In an arid country like Morocco water is exceptionally precious. Water is available in some places but hard to access. High Atlas Foundation is dedicated to expanding orchards of all kinds through its series of tree nurseries which it then contributes to interested farmers. High Atlas Foundation quickly learned that without water these orchards would not survive. They have now expanded their work to include acquiring water, designing drip irrigation systems and generally doing what is necessary to fund and grow successful tree crops.
I served as a volunteer for over two weeks for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The purpose was to assess the operations of their tree nurseries and to make recommendations on improvements in their nursery operations and tree distribution programs to rural households. I worked closely with the staff and traveled to the field to observe the operations of the HAF. I found the staff motivated to work with me and include me in their activities. I observed their nurseries in several locations and saw first hand how they produce and deliver tree samplings (almond and walnut) to villagers. I was impressed by their work with women cooperatives and building their capacity to improve their status and household livelihoods by producing Calendula for L'Oriel in Paris. I would strongly recommend HAF to anyone who wants a volunteer assignment in a great country, very cordial and polite people, and work that is both satisfying and rewarding. Gregory Sullivan, USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer for International Executive Service Corp (IESC), Washington, D.C. USA
Moroccans and Foreigners Working Together
By Said El Bennani, HAF Project Manager
Each person is shaped by his own unique life experiences. One pivotal experience in my life that helped me to truly understand what it means to be an engaged, contributing member of society was my internship with the High Atlas Foundation.
In 2010 I moved from my hometown of Kelaa M’Gouna in southeastern Morocco to Marrakech to study at Cadi Ayyad University. I graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in geography. Normally students of geography travel throughout the country to study the topography, but unfortunately my studies were confined to just the classroom.
After graduating from university, I interned for three months with a government agricultural office in Marrakech. During this time, I worked with agricultural experts and visited farmers in their fields in Al Haouze Province. I also participated in field and theoretical trainings. I was finally able to study the physical land that I had only read about in books during university! It was very exciting for me to see first hand how Morocco’s unique geography plays a key role in our country’s development and economy.
Being in the field gave me an opportunity to learn from the local people and to hear about their experiences. It was during this time that I first heard about HAF’s work. HAF already had active projects in Al Haouze where I visited with my colleagues. However, at the time, I did not know very much about HAF and was not aware of the scope of their work.
In Marrakech I met several foreigners, including one person who asked me about my career aspirations. After I mentioned my experience interning at the government agricultural office, the foreigner told me about HAF and encouraged me to look at their website.
After hearing about the High Atlas Foundation from farmers, co-workers, and even a foreign tourist, it was clear that I needed to find out more about this organization. In February 2016, shortly after finishing my first internship, I visited HAF’s office. Fatima Zahra Laaribi, the office manager, was the first person I met at HAF. The way she greeted me greatly surprised me! She was very friendly and very kind. Eventually I was invited back for an interview to discuss my background, experience and interests. I also had the privilege of meeting HAF’s president, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, whose down-to-earth, humble demeanor made an impression on me.
February 8, 2016 was my very first day as an intern at HAF, and I remember that day well. The office was already buzzing with many foreign interns and volunteers who were all congregated in one room while I sat with other office staff in another room. I was sure that I would have a chance to learn new skills and gain valuable experience with this international team. That day I was the only Moroccan intern and it was a little difficult for me to work with all the foreigners due to the language and cultural differences. Dr. Ben-Meir took notice of the fact that I was the only Moroccan amidst the group of foreigners and encouraged all of us to learn about and from each other, share our experiences and skills, and contribute to each other’s work. We took Dr. Ben-Meir’s suggestion to heart and discovered that together, we made a stronger, more effective team, forming strong bonds and friendships as we worked together on projects such as building a new outdoor structure that provides shade from the hot sun for women who work in the fields in the countryside. One example of successful cross-cultural collaboration was my experience working with one of the foreign interns who had also studied geography in her native country. She was very knowledgeable about geographic information system (GIS). My own knowledge of GIS was more limited, so I was able to learn from her and together we made maps of HAF project sites.
During my HAF internship, I was very fortunate to closely observe the president, Dr. Ben-Meir, perform his work and to learn many valuable and useful things from him. For example, I noticed how he is able to effectively communicate and connect with both the local people and the local administrators. He introduced me to community leaders throughout the country and also to many foreigners who are committed to promoting economic development in Morocco. I visited most of HAF’s project sites which provided invaluable insight into both the successes and benefits of the projects as well as the challenges.
I returned to Al Haouze in January 2017 to help distribute trees in schools for HAF’s big, annual tree planting celebration. It was a joy-filled experience planting trees with the students and teaching them how to care for the trees and how to appreciate and respect nature and the environment. Seeing their genuine interest in the tree planting project was very gratifying and I realized that I really enjoy this type of work.
HAF’s work has benefitted even my hometown, where trees were sent on behalf of HAF to my former primary school. When I studied there as a young child, there were no trees at the school. Now the school has its own well and enough water to take care of trees. I am very happy that the students at my former primary school had an opportunity to receive trees and learn about taking care of them, which I never had a chance to do when I was their age.
My dream job is to manage a major project in my country of Morocco and devote my time and energy to helping people gain the necessary skills and experience to earn sustainable incomes, thereby supporting and strengthening their families and their communities. My HAF internship prepared me well to carry out this work. In May 2017 I will move to Fes in northern Morocco to oversee HAF projects in that region. To say that I am excited about this opportunity is an understatement. I feel truly blessed and am honored and humbled to be able to help my fellow Moroccan citizens by doing this work. I also am very grateful for the people at HAF who are not only my work colleagues but also my good friends. Working with the HAF team has been a special and life-changing opportunity.
In closing, I wish to thank Dr. Ben-Meir for his life work and all that he has done and is doing to help Moroccans improve their standard of living and be self-sufficient. I also wish to thank the amazing, dedicated HAF team, including the interns and volunteers from Morocco and from all over the world, for welcoming me so warmly and teaching me how to be part of a multicultural team. I have learned that we can all benefit from collaborating together and respecting each other’s differences. I appreciate each person at HAF very much and thank everyone for the wonderful opportunities to join the important work of creating a more prosperous Morocco.
My experience with HAF was the best experience ever, I have learned too many things: Self-motivation ...., and the circumstances were good enough to make some new friendships with the other volunteers, The cop 22 was a good opportunity for me to discover a new world of business , politics ...
I would like to thank HAF for giving me the chance to be one of its volunteers, If you want to try some of the voluntary work, HAF is the best place for you.
My volunteer experience with HAF was amazing! I learned a lot of things during three months, I was taking pictures in many different events and activities, and this reminds me of the great moments I spent in the international event COP22. It helped me to develop my personality and have the ability to talk to strangers with various languages Arabic, French, English and sometimes Amazigh, I was also an active member in the office with so many volunteers that I am glad to know.
I would like to thank HAF for giving me the opportunity to experience new things and know more about myself.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!."
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.
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.
I started volunteering with HAF last June, when I lived in Marrakech and wanted to expand my experience in sustainable development and international organizations. HAF's dedication and true commitment to the participatory method and community development has impressed me countless times. I started volunteering with mostly administrative tasks, and after a few months the Director of Development and President both invited me to expand my experience by assisting with social media and outreach. I am so grateful for the Foundation and its incredible staff, which has afforded me amazing experiences.
Thus far I've had a very short experience with HAF, but the conditions appear to be excellent for future collaborations. During my visit to the High Atlas, I have witnessed HAF playing a facilitating role in the creation of projects that assist agricultural development in rural communities while also supporting the Moroccan government in its efforts to offset soil erosion and deforestation. The key to their success appears to be a proper understanding and implementation of community based participation where all stakeholders take part in the process contributing with their individual strenghts as well as demands. I am looking forward to take this relationship to the next level.
I spent 4 months interning with HAF in their Marrakech office. My time with the organization was rewarding on so many levels. Every staff member I interacted with was kind, passionate, and excited to share their knowledge and experience.
As an intern I helped with communication and outreach efforts through their website and email campaigns. I was invited to join discussions about the work and projects HAF was creating which was an incredible experience for me to learn about the participatory sustainable development approach HAF uses. The staff’s desire to include me in these conversation was invaluable learning opportunity and I feel it reflects the transparency and honesty within the organization.
HAF has been working in Morocco for more than a decade and I can see that it is continuing to strengthen the relationships and friendships they made when starting. I saw this when the organization consistently invited community members into the office for discussions and workshops and when I joined a project manager in the field. They focus on learning what communities are in need of to improve living conditions and work with them to make those conditions a reality.
I am grateful for my time with HAF and the relationships I made within the organization. The small staff works incredibly hard to support successful projects around the country. Everyone I met there has a genuine determination to better the organization and thus lives of people in rural communities in Morocco.
Founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps volunteers, High Atlas Foundation severs the Moroccan communities through promoting sustainable development. During my time with HAF as a project manager in High Atlas region, I gained a wonderful experience that I will always treasure. My experience with HAF raises my aspiration as a Moroccan young woman who always believes that I can be very significant for my beloved country. HAF’s engagement and commitment with the Moroccan rural and marginalized communities especially, encourages and boosts people to be included in the process of their communities’ development and to empower them and build their skills to be the decision makers. Working with women, youth and men have changed my perspective about community development because adopting the participatory development approach teaches the community people how to change on their own their challenges and turn them into opportunities. During the community meetings, the community people are given the chance to identify and prioritize their needs through drawing the maps of their communities.
It is an amazing thing when people can see their houses and farms, rivers and schools …etc. And build up a discussion upon and exchange their ideas through the participatory methods on how they can plan to bring those needs into an actual work plan. HAF always believes that the priorities identified by the community people have to be resulted into community projects. In collaboration and cooperation with the community people, HAF works to overcome the challenges in implementing the people’s needs. I recognize that HAF never stops to think about collective solutions.
For those who are interested to join HAF, I encourage you to go for it. I worked with an amazing team that I really enjoyed working with. Very friendly, encouraging and supportive staffs that will motivate you to perform, develop you managerial skills, serve the Moroccan communities and learn about the Moroccan wonderful and diverse culture.
I am very delightful to work with HAF that creates a great environment for starting up innovations like High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3). My work experience with HAF boosts me to bring new solutions, to be very active, determined, modest woman leader not only that but it teaches me how to be a good human being to support and serve my community.
I volunteered with the High Atlas Foundation and offered my services to rebrand the organisation where I saw a huge potential in the activities that it undertakes in Morocco. I worked closely with the management team who are great people full of compassion, dedicated and committed to their mission which consists in creating a better future for the rural communities in Morocco, through programs such as training, women activities, youth, organic agriculture and clean drinking water.
My experience working with the team was very positive and I would recommend anyone to volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation.
The HAF team and its President care about developing a self sustaining future for morocco and I believe it’s already showing its fruits.
The High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) reliance on the participatory approach has made me more familiar with this method. Particularly, I found that the approach is the same as the goals of my work and through HAF, I gained a lot of experience with this method. I was taught to give more than just purely social development. In fact, I learned to be selfless and patient, in order to help others.
The High Atlas Foundation gave me an opportunity to draw closer and feel for others. It also increased the publicity and legitimacy of my work. It gave me an incredible opportunity to help and reach others. HAF introduced me to the geography of the region. By communicating with different groups throughout the region, HAF taught me important ways to communicate and listen to others. In this sense it gave these individuals an opportunity to speak without interruption or indifference to their words.
Through my work with HAF I learned of teamwork, based on the actions of the individuals at the Foundation. Beginning with Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, I consider him to be a role model in teamwork and in what God has given him in terms of humanitarianism and self-sacrifice. He helps others and gives opportunities to all who want to give goodwill. He is credited with the excellent conduct of the Foundation and its widespread reach. There is also Dr.Abderahim Ouarghidi, from whom I learned the harmony of teamwork. I will not forget my sister Fatima Zahra, who deals with all of the most pressing issues at HAF. MouhssineTadlaoui-Cherki demonstrates teamwork in the projects he manages. There is Jacqueline Seeley, with whom I’ve had wonderful conversations. Finally, I cannot exclude Larbi Didouqen and the strength of his work. Each of these representatives of HAF, in different languages, dialects, and religions, all share the same goal: working hard to further human and social development.
Whenever I speak about the virtue of the High Atlas Foundation, I will not forget the right it has given by allowing me to speak on behalf of it in order to help others. To the President of the High Atlas Foundation, Yossef Ben-Meir, I have nothing but thanks and respect for all of his hard work. Thank you to all of the other individuals at HAF for all of their good will. May God bring you success.
اعتماد مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير على المقاربة التشاركية ، جعلني اكثر تقربا منها سيما وانها ذات اهداف تنموية اجتماعية محضة ... فعملي بمؤسسة الاطلس اضاف لي الكثير حيث تعلمت ان اعطي اكثر مما اخذ ، تعلمت نكران الذات ، بل تعلمت الصبر والصبر من اجل مساعدة الاخرين ...
مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير اعطتني فرصة التقرب اكثر والاحساس بالاخر ، زادتني شعبية وقننت عملي الجمعوي ، اعطتني فرصة كبيرة في مساعدة الاخر والتقرب منه ، كونتني وزادتني طاقة ، بل اؤكد انها عرفتني بجغرافية المنطقة انطلاقا من التواصل مع ساكنة الجماعات ، مؤسسة الاطلس علمتني طرق مهمة في التواصل وحسن الاصغاء للاخر ، والاحساس به بل واعطائه فرصة الكلام دون مقاطعته ...
انطلاقا من عملي بمؤسسة الاطلس تعلمت العمل الجماعي ذلك انطلاقا من كيفية التعامل بين الاطر المسيرة للمؤسسة بدءا من الدكتور السيد يوسف بن مير هذا الاستاذ الذي اعتبره قدوة في العمل الجماعي لما حباه الله به من انسانية ونكران للذات ، بل مساعدته واعطائه فرص لكل من اراد العمل شريطة النوايا الحسنة ، له الفضل في حسن تسيير المؤسسة وتوسع رقعتها ، وهناك الدكتور عبدالرحيم الذي تعلمت منه الانسجام في العمل الجماعي ولن انس الاخت فاطمة الزهراء التي كان لها الفضل في حسن التعامل مع مشاكل مهما كانت....والسيد محسن واللباقة في الحديث ولن استثن جاكلين وحديثها وتواصلها الرائع دون اهمال السيد العربي وتكتيكه في العمل ...وكل الطاقم الممثل للمؤسسة في كل العمالات فلكل واحد بصمته ومهما اختلفت اللغات ، واللهجات ، والاديان فالهدف المشترك بيننا هو العمل الجاد والانسانية و التنمية الاجتماعية ..
مهما تكلمت عن فضل المؤسسة فلن اوافيها حقها فقد اعطتني فرصة في ان اكون الناطقة باسمها وباسم من لجا اليها من اجل المساعدة ، لن اقول لمؤسسة الاطلس في شخص مسيريها برئاسة الدكتور يوسف بن مير سوى شكرا واقف احتراما لكل من عمل عملا واتقنه ، وكل ذوي النوايا الحسنة فشكرا جزيلا و الله ولي التوفيق ..
Hana Boujdour Project Manager
The High Atlas Foundation is doing an incredible job of reaching youth, women, and marginalized communities throughout Morocco. I was fortunate enough to work closely with the High Atlas Foundation for 1 year, during which I saw the dedicated team implement a wide range of projects, and show a particular expertise for empowering rural communities through a participatory approach. It is through this approach that the beneficiaries are given the tools and skills necessary to make drastic and sustainable socioeconomic advancements. Most impressive is the organization's newest innovation to create a for profit enterprise to ensure sustainability and maximum project impact.
In my time with the High Atlas Foundation, I witnessed true dedication, compassion, and commitment to improving the lives of Morocco's most marginalized. The team, composed of volunteers, community members, and talented experts, is uniquely aware of the challenges and opportunities that face Moroccan communities, and demonstrate the highest levels of professionalism and effectiveness in the field.
The 15 months since I have begun to volunteer for HAF has been a period of transition which is both exciting and demanding, as the organization moves into creating a for profit enterprise to ensure a solid financial basis for future project development.
I have witnessed the consolidation of a dedicated and talented core team - and of the overall vision of the organization - as well as the creation of documentation and procedural guidelines necessary as HAF grows in size.
Involved mainly in editing and administration, I have also been responsible on an ad hoc basis for attracting support and publicity for the organization, in the form of donors, partners, interns, academics and journalists.
What impresses, from the feedback I receive as well as from my own perspective, is the presence of several 'soft' elements - at both beneficiary and staff level - that contribute greatly to project success. These include a commitment to ethics and fairness and to personal development, the pursuit of intellectual rigor and the employment of best practice, along with a democratic and convivial atmosphere in a multilingual and multicultural setting.
This corporation funnels money from a non profit to a for profit (as stated under their social enterprise page, donate here for HA3 which takes you to the High Atlas Foundations page). The founder plays off of two countries rules, violating them with no regards to repercussions. In my time as a consultant, I witnessed many illegal activities and was never paid for my work and in fact, as I stopped working for free, was told my services were no longer needed after all of the pay dates had passed. I personally heard him (in front of other interns) use harassing language in regards to religion as well as cursing at employees. I moved to the city this is based out of thinking I could create my own job as it seemed like such a great corporation, in reality it is a lot of drama with almost 100 percent turnover.
Review from Guidestar