office and I had a great experience! The HAF staff was really nice and they teached me a lot about sustainable development in Morocco. I mainly worked on social media but I was included with many other tasks as well. My favorite part of the internship was going into the field and meeting HAF's beneficiaries. When you get to experience the projects and meet people, you realize the impact of HAF's work in Morocco.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

Working in the NGO field, the High Atlas Foundation stands out as a leader, largely due to its commitment to community-driven projects without compromise. The leadership of the organization designs projects imbued with a vision for a better future for Moroccans, and ultimately men and women in developing social systems everywhere. Moreover, this vision is translated into reality through the unrelenting hard work of a diverse and engaged team both in the field and the office.

HAF continues to expand in new directions, but its steadfast mission is never diluted, which means that the bigger it gets, the more we can all benefit from the tremendous results of initiatives. This is manifest through the over one million fruit trees planted by HAF, the first ever organic walnut oil producing federation and social enterprise created out of smaller projects, and thousands of youth trained to be future leaders for their own community development.

When friends and family ask where to donate to support education, women in business, sustainable development, or environmental projects, I always recommend HAF.

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

A Legacy of Peace Corps Service in Morocco
January 2016

Since the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) arrived in Morocco in 1963, over 5,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps’ partnership with Morocco to develop resilient communities through education and similar voluntary initiatives. In 2010 I was sent to work with Yossef Ben-Meir, president of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), which turns fifteen years old this year. Yossef was an environmental PCV in 1993-1995. His story, and the story of the High Atlas Foundation, which was founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who served in Morocco, is a testimonial to the lasting impact Peace Corps service can have.

Yossef’s kitchen was a Moroccan version of Whole Foods, so over chicken tajine, I asked him how it all came about. It’s a story of PCVs’ love of Morocco, of each other, and a lifetime commitment to Peace Corps’ “three goals.”

As a Volunteer from New York City, Yossef was assigned to a remote mountain village where he worked for the national park system and learned how to succeed in agriculture in an environment where water contributes more to erosion than crops. A highly motivated entrepreneur, Yossef knew he had to come back and continue his new-found calling in arid mountain agriculture. When he arrived at the airport, RPCV Tom Anderson, who had finished grad school and come back to run the seaman’s club in Casablanca, picked him up at the airport. Tom urged Yossef to apply for the environmental program manager’s job at Peace Corps-Morocco, which he did.

The friends’ decision to form a nonprofit, instead of a business, set the course for the High Atlas Foundation. It would become an organization that has brought RPCVs, PCVs and Moroccans together. Fundraising events in New York brought Moroccan culture to America and helped attract a strong American-Moroccan board. Liz Fanning, who had been Yossef’s site mate and fellow environmental Volunteer, served as vice president for six years. Kate McLetchie, who had been evacuated from Morocco in 2003, reconnected, and later became the foundation’s first country director from 2007 to 2009.

In 2003, Yossef and Mohssine Tadlaoui, a Moroccan who had taken over as Peace Corps’ environmental program manager, went to see the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Margaret Tutwiler, who had a reputation for toughness. Yossef and Mohssine were on a mission to plant fruit trees to produce cash crops and help prevent erosion high in the mountains. Several agriculture experts were present, including the head of USAID. Yossef knew that planting trees was a grassroots business—not in the same league with the large-scale projects USAID was doing—but Yossef had his technical and business model down and was prepared to give it his best shot. In closing, he described the reaction of a mountain community when the first truck of saplings arrived in their village—“they cried,” Yossef said, “because they saw planting a tree as an act of faith.” “Well then,” replied the ambassador, “let’s spread some faith around.” The project was funded within a week and, in 2006, the HAF launched its One Million Tree campaign, which reached it goal in 2014.

These days, the High Atlas Foundation raises half of its funds in the U.S. and half in Morocco, with the assistance of the Moroccan and American ambassadors, and countless others who believe in the cross-cultural partnership. You will find them at “Heflas” (parties), drinking mint tea and enjoying the food, music and art of Morocco, including Moroccan films at festivals the HAF organized in New York in 2010 and 2011.

Besides planting trees, the High Atlas Foundation has constructed irrigation canals, drinking water supply systems, women’s co-ops, and numerous other projects identified through participatory development meetings in communities. In 2009, the foundation formed a partnership with the state university, Hassan II, to open a Center for Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development in Mohammedia. During my service, I helped create a program at the Center to educate and promote participatory development. Since that time, the HAF has created four new university partnerships.

In retrospect, I believe that I went to Morocco to meet Yossef and the Moroccans and Americans who continue this legacy of Peace Corps service.

Lillian Thompson
Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Morocco 2010
Peace Corps Program & Training Officer, Romania 2006-2008
Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine 2003-2005


Source of data in first paragraph:

Photos: 1) Villagers hauling water in a community outside Mohammedia in 2010 2) Mountain village in the High Atlas Mountains near Marrakech 3) Myself with Yossef and HAF members Suzanne, Miriam and Nabila in Casablanca 4) Nabila facilitating a meeting of women in the High Atlas Mountain village

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Very Well

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I worked for the High Atlas Foundation for over a year (October 2014-December 2015) as a project assistant and later project manager. During my time here, I gained valuable agricultural and business research experience, learned how to write proposals, improved my Darija and French, managed university students and traveled throughout rural Morocco.

I am most grateful, however, for the experiences in development journalism that HAF allowed me to pursue: thanks to the freedom to write articles about rural Morocco in a public relations capacity, I was published in numerous news outlets, including Your Middle East, Al-Fanar Media and the World Policy Journal's blog. I will continue to pursue development journalism as a career thanks to my experiences with HAF.

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Rating: 4 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I worked with the High Atlas Foundation for three months as a remote intern based in the United States. My main responsibilities were updating the HAF Blog and editing the website.
I am so happy I decided to take on this volunteer position with HAF. Everyone I worked with was welcoming, helpful, and dedicated to sustainable development. As a remote intern, communication was key, and the staff in Marrakesh was very responsive and helpful whenever I had questions or concerns about my work. The HAF staff and volunteers come from all different countries and disciplines, which makes for a dynamic working environment and aligns well with the organization's mission.
My favorite part about working with HAF was seeing the projects unfold. HAF is doing real, meaningful work in Morocco, and I felt like I could see the positive effects on communities even remotely from the US. Not only are HAF's projects meaningful, their discourse is as well. The blog this summer featured papers and discussions by HAF staff and volunteers, all with the goal of expanding sustainable development and developing an understanding of culture, community, and acceptance. Though I was remote and didn't see the work on the ground, I would not hesitate to recommend HAF for those interested in NGOs and participatory development. My internship was a great learning experience, and thanks to all at HAF for making my time so rewarding.

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Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

As an Intern at the High Atlas Foundation, the months May and June has been very enriching for me. I have participated in various projects, and my main focus has been on working with High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3) and the Walnut Factory in the commune of Asni in the High Atlas Mountains.

Together with my colleagues I have created a brochure that was used as an information sheet at the Walnut festival in Asni, 12th June till 14th June. I selected the pictures for the front page and wrote the text that would be used in the brochure. After that I completed the brochure together with HAF Director of Development, Jacqueline Seeley, HAF Intern Miranda LaBrash and the Riad Saba Guest House manager, Brahim. This cooperation is the first step in a new approach planned by the HA3 – Tourism for Development.

It was an especially valuable working experience to cooperate with Ignacio Ruiz, General Manager of the HA3, with various tasks relating to preparing the Walnut Festival. Together with Ignacio I created a film that was shown to the governor of the Tensift-Al Haouz region during the Walnut festival. I also assisted Ignacio in various minor tasks, such as printing the labels for the oil bottles.

I have conducted various social media activities such as writing a Swedish blog post that will be posted on the High Atlas Foundation’s blog in order to spread awareness about the organization in Sweden. I interviewed on film the factory manager Hassan Inflass, filmed by Interns Miranda LaBrash and Hannah Rickard, which will be used for social media purposes.

Currently I am working on a promotion campaign that will be launched in Sweden for the sale of walnut oil and the planning for the new approach launched by the HA3 – Tourism for Development.

As an Intern at the High Atlas Foundation, I am able to apply my previous practical experience of working for sustainable development in Tanzania, and my previous theoretical knowledge from my masters in Development Studies that I did in the Netherlands. In addition, I am learning several new aspects of developmental work in practice, specific to the context of Morocco.

Besides this I have also been given the opportunity to work with development workers from various parts of the globe. The team spirit at HAF is fantastic, and I am learning more and more by the day.

Thank you everybody at the HAF team.

Jamal Sebnat
HAF Interm

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Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

I have done a 3-week internship at the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech. Part of my responsibilities has been the creation of a newspaper list, taking pictures, and writing reports about the situation of the women in the walnut factory in Asni. As well, I accompanied different staff members to community projects. I enjoyed the internship a lot. Unfortunately, the time has passed quickly and I would have liked to stay for a longer period here. I would recommend HAF to anybody searching for an internship. It was a pleasant working atmosphere. All of the staff members are very nice, interested, motivated and hard-working. As an intern, I have been well included in the work of the NGO, in discussions and other activities; therby I got a good impression of what it means to work with a participatory approach. The most interesting and unique experience for me has been to work with the women in the walnut factory and to spend the night in Tamgunsi, a village close to Asni together with a woman of the factory and her family. It is great that there is the possibility to intern with the High Atlas Foundation. Thank you very much for it and I wish you all the best for your future work here.

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Rating: 2 stars  

Salam, I'm Ouafa Elbargui from Morocco. I worked with HAF for three years. In this long enough time, I always considered HAF as my second school in which I enjoyed the adventure of knowing my country, its people and even knowing myself. HAF was the only door I knocked and answered me without any hesitation after 8 years of joblessness.There, I was offered a great job, the opportunity of well-being, and best understanding.

In this US-Moroccan organization, I was developped professionally day after day. Year after year, we worked together, Americans and Moroccans,as one unique and very united strong team to realize many dreams and implement many development projects for the sake of rural isolated Moroccan villages;helping people in need not only in the High Atlas area but also in different various geographical areas of Morocco.

During those three years of working, I always felt very respected and well treated as a Moroccan employee. Though I no longer work with HAF, I still have cherished the good beautiful memories with the wonderful team. I feel proud of working once with HAF. I feel so proud of lending a hand once to people who need help.

Special thanks to HAF leaders specifically to Mr. Yossef Ben Meir, and to the hardworking team to whom I would say : " Just keep up the hard work you are doing great!."

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

create other branches to decenteralize the development work

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Rating: 4 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

I found the High Atlas Foundation via another NGO who highly recommended the work, ethical convictions and approach of the Foundation. They initialized the contact and I got in touch with Yossef and one programm manager at that time. I am coming from a technical as well as geographical background (in short: GIS).
In a preliminary VoIP call we managed to form a connection and develop some perspectives which could be beneficial to both parties. As soon as I finished my studies, I grabbed a flight to Marrakech. The people from HAF recommended me a place to stay, offered the office as a place to crash and made sure I felt connected with the quite new and overwhelming life in Morocco.
During my time in Marrakech and Essaouira in early 2014 I learned a lot about Morocco itself, the daily routines and workflows at an international NGO and the struggle involved to better the lifes of people in a country like Morocco. My duties were composed of (no surprise): making maps, crunching numbers and doing research. As I had to cut my stay short (2 instead of 6 months), I was merely settling in and left with the impression of being a sort of letdown since the time was too short to have a meaningful impact. But nevertheless, I felt very appreciated and was taking seriously on a professional level while having enough space to sort things out for myself.
The people at HAF are hardworking, passionate and full of idealism to build a better future for a country on the brink of Europe, having an anticipation of freedom, wealth and cultural exchange. HAF will play a vital part in making this anticipation a reality.
The last little paragraph also explains why I rate only 4 stars despite I can fully recommend HAF for volunteers. The drive and passion of the people working there can be overwhelming for someone like me. If you have a high sense of duty and feel bad leaving when others are poring over loads of work, you may want to agree on working hours/days before your actually start. I do not regret one hour at HAF's office but should have - on the other hand - spent some more time outside learning about the new culture. So, just be careful to not get in overdrive when you are merely adopting to Moroccan life.
That being said, I, again, can fully recommend HAF. And the best part of the story: the volunteering abroad at HAF helped me to score a job contract. In the end, I can only hope to visit Morocco and HAF sometime again - be it as a professional, volunteer or traveller.

I wish all the best for HAF and its great people.

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 3 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

As a former staff member in High Atlas Foundation i have a very positive appreciation of this non profit organization because i observed during my service, genuine and concrete efforts at all levels towards the achievement of a sustainable development to the benefit of the moroccan communities especially disadvantaged populations. The approach applied at the foundation is participatory, inclusive and respective of all categories of community members, and the commitment of the operational team to the fundamental values of the foundation is remarkable.
Working at High Atlas Foundation can be nothing but a pleasant and enriching experience either for volunteers , interns or staff members because of the mutual respect between all members and management, the delegation of responsibilities, the large space of freedom, the participation of all the team members in the decision making process and the definition of the organization's strategies and processes, and the pleasant ambience of work.
I'm very greatful to this organization that offered me great opportunity for learning and whose role was crucial in the determination of the personal and professional path i have chosen for myself.

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