By Audrey, Volunteer (Staj 99)
I had spent all day scurrying around my village’s new Women’s Sewing Educational Training Center assisting the women with their sewing problems such as replacing broken needles, helping remove sewing thread that had been jammed in the bobbin case, changing presser feet, running around handing out scissors, paper, zippers, needles, and fabric, helping with basic sewing, and encouraging them. I was pooped! Women commonly ask me over to their homes at the end of the day to gossip and have tea. No offense to them, but after such a busy day, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I needed some solitude, so I made a beeline to my house, grabbed my headphones, put on an audio of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming”, and started walking though the farm fields.
“I’ve been struck again and again by both the promise and vulnerability of young women in our world” said Michelle Obama. She went on to describe her “Let Girls Learn” program, which worked with USAID and Peace Corps focusing on young women, the importance of their education, and creating better access to education for them. I felt like Michelle Obama was talking to me!! I started clapping my hands yelling, “YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!” as I was thinking of the 42 women in my village managing to find time for themselves to learn how to sew.
This past January my counterpart and I opened our doors to 42 village women to our six month training program. (Thank you to my family and friends for donating money to help jump start our Women’s Sewing Educational Training Center. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!)
Read the rest of the blog post here:
Now, it's my turn to give a long-winded speech that could have been an e-mail.
I want to start by saying, from all of us, thank you. Thank you to the Peace Corps staff for putting up with 100 naive, ideological Americans with so much time on their hands, and so desperate for meaning that they travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos. Thank you to our LCFs, to the people back home, and to our host families. Thank you to the communities who have welcomed us, and those about to welcome us. For many of us, this was a dream years in the making, and it’s hard to overstate the role that each one of you played in getting us here.
We are Staj 100. We arrived in Morocco on September 11, 2018, and have now completed CBT after having many fantastic experiences and going on many great adventures.
Or, at least, that's how it is on paper.
The truth, though, is that I can't speak to our collective experiences in CBT. Each group, and each individual found experiences and formed relationships so special that it would be an insult to even try. The things that we experienced weren’t unique (after all, this is the 55th year that Peace Corps has been in Morocco), but our CBT experiences weren't special because they were unique. They were special because they were ours… and unless we are like Ty or Kylie, it is the only time we will ever get this experience. Our CBTs have been, for two months, our homes, our families, our friends, and our centers of work, play, attention, and love.
So, because I can't speak to all of our experiences, and because I am a naive, ideological American with so much time on my hands, and so desperate for meaning that I travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos, I will just speak to that last part - love.
Love, sits near the core of each of our individual reasons for being here. It is something that we each express in our own way. Some of us absolutely glow with it, and are unafraid to dangle it out in the open. For others, it is something that we hide deep within ourselves, only showing it to those we are truly comfortable with. In whatever way you may express it, don't forget that it is there, and don't forget to let it guide you, no matter what you do.
Love those who are close to you, those who will support you no matter what.
Love your friends, your host families, and your fellow PCVs.
Love the person who will never be more than just a face you wave to across the street, or one that greets you from behind a counter.
Love the ones who are easy to love, and the ones who desperately need it.
Love people, even if that means blocking them with a piece of wood so that they won't go out on a wet tin roof to fetch a pair of shoes.
Love the people who won't love you back, the ones who cause you trouble.
Love, even when that love is only expressed through the phrases, "no, you can't," and, "because I said so!"
Love the ones who don't want you to love them, and the ones who will hate you for it.
Love the ones who throw rocks at you, who spit on you, who touch you and call you names.
Love them, even when you know the awful things that they've done.
Love the ones who don't deserve your love, because sometimes we won't deserve theirs.
Love, even when it is boring and difficult, when you are tired and you want to quit.
Love strongly and sensibly, and remember that, though our experiences are our own, we are, Moroccan and American, all in this together.
Call your mom, brush your teeth, wash your clothes after three wears... but most importantly, over the next two years, remember, more than anything, to love.
We're wrapping up our #55YearsOfFriendship campaign. We sure are grateful for the past 55 years of Peace Corps in Morocco and all the friends we've met along the way, and we're excited about all the future years and friendships awaiting us. Thank you to all that contributed to our campaign by sharing stories, pictures, videos, memories and support. Here's to #ManyMoreYearsOfFriendship here in Morocco.
Don't worry, we will still be updating this page with more stories and photos of the continued friendship our volunteers foster.
Newly sworn-in PCV Lauren Bullock spoke to her fellow trainees at the Volunteer Swearing-In Ceremony on November 29, 2018. Here is her speech:
Every place on this earth has a spirit of its own. A spirit that makes it unique. We are no different. Each of us came to Morocco with a unique spirit and our own set of gifts, not because this country needs saving, but because of our need to make a complete mess with our passion and love for human connection. The time we spend here is about how well our spirits and gifts connect with the people of Morocco and the essence of this majestic place.
As we transition into the next phase of our service it is important for us to understand that just as sure as there will be high days, there will be low days as well. Days that we may feel defeated, unneeded, or overwhelmed by our experiences here. But, I encourage you to find the opportunities that exist within the low days.
The work we do does not allow us to operate in spaces of comfort, nor does it allow us to be small. Instead, we are met with constant challenges where we are left to rise to the occasion and it is within these spaces that growth, self-realization, and inspiration take flight.
So, embrace your low days just as much as you embrace the highs because both are necessary and both give you perspective. Examine yourselves and your hearts constantly because out of them flow the issues of life and we give those the power to fuel our service for the better, or the worst. After all, it is how you get back up when you fall that will define your legacy as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.
Youssef, for my first five or six months of service, was simply one of the young men who hung out at the youth center, or dar chebab, regularly. At that time, I was still learning who was who and what their roles were as I slowly but surely integrated. When it came time to invite a counterpart to accompany me to the Project Design & Management workshop hosted by Peace Corps, the local youth I talked to advised that I take Youssef, currently the president of the Hope Association for Culture & Sports. "He’s reliable, available, and savvy," they said. A year and a half later, I feel so fortunate to have been pointed in his direction.
Our primary project together was Creating Leaders in the Mountains & Beyond (CLIMB), a dynamic outdoor leadership program that benefited at least 40 Moroccan youth from two Peace Corps sites and has been a major part of our work for the past 10 months. Aside from CLIMB, Youssef has reliably helped me in nearly every aspect of my service and life here in Morocco. From bargaining for my life-changing washing machine and welcoming my mom and aunt during their week-long trip to Morocco to helping me cope with security incidents, literally pulling me up Mount Toubkal, and being there for everyday dar chebab life, he has been an ideal counterpart and a wonderful friend--not only to me, but to other PCVs and PCTs as well. As my service comes to a close all too soon, I’m feeling extremely grateful to him and to countless others who have made my time in this place--my second home--impactful, happy, and unforgettable.
By Rachael Diniega, Multimedia Committee Member (Staj 99)
They thought their work wouldn’t sell, that people would doubt their abilities and demean their success in creating a women’s cooperative—and yet in October 2018, the women of Cooperative Nahda in the Middle Atlas town of Oued Ifrane cheered and clapped when artisan leader Mustapha Chaouai announced their most recent sales success through the online platform of the collective Anou.
I met with the cooperative at the request of a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) living in their town, Jan Sojka (Staj 98), pictured above, who worked with them during her two-year service from 2016 to 2018. “My overall experience in Oued Ifrane has been filled with generous hospitality and a familial bond with many of the locals in this Amazigh village, “ she said. “Throughout my two years, I was met with endless invitations for meals, tea, henna, and celebrations. Throughout my service, I was lucky to encounter Cooperative Nahda, which is a group of female artisans who specialize in carpet weaving and are assisted by a talented, dedicated blacksmith, Mustapha Chaouai. They quickly took me under their wing and were always willing to host visitors and participate in various activities, such as design workshops affiliated with Anou or study abroad programs with American high school students. I have observed them to be a hardworking group that also has a great sense of humor and lively spirit. It is easy to see why they are identified as one of Anou’s strongest cooperatives.”
Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) of the 100th group of volunteers in Morocco sat in on our meeting with the twenty women of the cooperative and Mustapha to learn more about life in their training site. Said PCT Anna LaRocco Masi, "I have met the women of the co-op several times, and each visit, I grow more impressed and inspired by what they are doing. They do not give up even when they run into business-related obstacles. Meeting them is an amazing cultural experience because I got to see what local Moroccan women are doing on a daily basis to succeed for themselves and their families."
Earlier this year, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Michael and Eha Scanlon, were contacted by one of their former students, Mohammed, after about 40 years apart. Mike and Eha had served in Guercif, Morocco, from 1977 to 1979, teaching high school English. Since Mike and Mohammed share the same birthday, they thought it was the perfect time to return and celebrate their lasting friendship with him.
Ayoub is a university student, neighbor, counterpart, and friend to volunteers Jacob and Megan. When Ayoub was younger, his mother used to tell him stories of the Peace Corps volunteers from America she knew and worked with. The stories he listened to turned into a fascination with the English language and American culture. When Ayoub was in High School, one of his English teachers was a former LCF for Peace Corps, and a returned volunteer helped him tutor for his BAC exam. Soon after that, Megan and Jacob moved into the house above his mother, and he began helping with their projects as their counterpart. He has participated in and facilitated many workshops and classes. He received 1st place in his age group in the "Write On!" Creative Writing Competition in February 2018 and attended In-service Training in Marrakech to learn about life skills, volunteerism, and service learning. He loves trying all kinds of American foods and enjoys cultural exchange. His favorite restaurant is Burger King. Today, Ayoub is a third year English Linguistics student at the nearby university and is torn between pursuing a career in Language Teaching or Social Work. Following the example of the Peace Corps volunteers he has known, he hopes to become a volunteer with Corps Africa after he finishes his studies and maybe one day work as an LCF for Peace Corps trainees.
أيوب طالب جامعي وجار ونظير وصديق للمتطوعين يعقوب وميغان. عندما كان أيوب أصغر ، كانت والدته تخبره بقصص متطوعي هيئة السلام الأمريكية الذين عرفتهم وعملت معهم. تحولت القصص التي استمع إليها إلى إعجاب باللغة الإنجليزية والثقافة الأمريكية. عندما كان أيوب في المدرسة الثانوية ، كان أحد مدرسي اللغة الإنجليزية مشرفاً سابقاً عن اللغة والثقافة بهيئة السلام ، وساعده متطوع سابق على إعداد دروس التقوية من أجل اجتياز امتحان المدرسة الثانوية. بعد ذلك بوقت قصير ، انتقلت ميغان وجاكوب إلى المنزل الكائن فوق بيت أمه ، وبدأ في المساعدة في مشاريعهم ،كنظير لهم. شارك في العديد من ورشات العمل والدروس وقام بتسهيلها. حصل على المركز الأول في مجموعته العمرية في "الكتابة! في " مسابقة الكتابة الإبداعية في فبراير 2018 وحضر "تدريبا أثناء الخدمة" في مراكش للتعرّف على المهارات الحياتية والعمل التطوعي وتعلم الخدمة. إنه يحب تجربة جميع أنواع الأطعمة الأمريكية ويستمتع بالتبدلات الثقافية. مطعمه المفضل هو برجر كينج. اليوم ، أيوب هو طالب لغويات اللغة الإنجليزية في السنة الثالثة بالجامعة ، وهو حائر بين متابعة مهنة في تدريس اللغة أو العمل الاجتماعي. وعلى مثال متطوعي هيئة السلام الذين يعرفهم ، يأمل في أن يصبح متطوعًا مع Corps Africa بعد أن ينهي دراسته ، وربما يعمل يومًا ما ك مشرف عن اللغة والثقافة لمتدربي هيئة السلام.أيوب طالب جامعي وجار ونظير وصديق للمتطوعين يعقوب وميغان. عندما كان أيوب أصغر ، كانت والدته تخبره بقصص متطوعي هيئة السلام الأمريكية الذين عرفتهم وعملت معهم. تحولت القصص التي استمع إليها إلى إعجاب باللغة الإنجليزية والثقافة الأمريكية. عندما كان أيوب في المدرسة الثانوية ، كان أحد مدرسي اللغة الإنجليزية مشرفاً سابقاً عن اللغة والثقافة بهيئة السلام ، وساعده متطوع سابق على إعداد دروس التقوية من أجل اجتياز امتحان المدرسة الثانوية. بعد ذلك بوقت قصير ، انتقلت ميغان وجاكوب إلى المنزل الكائن فوق بيت أمه ، وبدأ في المساعدة في مشاريعهم ،كنظير لهم. شارك في العديد من ورشات العمل والدروس وقام بتسهيلها. حصل على المركز الأول في مجموعته العمرية في "الكتابة! في " مسابقة الكتابة الإبداعية في فبراير 2018 وحضر "تدريبا أثناء الخدمة" في مراكش للتعرّف على المهارات الحياتية والعمل التطوعي وتعلم الخدمة. إنه يحب تجربة جميع أنواع الأطعمة الأمريكية ويستمتع بالتبدلات الثقافية. مطعمه المفضل هو برجر كينج. اليوم ، أيوب هو طالب لغويات اللغة الإنجليزية في السنة الثالثة بالجامعة ، وهو حائر بين متابعة مهنة في تدريس اللغة أو العمل الاجتماعي. وعلى مثال متطوعي هيئة السلام الذين يعرفهم ، يأمل في أن يصبح متطوعًا مع Corps Africa بعد أن ينهي دراسته ، وربما يعمل يومًا ما ك مشرف عن اللغة والثقافة لمتدربي هيئة السلام.
"EVENTFUL" is how our finance specialist Youssef describes his experience with Peace Corps. "There's always something happening," he says