High Atlas Foundation
Rating: 4.33 stars 24 24 reviews 700
332 Bleecker Street #K110 New York NY 10014 USA
Developing a self-sustaining future for Morocco
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After more than three years of study I felt the desperate need to get out of my common environment and way of thinking. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Morocco and volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation for ten weeks. I wanted to learn about a new country, a new culture and maybe also about myself.
In the last three months, I fell in love with this beautiful country and I guess a lot of my affection is due to the warm and welcoming culture that I experienced at the High Atlas Foundation. My internship was mainly for GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and I created some overview maps about HAF’s project sites as well as more detailed maps for specific projects and campaigns. By creating those maps, I got to know a huge amount about what kind of projects the High Atlas Foundation is working on and where they are located. It also made me more aware about the geography of Morocco and which cities I might visit! The following example shows a map displaying information about the 2016 planting campaign.
Apart from GIS, I was happy to help with anything else that has been needed. I was always informed about the recent activities of HAF and gained new technical skills while working on social media and the website.
I had the chance to work closely together with the President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir. I supported him in writing letters, campaigns and papers as well as accompanied him travelling to different events. At the Sister Park signing ceremony between the Great Basin National Park (USA) and the Toubkal National Park (Morocco), I learned a lot about environmental preservation in Morocco and experienced the beauty of the Toubkal National Park. I also had the honor to meet the High Commissioner of Water and Forests and the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco! Furthermore, I was able to accompany Dr. Ben-Meir to a Prioritizing Project at the SUPMTI University in Beni Mellal. Besides an interesting three-hour car drive – which made me get to know Yossef on a more personal level – I learned a lot about the way the High Atlas Foundation encourages young Moroccans to serve their society. Since I myself was not familiar with the prioritizing techniques taught in this seminar, it was a worthy experience for me.
The High Atlas Foundation also gave me the opportunity to see parts of Morocco which I would not have seen otherwise. Together with the Program Director Amina Elhajjami, I got to experience different parts of the Ourika Valley, where the High Atlas Foundation has tree nurseries. I learned a lot about the participatory approach and how organic certification can lead to sustainable development, while witnessing the gracefulness of Morocco’s landscape.
Looking back, in addition to the professional experiences I gained, the culture and the sincere involvement of all the staff made me appreciate volunteering for the High Atlas Foundation. From the first day I was not only included in the work that had to be done, but also in the team itself. Even though I do not speak Darija and not a lot of French, and even though there were times I did not understand anything, HAF staff and the other volunteers made me feel welcome and at home. Every day, except for Ramadan, we had tea breaks and shared our lunch in the comfortable environment of the office. At this point I want to spell out great thanks to Atika, who made me realize the amazing variety of meals you can have in Morocco! Shokran Atika! If I needed anything, or did not understand something – work related or not – Fatima-Zahra, Yossef and Amina would always be there to help me out. But not only the staff members, also all the amazing volunteers would be there for me. I was not only working with international but also lots of Moroccan interns, who guided me through the city, showed me nice cafés and places to be and tried to teach me some Darija!
They showed me their culture by inviting me to their homes, travelling with me, preparing a Ftour meal together during Ramadan, teaching me their language and by telling me about their lives. Something I will always remember is a weekend we spent in Kalat M’Gouna, for the Rose Festival and to visit two other volunteer’s hometowns and houses. Thank you for inviting all of us, Said and Jamal, and a great thanks to your families for warmly welcoming us in their homes.
I would never have experienced Morocco and its culture the way I did without the amazing people I met at our office. Inshallah, I will come back to this wonderful country not only once and meet all those beautiful minds again. It was a pleasure to work with you all!
My name is Nina Schmitz, I am 22 years old and from Aachen, Germany. This past March I just finished my Bachelor’s degree in Applied Geography, despite that I am enrolled at a Bachelor’s program in Environmental Engineering, both at RWTH Aachen University. In the last years I had the chance to travel and learn about different cultures and countries a lot. After graduating in March, I wanted to combine both – professional experience and exploring a new country. Doing my internship at the High Atlas Foundation gave me this opportunity that I was looking for. In October my Master’s Program in Applied Geography will start, and who knows what the future holds? Maybe I will come back to Morocco and the High Atlas Foundation to do research for my thesis.
My experience during my two months internship with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) was fruitful. I had the pleasure to meet and work with great staff and volunteers. I worked mainly on social media, wrote blogs and took pictures for the Foundation from different events and field trips.
I feel strongly that HAF is great example for other organizations in Morocco to follow in sustainability development field.
Here is the link to my blog about my experience with HAF: https://ramzi1.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/trees-for-life/
2 people found this review helpful
As you head east from Marrakech you will pass through many little villages that showcase the bright colors, vibrant culture, and wide smiles of the Moroccan people. Make sure to open your window so you can smell the fresh, cold air of the wind which comes from the mountains, mixed with the daily activities of the villages and the tantalizing smell of tagine.
This ride will lead you close to the High Atlas, whose white capped mountains grow as you approach them. The river Qued Zat brings fruitfulness to the Area of Ait Ourir but, as in many areas in Morocco, water is a precious resource and aridness often dominates the landscape. On this outing, the field work involved distributing trees to five schools through Sami’s project in the hopes of improving Rural Moroccan schools.
Walking around the school brought up fond memories of my first school. My school had a very beautiful garden and every morning the children walked through an imposing alley of old trees to the school buildings. The daily surrounding of nature had a positive impact on my time in school. The students in Ait Ourir (and in many other Moroccan villages) have the same chance to learn about the environment because of Sami’s project. The children were eager and happy to learn how to plant trees in their school gardens and therefore improve the learning environment.
After planting, it became very clear that the access to water will decide if the trees grow or not. The school gardens are often in very dry areas with a lack of vegetation. For every tree planted, HAF had to provide plenty of water for the plants and the same process has to be continued in order to keep the trees alive and growing. Ms. Amina, one of HAF’s project facilitators explained to the staff of the schools how to benefit from the whole biological cycle of trees by using the leaves when they fall down for creating compost.
The Abteh school was a great example of student’s projects helping the school environment, which was shown through a beautiful school garden. When we visited the school, the students had been preparing for a week about the various sides of sustainability and they were preparing example art projects which highlighted the ever growing issue of plastic trash in Moroccan wilderness. All this unwanted refuse is having a negative impact on Morocco’s ecosystem and is causing irreversible damage to nature, thereby influencing the life of people in Morocco in a detrimental way.
This field trip was one of the last days of my internship with HAF and I am deeply grateful that I had the chance, thanks to this group of wonderful HAF team members, to gain experience in development work in Morocco through working in the Social Media team in the office as well as having the possibility to visit the projects. I will leave with a much larger repertoire of working and life skills which I can bring back to Germany and which will for sure have a positive and important impact on my future.
1 person found this review helpful
I would like to begin by saying I thoroughly believe in HAF and the work it strives to do for numerous communities throughout Morocco! I was an intern for multi-cultural initiatives for 3 months during the summer. My overall experience was quite enriching, and I gained a lot of practical experience, which has continued to help me in my work endeavors. I worked on various administrative tasks, maintained the donor webpage, wrote thank-you letters to donors, wrote blog posts on outings and events, and wrote updates on HAF's multitude of initiatives. I also worked on a fundraising outreach project involving the Jewish and Muslim communities, which not only provided me with a rich historical overview of religion and religious communities in Morocco, but also allowed me to practice my language skills, as well as my coordination skills. I very much enjoyed all of my co-workers at HAF. Everyone was extremely patient and kind, and always was available to help. My only wish was that there was an additional person at the office to help supervise and look over intern projects and tasks, as I often felt everyone at the office was already overloaded with work, which made it difficult to provide as thorough of supervision as I was hoping to receive. However, in a different light, I learned how to work more independently and confidently, and how to take initiative in situations where guidance is somewhat limited. This was an invaluable skill to gain, and one that I still continue to improve. I would love to work with HAF again in the future ! I
1 person found this review helpful
I was an Social Media intern for HAF for 3 months in the Marrakech office and I gained many interesting experiences. The internship, and the friendly staff members of HAF, gave me the possible to experience more about the various kind of work behind the implementation of projects which support the development in Morocco. The internship showed me how important networking and a cultural sensitive approach for the development work is. I can recommend it and for everybody who can speak Arabic it might be even a greater experience because you will be able to learn much more than someone who can not speak the language. The special moments I had in the internship were during the fields, even without being able communicate, I appreciated the welcoming and warm attitude of the people of the projects.
2 people 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.
2 people 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.
4 people found this review helpful
A Legacy of Peace Corps Service in Morocco
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.
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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2 people 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.
2 people 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.