Monthly Archives: January 2011

Eight Projects for February 2011

The work of an Peace Corps Volunteer can be difficult to explain (as well mocked in this video), and I often get asked what exactly it is that I do here. I’ve been doing a little organizing the last few days, so I thought I’d share a few of the projects I’ll be working on this month:

1) Water Quality Assessments/Lessons with Middle School Students: Molly and I took nine water samples from various places around my town in late December; hopefully the results will be coming back from the health department soon. Then we’ll partner with a science teacher from the school to teach the lesson (and this is not a requirement for him, so if he doesn’t want to I get to try to teach the lesson). We’ll talk about where the water is coming from, sources of contamination, why uncontaminated water is good, and ways to prevent contamination. Hopefully we can do lessons for all the classes in the middle school.

2) English Club at the Middle School: This is another thing I’m working on with Molly – we discussed English Club with the administrator of the school in December, but due to various things (as happens) it hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. School is currently on a winter break, but it will resume Wednesday – hopefully we can resurrect this idea and start doing English Club next Tuesday.

3) Earth Day Planning with both Middle and Elementary Schools: Granted, Earth Day isn’t for a few more months, but I know a few other volunteers are planning with schools and youth centers already, so I’m hoping to talk to the administrators of both schools this week to see if they want to start planning as well. Earth Day activities could include things such as art projects, murals, environmental trivia contests, environmentally themed skits, garden/tree planting, etc.

4) Organizing a Meeting to form a Rosemary Cooperative: This is something the Ministry of Water and Forests (DWF) wants me to do. I’ve been talking to people in my town and Molly’s, and I’m hoping to have them do most of the legwork on this – I want to make sure we have all the proper people present (rep. from DWF, rep. from the government branch that forms coops) and that only people from the community interested in participating in the coop as officers (rather than everyone from the community) are there. It’s a little slow, but I’m hoping it can all be arranged.

5) Finding Women Leaders in town for a Women’s Association: This is a very tea based goal, as in I am going to need to resume wandering around with the goal of meeting new people by tea invitation. I tried to hold a community meeting in the way everyone told me I should – talk to the Khalifa, get a room at the Xiria (sort of like a boarding house for the middle school – it has a big room good for meetings), and have the town crier announce it. Women told me they’d come, and then they didn’t. I’m taking a new approach – I want to find at least one woman in each neighborhood who is actively interested in taking a leadership role, and then have the 3-5 of them arrange a community meeting. This is a much longer approach, but I think it will work better in the end. The women don’t necessarily want an ‘association’, per se, but they talk to me about wanting preschools for their children, literacy classes for women, and income generating opportunities. These are all things a women’s association can provide, so I’m really hoping that, with persistence, this idea will work.

6) Meeting with new Agricultural Associations: The Ag department recently swooped into town and created Associations in my town, Molly’s town, and Eric’s town. The main goals of these associations, as far as I’m aware, is erosion control along the rivers and improving ditches (which are very, very important here). I would love to help them with tree and bamboo planting along the rivers, if possible, so I’m hoping to attend the next meeting they have, both in my town and Molly’s town. We’ll see what happens from there.

7) Research about Solar Ovens: Deforestation is a major environmental problem in my area, and there are organizations and government agencies in Morocco that are working with the idea of solar cooking as a way of reducing firewood consumption. I’d like to learn more information to see if anything available would be a feasible option in my town – even those who have switched to butane based ovens (the richer families) are spending quite a bit of money on butane and would be interested in alternatives.

8) Creating a project plan for a GLOW Camp: GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World, and is a Peace Corps initiative in many PC countries. I’ve been tossing around the idea of creating a camp for middle school girls in my region this summer, and there are a few other PCVs possibly interested in helping after they complete a major project of theirs in late February. I’m hoping to have looked through the vast amount of materials on GLOW Camps and have a basic camp outline including cost and staffing factors to consider by late February in order to have a starting point for a GLOW Camp discussion.

Of course, none of these ideas are guaranteed to pan out – not even the water quality lessons, for which over half of the work is already finished. These are simply the projects which I have scheduled time for and set goals for myself to work on this month.


Further Evidence of Spring

I don’t mean to overly push one topic, but while biking back from my Tashelheet lesson today I had to stop and take a few more pictures. This whole spring in January thing is killing me.

I hadn't seen this flower before today. Not a great picture, but still! A purple flower in January!

Yellow flowers on a thornbush. Sheer insanity.

Also, it seems someone put a cow right by Molly’s house.

Hope you like your new home, Bessie!

Spring in January?

Almond trees in bloom

Theoretically it’s winter right now, but for all of my life I have lived in places where it snows in the winter. I was told it snowed here at least once every year, but I’m not so sure it’s going to this year. There’s still a little time – I was told the window of opportunity for a snowfall was late December through February. This afternoon some clouds moved in, and those clouds gave us a little rain for the first time since September or October – but that was rain, even after it got dark outside and the temperature started dropping! If the clouds stick around and it keeps precipitating intermittently through the evening, there’s a small possibility some of that would turn to snow early in the morning before the sun gets a chance to heat up the town again. We’ll see.

Other things that would signal to me that it was spring are that there are beautiful little yellow flowers on one type of thorny bush around here (I don’t have a picture of that yet) and that the seed pods of the Alily plant, below, have finally sprung open.  All of these things are probably perfectly on schedule – I was told almond trees, for example, always bloom early – but they’re very shocking to me. I’m still adapting to this climate.

These seeds are softer and fuzzier than they look.

River Walk

It’s a little difficult to explain without a picture, but there are four PCVs in the area I call, for simplicity’s sake, ‘up the mountain’. Eric is least up the mountain (and therefore in sweltering heat in the summer), Tim is through one little pass in a very pretty date-producing valley above him, and then the road goes over a much larger pass, forks, and Molly and I are on opposite ends of that fork.

A few weeks ago I accompanied Molly to Tim’s site using a route both of us had been wanting to explore for quite some time – she to talk about health lessons with Tim, and me to deliver glasses to the schools. I can make it to Tim’s site on my bike in about an hour (back in an hour and a half? Two hours?), but it’s got a pretty hard climb up a pass involved – a few weeks ago we avoided the pass by walking the river. It was gorgeous, and only took about two hours from her house to his. Without further ado, here are a few pictures of why I loved that walk:

View from the road, not too far from Molly's site.

My illustrious sitemate, Molly, humoring me as we walked along the river.

Note the goat above my head. There are lots of herds of goats around here, but sadly no goats in trees.

We stayed at Tim’s site for a day, where the glasses were handed out (although one poor girl was so embarrassed to be getting glasses she cried), we went to view Tim’s health lesson to the women’s association, went to Tim’s English Class for the teachers in the school, had lunch with the Nurse, tea at another acquaintances house (a seemingly important guy, actually, but we’re not quite sure how he’s connected to things.. we just know that he is), and then the next day we moved on to Eric’s site, delivered glasses there, and then were whisked back up the mountain by tranzit (public vans). Hope you enjoyed the pictures!


Eyeglasses Project

During our PPST (Post-Pre Service Training) in August, a 2nd year volunteer talked about screening the kids in his village for vision problems and then partnering with the Department of Education to provide a free eye exam and eyeglasses for the children with potential problems. The closest environment volunteer to me, Eric, and I decided it would be a great first project to do with our communities.

Between the nurses at the local clinics, the health volunteer in the next town over (Molly), Eric, and I, we prescreened over 1,600 kids at the elementary and middle schools in our area. It was a great way to meet the administrators and teachers in the school, and hopefully laid some groundwork for future projects.

Molly screening children at an elementary school.

Eric and I (with the help of Darija speaking PCVs) spoke with representatives from the Department of Education and the Department of Health in Errachidia, who were both enthusiastic about our project idea. We were transferred over to the clinic in the large town closest to us, arranged a date for an eye doctor to come visit our sites, and that was that. It was surprisingly easy to arrange the eye doctor visit; he came to our area for three days (one day in each town with a staffed clinic) in late November.

The eye exam.

Eric helping with in-clinic screening - this cool little device indicates if there's a curvature problem or not.

As for the glasses themselves, Eric had spoken with Lions in Sight and received a donation of glasses prior to the eye doctor visit – two children matched prescriptions they had sent, and at least one adult received a pair of those glasses. We ended up with 65 prescriptions in total, and found a different route to provide free eyeglasses for most of the kids – we received a very nice discount for 63 glasses from an association based out of Midelt.

Delivering glasses, one by one.

An added bonus to this project was that the doctor was also checking for kids and adults that may need eye surgery – I don’t have the numbers, but I know at least one child with severe vision problems and several adults with glaucoma went to a hospital for free eye surgery this past Thursday.

There are still a few glasses to be handed out, and certainly more adults in the area who have vision issues, but we set out to help the vision of the schoolchildren in our qaidat (sort of like a county). I feel we achieved our goal.