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.
By Rachel Wiser
It has been over a month since I left Morocco. I have just moved into my new flat in St Andrews and I am bundled in my bathrobe at the kitchen table, looking out the window as I write this. The sky is an ominous grey and the bitter wind occasionally hits the window. The steady light cold rain just started.
Things could not be more different now than they were this summer. I am no longer in the hot dry climate every day. There is no need to soak myself in sunscreen or bug spray. My arms and legs are not covered from the red bug bites. The food in the kitchen around me is fruit and rice and coffee. I no longer experience a constant flow of couscous or melwi. Instead of honey on my bread I can now put butter. Even more dramatically I now live without my parents in another country, something seemingly unthinkable while talking to Moroccan. Even more shocking I am sharing a flat with two boys that I am not related to, I can only imagine some of the Moroccans responses if I tried to explain that.
Despite how different my life is now from this summer there are subtle clues telling an observer about my experience. My left hand typing the keys is covered in henna. Not henna from Morocco, but henna I got with family and friends to share with them my experience in Morocco. We now plan on making this a regular event in our lives (my young cousin even asked to spend her allowance on henna regularly and have it for her birthday party). On the coaster next to my computer is a cup of overbearingly sweet tea with mint leaves floating about. The mint plant I bought sits on the window ledge and provides the daily mint tea that I came to love in Morocco. Down the hall in my room hangs a weaving done by one of the women I worked with. It constantly reminds me of them and how much I still care about their success.These may seem like minor details of the way my life has changed, but they are lasting ones. I will forever associate my mint tea with Ito. She would serve it to us many times, even when she herself was fasting for Ramadan. The henna will always remind me of the last night, when the eight of us and our wonderful Alice spent the night talking and getting unbelievably inexpensive henna (in Morocco it was $2, here my henna was roughly ten times that). Lastly, the weaving will forever travel with me as I decorate new rooms and provide a physical lasting memory of my time in Morocco.
I could write about how much Morocco changed me forever, and it did in an odd way, but these subtle details of my life, the more habitual actions, I feel show a deeper change. Morocco showed me new experiences, but it also engrained new actions into my everyday life. I believe that truly shows the connection volunteers and the community can have on each other. I can only hope that I had a similar impact on Ito, the women and children I worked with in Morocco.