We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Haley Luce is volunteering as a camp counselor at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.
In less than 3 days, I will be traveling almost 6000 miles, far across the Atlantic Ocean, and arriving in Casablanca, Morocco. It feels like a dream, but it’s true. Thanks to my internship with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors I will have the pleasure of spending 6 weeks in Ifrane, Morocco, located in the Atlas Mountains. I will be working with Al-Akhawayn University, along with other college students, to put on summer camps for children from the surrounding areas. I will be working with kids ages 6-12 playing soccer, teaching them games, and building leadership skills.
Ifrane is located 70 kilometers from the city of Fes. The University is an English- language public school with approximately 1800 students and the resources to provide space and staff for an enriching summer experience for local children. We will be serving children of working class citizens in Ifrane in addition to children from the neighboring shepherding village of Tarmilaat.
Morocco struggles with containing its unemployment and poverty levels, particularly in rural areas. The goal of Al-Akhawayn University and its partners is to reduce these rates by providing children with a fun environment to learn social skills, teamwork, and leadership skills that will give them greater job opportunities when they reach an employable age.
One of my primary goals for my time spent in Ifrane is to enable these kids to express themselves, learn, and grow in ways that will serve them in the future and to build up the local program that shares these goals. Supporting locally led initiatives that strive to change the fate of the underprivileged youth is, in my opinion, an excellent way to bring about change on a regional, and eventually national, scale. I hope that the time I spend with the people at the University and the children attending the camp contributes to the success of the program in the long term and improves the present day lives of the children.
Another goal for me is to improve communication and understanding between Americans and Arabs, or more specifically, Moroccans. I hope I can represent Americans in a positive light and demonstrate my interest and respect for Moroccan culture. I also look forward to sharing with friends, family, and interested Americans my experiences with the people and culture of Morocco. I look forward to learning from the children and other community members who will teach me about Moroccan culture, customs and language, in addition to valuable life lessons. Through sharing this experience, my hope is to dispel stereotypes and prejudices that inadvertently creep into our daily lives with as many people as possible.
As I collect soccer cleats from my own community to take to the children in Ifrane, I am excited to tackle challenges with language barriers and cultural differences, but I expect that the famous Moroccan hospitality will outweigh my struggles and make me feel welcome. I look forward to meeting the people at the University, the camp, and the local communities. With these words in mind, Insha’Allah, I take off for Morocco…