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.
This post was written by Haley Luce during the second half of her time volunteering in Morocco.
For the second half of my stay in Morocco I have the pleasure of working in Tarmilaat Village just outside of Ifrane. My day now consists of leaving campus at 9:15 am and spending the rest of the day in and around a one-room schoolhouse in this rural village. One of the other AUA interns, Maddy Becker, teaches French to the students during the first half of the day while my partner, Hallie Westlund, and I play games, do crafts, and go on adventures with the kids who are not in class. One of the activities we have done is taking hikes in the surrounding countryside of the village. The kids roughhouse, stop to teach us card games, drink from abundant natural springs, and race across rock and garbage covered landscape having a wonderful time. On one of our hikes we came across a small old fountain with some coins carefully collected in a jar at the bottom. I was so impressed by how much respect these kids had for this old fountain that clearly was something very precious to their culture. It didn’t even occur to them to take the coins, even though all of them could have used the money. I am consistently blown away by the amount of respect and honor represented in Moroccan culture that manifests itself in such small, yet remarkable, ways. Even a simple walk through the woods demonstrates the positively rich culture of the Moroccan people.
After morning classes and lunchtime, we all gather together and play soccer in the village, travel to Al-Akhawayn to use the pool, the gym, and the soccer pitch, and even travel to the local national park for some fun in the waterfall and an environmental education lesson by the AUA intern in the Ifrane National Park Office, Jenny Lee. This camp is truly a collaboration between multiple AUA interns and I would just like to say how grateful I am to have these amazing peers to work with. I feel as though this collaboration makes the program so much stronger and enables the kids to have more fulfilling experiences. Taking these kids to different places expands their horizons, and in this way I feel we have really had an impact in their lives. By being here and showing them new places, people, and culture all within their reach, I feel that we have motivated them to continue their education in and out of the classroom so that one day they can go to university, travel, or fulfill whatever their dreams may be.
On a less work related note, it is a very special time to be in the Muslim World because it is Ramadan. I got the chance to experience this first hand when I did a home stay with a family in Ben Smim. I stayed with a lovely family with very modest accommodations experiencing first hand what it is like to live as a Moroccan during Ramadan. We ate iftour, the meal that breaks the fasting of the day, around 7:30pm. Then, we played with the children, communicated with the family in broken Arabic, and enjoyed the night until 12pm when we ate a big delicious meal of bread and chicken. When I could no longer keep my eyes open, we went to bed briefly and woke up again at 3:30am to partake in the last meal before fasting began for the day. The next morning we went about our normal business, getting a tour of the town, taking a hike in the surrounding countryside, and visiting with friends, all without the aid of food or water until the next iftour around 7:30pm that evening. Fasting with my homestay family was quite the experience and I certainly have a lot of respect for people who fast for the entire month of Ramadan. Partaking in Ramadan in Morocco truly made me feel as though I was experiencing the culture and customs first hand and allowed me to feel what it is like to live in the Moroccan lifestyle. I realized that it is less about religion, being Muslim, and more about being a part of a society and bonding with the people around you in order to experience the same feelings of hunger, thirst, pain and joy that really made me connect with the Morocco and its people on a new level.