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Volunteers' blog

Tuesday 20 January 2015

This is just the beginning...

Name: Lucy Goodman

Occupation: Go-getter, morale booster, general facilitator.

Location: Dar Ourigane, High Atlas Morocco, 1hr from Marrakech, 20 minutes from Asni.

Languages spoken: Only English, and some extremely shoddy French…how rubbish is that! These girls speak Arabic (Darija), Berber (Tashelhit), French and some English!

Why did I decide to come here: The culture and people are beautiful, I found this out from a previous trip to Morocco. I find the country has a Star Warsy feel when you see everyone in djellabas at the souk, and this can only be interpreted as a good thing. Anyway, I wanted to perceive life from a woman’s perspective and as a tourist it is pretty impossible to do this. Mainly though, I wanted show my support for EFA and offer the girls some international solidarity. If you haven’t got loads of money you can always give your time and energy.

To be honest when I first arrived in Ouirgane I felt completely overwhelmed! But I was expecting that. 30 hours without sleep makes life hard in any circumstance. Ahmed, the driver, had kindly been waiting for me to get through passport control in Marrakech for over an hour, and I was truly grateful to have him pick me up. I’ve never had anyone greet me at an airport holding a sign with my name on it; I felt quite important, and also terribly inadequate. During the hour’s journey to Asni I requested an emergency Arabic lesson; Ahmed was keen to exchange in English. We picked up Latifa (the head housemother) and then carried on to Ouirgane. Wow, what stunning scenery! Jbel Toubkal and his mates were are covered with snow, the sky is so blue, and in the foreground the red, yellow and brown sedimentary terrain provide great contrast. Evidence of the torrential rain in November was striking. Landslides lined the road, debris still covered parts of it, and the deep ditches that catch the rock fall at the sides of the road were full and overflowing. Big boulders hang precariously in the cliffs above whilst work was still ongoing to clear the talus and repair the bends.

I didn’t even know how to pronounce Ouirgane before I got here, nor did I have any idea how the next few hours, days and months would pan-out. What an adventure; I just hoped I could be really useful to the girls and to Badiaa, Mina and Samira who do their upmost to look after them. I knew that communication would be a problem for us, but trading emails in broken French before my arrival had made me feel a lot more comfortable about coming out here. I was assured that we would all live and work well together because the love and respect between us was already there.

It’s now day three…or four…I’ve forgotten, but that can only be a good sign, as so much has happened already. I want to thank all the girls here in Dar Ouirgane, and especially Badiaa the housemother for such a delicious warm welcome. I’m amazed at how quickly we’ve built a rapport and I’m thankful for their patience whilst I continually pronounced their names wrong over and over again. The good news is that I’ve pretty much got there now, although the sad news is that today the girls in the 1st and 2nd year of college have just gone home for their holidays. Last night though, I was treated to a proper Berber sing-song complete with drum and tambourine accompaniment. I’ve never been so impressed with how a group of people can produce such catchy rhythms and intense sound with their hands and voices. It was a right knees-up.

So I’m here with the 3rd years this week, and can help them prepare for their English exam. It’s important that they take breaks and relax…and I can certainly help with that. For instance today and yesterday we played football, and I think it’s great that Badiaa instigates this; the girls love it. They’re REALLY good at keepie-uppies and matches get quite competitive and sacrificial. I have to say the girl’s commitment to their studies is astonishing. None of them need encouraging to get books out and crack on with revision or homework. They all seem appreciative of their chance to learn and they’re dead keen to do so. It really makes the work of ‘Education For All’ completely worthwhile and I can advocate with confidence that the money given by past, present and hopefully future donors, couldn’t be put to better use.

After the 3rd years sit their exams, everyone goes back to their various villages. Badiaa, Mina and Samira need a well-earned rest too. When we reconvene, my ‘work’ can start in earnest and we will hatch a plan as to how I can best support each individual; so I look forward to that. Even though I have no prior knowledge of teaching English, I do have a sound knowledge of English, lots of books and buckets of enthusiasm….and with that I hope to do the girls justice. We’ve had quite a few informal impromptu lessons already. It’s amazing the ideas that come to you and the fool you’re prepared to be infront of keen learners. Spontaneous songs and games come to mind when you’re in the moment. Everyday I spend lots of time with Badiaa, as she is super keen to improve her English. It’s really pronunciation and grammar that I can help most with; and of course we’ve done the obligatory labelling of all items in the house in French and English to enhance vocab.

I’m grateful for this opportunity; thanks to everyone involved. I promise to work hard and will keep you updated as things progress here.