"Morocco is a country that reveals its essence only to those who take the time to draw water and to pour a pot of tea."
- Moroccan Proverb
Time and tea - the two magic words in Morocco. Two of the most important lessons you will eventually learn in Morocco are that everything takes time, just be patient and to never say no to a cup of tea. Over the last 3 months I had the pleasure to work with the High Atlas Foundation and live in this wonderful and diverse country. I came here with the objective to experience the day-to-day life of a conservationist, to gain practical knowledge in the field of conservation and sustainable development and to truly get to know the Moroccan culture by living in it. Without any doubt, this time was one of the most valuable experiences that fully reinforced my plans to work in conservation and rural development as well as to continue my carrier in Morocco.
Within my time at the High Atlas Foundation I reviewed proposals and matched donor interests to High Atlas Foundation projects. I established multiple project descriptions on the fundraising platform Global Giving and by this gained an in-depth understanding of the diverse range of projects the High Atlas Foundation conducts. Additionally I had the opportunity to evaluate Sami’s Project, a project that aims to facilitate environmental education of children and enhance school infrastructure. For that I visited 15 schools in the Al Haouz province near Marrakech, questioned teachers and students and examined tree vitality and water supply. Seeing the glance in the children’s eyes when they talked about the tree planting event gave me great joy. It was a great pleasure to see the literal fruits of HAF’s hard work over the past years.
Furthermore, I accompanied HAF’s President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and the retired Peace Corps Country Director of Morocco, Ellen Paquette, to a business trip around Morocco. This trip taught me that working in sustainable development is not only about professional expertise but also means to be diplomatic, emphasize networking and meeting people, discussing, introducing ideas and learning how to deal with setbacks and money shortcomings. One of my personal highlights was the distribution of a thousand trees in the commune Zerkten in the High Atlas Mountains. Seeing the farmer’s thankfulness and appreciation gave me great trust that they will take good care of the trees so that they will grow up to be strong and healthy.
However, I did not only learn a lot about sustainability and conservation of biodiversity, but I was also completely overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of the Moroccan people. I made good and true friends in the office and outside the office, who treated me like a dear sister and directly involved me in their life. From the first week on I got countless invitations from their families, probably more than I got in Germany in a whole year. Everywhere I went, I was welcomed most warmly and treated with incredible hospitality. In general there was not one day, where I felt lonely or out of place, because there were always friends around to join me for dinner or a stroll through the medina or even just a good conversation with a friendly women in the bus or the public Hammam. One experience especially moved me: It was when I travelled back to Marrakech in the early morning after a weekend trip to the mountains. Next to me sat a women, who was travelling to Casablanca and we had a very funny conversation, because we used a mix of Arabic, French and sign language to understand each other. Shortly before we arrived Marrakech she gave me two eggs for breakfast, the only eggs she had with her. I was moved by her generosity, because she had a far longer trip, but she gave me her provision anyway. And that’s essentially Moroccan hospitality: they show you their appreciation by giving you food, lots of food. If they feel you are not eating enough, they will persuade you to eat more and trying to trick them by eating slow will not work for sure. Food is, just like tea, a form of Moroccan appreciation that you should acknowledge and cherish.
Morocco is a land of countless possibilities, a country that will surprise you every day and of amazing, astonishing beauty that will keep you breathless. From days, where the bright sunlight warms up the city, to intense snow storms in the desert or heavy rainfalls that turn streets into rivers, I experienced everything. I also experienced the unbreakable spirit of young Moroccans and their urge to change their country for the better. Morocco is a country that undergoes massive, but peaceful changes, be it in the transition from subsistence agriculture to cash crop farming, the empowerment of women or the decentralisation and democratisation. Being part in this process of sustainable development was a true honour and a priceless experience that propels me to pursue my postgraduate studies in Conservation Biology, but always with the goal in mind to apply my newly gained knowledge in Morocco. It is hard finding the right words to describe my love for this country and its residents, who gave me more than I can ever repay and leaving feels close to impossible. I will indescribably miss the chaotic hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s medina with all its colours and scents, I will miss drinking more than my body weight in sugary mint tea, I will miss hiking through the peaceful countryside of the true Morocco and I will even miss waking up at 5 o’ clock in the morning from the melodic but noisy prayer call. Morocco was an incredibly experience. At times, it was trying, chaotic, and overloaded my senses, but for all the stresses of adjusting to a new culture, it was a country where I felt completely in my element and at home. A big thank you to the High Atlas Foundation and all the people I met during my stay. You made my time in Morocco so much more valuable and gave me more than I can ever repay. I will always keep you in my heart and be forever grateful for meeting you. Thank you.
COP22 was a successful opportunity for High Atlas Foundation, for Morocco, and even for myself; to expand the business network, to learn from international initiatives and creative ideas. Moreover, it was an awakening event for everyone to get aware to act on climate change, and to get whatever it takes to save our planet. In addition, attending the “Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network” event was very valuable for me as I heard international stories of indigenous women fighting climate change all over the world making it an international cause, getting to know that I myself can do something, feeling strong with them.
No education is complet without experience. My experience during my two months internship with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) as Intern coordinator was an amazing and rewarding experience. I had the pleasure to meet and work with great staff and volunteers.My role within HAF is coordinating between staff and volunteers and help in the process of recruiting interns. .I cannot thank you all HAF staff enough for everything you taught me while working as your intern coordinator. With this experience I learned organizational skills and sharpen them . I greatly value your kindness and the expertise you imparted to me.
You taught me so many things that went far beyond the theoretical knowledge I gained in other NGOs. I learned to carefully observe and give much more important to details and always being there for interns for any issues. Working with HAf was also an added value to my career in cross culture as I had the chance to meet with other interns from other cultures and nationalities and interact with them and build a great relationship with them. HAF is a distinguished NGO and it is the kind of NGO that Morocco are in need of due to the incredible work they do in rural areas.HAF not only distinguished NGO but also a unique one because of the innovative and productive it uses in developing projects which the participatory approach. So if you are looking for great opportunity and you are passion with rural development then HAF is the best NGO to experience this and also meet and work with an awesome and supportive staff .
High Atlas Foundation had been a place where I got an amazing experience. In parallel with my English studies in Faculty of Humanities, Marrakech, I was a student in HAF for 7 months. I started out working on a business plan, then my manager had changed it to do interviews with farmers almost all arround Morocco.
The fact that I had interacted with new people from my country and from other countries, such as the US, France, Germany..... in the foundation had made it a multi cultural place! You can imagine this while we were eating from the same dish of Couscous! talking; discussing different topics altogether! I have learnt English and practise it with native speakers, this was my chance. I have learnt somehow how to do a business plan, especially how cite and avoid plagiarism, how to do researches ... and so on so forth
Then, I moved to do interviews with farmers to know the problems they have, how they grow their crops and where they sell them and what are the problems they face while selling, also we had given them some solutions... This has helped HAF to know how to deal with farmers and find it easy to get to help them to develop their skills.
All the team starting from Mr Yossef, the president to everyone has a role in HAF were so nice to me and helped me to develop myself and all the time they were aware about my studies.
If you think you can help HAF to keep going, you are thinking well. HAF was and still for me a great place and I would be so happy to get to help them any time.
This to say, that we need organizations like HAF everywhere, because they get in touch with poeple in order to be closer and know what do people undergo. I have a vivid example, HAF had been in touch,and for sure they are still , with wome women in Ourika,Marrakech and help them to have an authorized cooperation to sell their product, they helped them also to have land and plant organic almond trees... I still vividly remember those active women and how they liked eveything HAF had suggested.
Thank you THE WHOLE NICE TEAM of HAF.
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/
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.
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
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.
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.