Welcome to Azrou: A letter from Mohamed
Mohamed, our Morocco Country Director, is thrilled to be able to offer a new site in Morocco, available immediately for both our High School volunteers, and student groups. In an open letter below, he describes why our new ventures in the community of Azrou is important to him, as well as the impact he hopes to make with the help of our volunteers.
“Dear Future Morocco Volunteer,
On my way to our new site for the first-time, cedar forests flashed past my window as I wound my way through the Atlas Mountains. Rounding a bend, I saw the small town of Azrou nestled amongst bright green fields. I could see the large rock in the center of the town, for which Azrou (meaning “rock” in the native Amazigh tongue) is named. Located in the Middle Atlas Mountains, the town of Azrou is home to 48,000 people, including Amazigh natives who have been in Morocco for more than 6,000 years.
The people in Azrou face a variety of social and economic challenges, resulting in a 48% illiteracy rate overall, and a staggering 59% illiteracy rate among women. Many of the parents in the community were not able to pursue an education, resulting in less cultural value placed on the education of their children. The people of Azrou live in such need that their children often have to stay home to work to provide the family with additional income. Most men in Azrou are shepherds, and need their sons to help them in the fields. Women do all the cooking and cleaning for their families, so they need their daughters to fetch water and help them around the house. These children inevitably become their parents, as a lack of options fail to present themselves, and the vicious cycle of illiteracy begins anew.
Upon first arrival, I was shocked by the learning conditions at the local school. There are only a handful of classrooms and two functional toilets for 360 kids. There’s no playground, no library, few decorations on the walls. In the winter, the only source of heat is a wood stove in the back of the classroom. The smoke from the stove fills the air, forcing the teachers to open the windows and let the freezing cold back in. The kids have to take turns going to the back of the room to warm their hands.
I believe with the help of our volunteers that we can help this community by making the school a better place to learn. I want to build a playground, paint the walls, and get their facilities in working order. By welcoming volunteers who bring a renewed enthusiasm for education, we hope to inspire and excite these students. Despite their hard circumstances, there is a sense of joy and kindness radiating from the people of Azrou. I look at the people there and see all the good we can do and the differences we can make, giving both me and the locals in the community a sense of optimism and hope. I hope you’ll join me in Azrou, inshallah.