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Monday, 18 April 2011

Week end in Dar Tinmel with the volunteers

This week end in Talat n Yacoub we enjoyed the company of our 3 other EFA volunteers, Kitty, Jenny and Emma! On Saturday the girls enjoyed computer lessons, crafts, and games; then on Sunday we took the girls out. While originally our plan was to visit the Tinmel Mosque, Khadija had the idea of making a big outing to the nearby mountain, Tizi n Test, a popular tourist destination in the Atlas mountains known for its stunning scenery. We headed out at 11am in the yellow Transport Scholaire minibus with picnic gear in tow. It is a long, twisty road to the top, and we had quite a few carsick girls (including me!), so we made lots of stops for fresh air and to enjoy the view.

The singing was quieter on the extra twisty parts, but we had Berber songs the whole way through, courtesy of the girls. Finally we arrived to our picnic site, which was a beautiful clearing beside a waterfall. We all enjoyed our Moroccan sandwiches , oranges, and sweets (with Jenny on garbage patrol), and then exploring the beautiful mountainside or lounging in the sun playing games. After a couple of hours here, we continued upwards to the forest, where the girls had a long walk and enjoyed seeing some animals- we stopped along the way to try to spot a gazelle, but unfortunately no luck. They were very tired when we arrived back at the bus- but not too tired to sing again the whole way back! Before returning home, we stopped at the historic Tinmel Mosque- while we were too late for regular visiting hours, we were lucky to find the man who keeps the key! He let us in for a look, and it was amazing to watch the stars come out and feel the peace inside this beautiful monument.

It is really nice for the girls to have an outing like this, as they would not often have such a chance with their families or be able to afford it (EFA covered cost of transportation to make it possible).

For me, it was so nice to explore the area with the girls and also to see some of their villages as we passed them on the drive. We were all reminded of just how important the house is especially for our Talat girls; we were really taken by the remoteness of their family homes.

The girls were grateful for such a fun weekend and are really looking forward to the weekend after next where they will see their friends from Ouirgane and Asni for Open Day!

Angela Cooper

Dar Tinmel volunteer

On my way to Dar Tinmel, I stopped at Asni with Karima where I met the girls, Latifa, Mike, and a couple groups from England; all of whom were discussing their continuing travel plans. Some will go on to Imlil, maybe Tahanout, Ouarzazate, the house in Ouirgane- but Talat n Yacoub? No, too far, but they wished me luck. An hour of twisty road later, I arrived at Dar Tinmel.

The house is beautiful and comfortable, and the girls are lovely. Days are busy here- the girls wake up at 7am, have breakfast and do the washing up, and then have classes or activities until 5:30pm, eat, wash up, and then work again until about 10:30pm. They are always doing something, and put a lot of effort into their school work- which is particularly necessary in Talat, where the education system is at a lower standard than other less remote places. The girls speak Tachlehit, do their school work in Arabic, and are learning French; although the girls here are too young to have started learning English at school, they are eagerly retaining the new vocabulary I teach to them, and mastered ‘Simon Says’ in less than hour.

There is certainly a lot to adjust to; in the short time I’ve been here I have already experienced the power and water outages, roads turned into mud, and very cold weather (I was very grateful to find the sweaters Karima left behind!). So far I have enjoyed going for walks with the girls to the beautiful river near the house, games on the terrace, colouring and English & French lessons. They love to play and to help me pronounce words in Berber and Arabic, which I do not do very well!

The girls really appreciate the opportunity they have here, and they make the most of it. I am really grateful for the time I have here to spend with the girls, and I look forward to the following months, which I hope will be full of learning for all of us.

Angela Cooper

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dar Asni volunteer

I arrived at Dar Asni on a cold Sunday afternoon, the 6th March. My first impressions were that it was a lovely big house but so freezing cold. How was I going to keep warm as I hadn't bought many warm clothes!!

Luckily Karima had left jumpers and leggings, very welcome extra layers. I have never worn so many clothes at once inside! Bed time was challanging, changing quickly into pyjamas and then diving under loads of blankets before getting too cold!! Thankfully the weather has now warmed up and the house is much warmer inside, I am now hot in bed and only wearing a T shirt indoors.

On Monday morning the atmophere in the house changed completely as the girls started arriving for the week. It was so nice to see the house full of happy, friendly girls who have such enthusiasm for learning and working hard to acheive. The girls have busy school timetables and lots of homework but are keen to take part in activities with the volunteers. Many are really interested in developing their English and love help and encouragement to develop this skill. It has been great fun making games and activities to help with this. They are like sponges and quickly absorb and learn new information, I wish I was able to learn and remember like they do!

Pick up sticks has been a huge success, we have played this for hours! Playing Happy Families has been fun. The girls can be very competitive and sometimes get over excited, it is so nice seeing them having such fun. Making friendship bracelets has also been good. It was quite chaotic having about 8 girls round a table all making bracelets and needing some help. They grasped techniques quickly and completed beautiful pieces. The only problem was the bundle of threads at the end, it took several girls quite sometime to sort it all out ready for another session!!

The food at the house is delicious. I have really enjoyed eating the Moroccan way from one big dish, this is something I will try with friends once home, it is much more sociable and saves on the washing up!! I hope to learn how to cook some of the dishes, particularly cous cous and besara.

I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay at one of the girls houses for a weekend. This was such a good experience. The family were so welcoming and so pleased that I was visiting them. Food is their way of expressing their thanks that you are there, volunteers need to be prepared to eat alot of food and not to worry about their waistlines!!

We have just had a school holiday (3rd to 13th April). It has been nice to travel with the other volunteers. We spent time in Marrakech and Essaouira enjoying the sunshine, walking on the beach, shopping in the souks and soaking up the atmosphere. It is now back to reality, the girls return to the house on Wednesday. I have lots of ideas and activities prepared to support the development of their English and French, I just hope they enjoy them.
Thats it from me for now. I will write again before I finish my time here at Dar Asni.

Jenny Hitchcock.

Dar Ouirgane volunteer

When i rang on the door bell of dar ouirgane i was greeted by a rush of girls, kisses on each cheek and a tumult of ca va? It was raining heavily and they hurried me inside. Such a loving, eager and enthusiastic welcome and really that is my overiding impression of Dar Ouirgane. The girls desire to learn has overcome any language difficulties we have had in trying new games and activities.

During our walks into the beautiful surrounding moutains i have been able to teach them some traditional children english songs as we march along. We have had yoga and kick boxing sessions on the roof, football in the garden, lessons in french and english on school subjects, baking, painting and a weekly quiz testing their language and mathematic skills. On the 27th of march we had a mini adventure to okcamedom with the girls from Dar Asni, everybody absolutely loved it.

After the holidays i hope to arrange a play in french based on a traditional fairytale, maybe snow white! I love it here.

Kitty Hardman.

New volunteers

Things are mooving fast in the houses!!

I said goodbye to the houses in March to go back to was soooo hard!!
But i decided to stay involved with EFA so i'll leave some messages on this blog to let you know what's happening.
And you'll have a lot more messages from the new volunteers:
Dar Asni welcomed Jenny Hitchcock and Emma Clayton ;
Dar Tinmel welcomed Angela Cooper ;
Dar Ouirgane (the new house) welcomed Kitty Hardman ;

They will introduce themselves and will keep in touch with us to follow their adventures.