Progress Report for February

At the end of January I wrote a post on eight projects I hoped to make progress on in February. Here’s my progress report:

1) Water Quality Assessments/Lessons with Middle School Students: As of last week, the Ministry of Health had called the doctor to inform him that all the water we tested, including samples from ditches and the river,  was “potable.” I’m really not sure how that’s possible; I asked to see the report. The doctor said he’d try to get me a copy. As for the Middle School lessons, the administrator also wanted to use the results in the lesson, so he’s waiting to see the report as well. We’re both very curious as to what the ministry tested for and what the standards for potable water are.

2) English Club at the Middle School: This is a long time coming, but I have seen the registration sheets, talked with the school administrator, and heard about it from everyone in town – Molly and I are leading are first English Club with third year middle school students tomorrow, and the club for first and second year students on Thursday. The sign up sheet for Thursday’s club is overfilled, but the sign up sheet for tomorrow’s club didn’t have many names on it – I didn’t see the names of a few girls that I know will come, without a doubt – so possibly the third year students just didn’t feel like signing up? I have no idea what the turnout will be tomorrow, but both I’m excited and nervous  – and we’re making alphabet pretzels as treats : )

3) Earth Day Planning with both Middle and Elementary Schools: I’ve pitched Earth Day ideas at the Middle School, and have a meeting planned tomorrow to discuss Earth Day with the administrator of the three Elementary Schools in my area. We touched on it before, but he wanted a solid plan. I know that there will be tree planting at the Middle School (40-45 native trees, insha’allah); everything else is up in the air. I’m also hoping to meet with the administrator of the Elementary Schools in Molly’s town – there are 6 schools in our towns combined, and 6 days in the school week. As Morocco has Earth Week, rather than Earth Day, I’m hoping we can go to a school a day and plant trees/do a trivia contest/paint a mural/etc. Things are looking good.

4) Organizing a Meeting to form a Rosemary Cooperative: A representative from my community and I went the Ministry of Water and Forests and discussed the idea of the Rosemary Cooperative further. This is a very political and personal issue for a lot of people in my area, and I’ve learned a lot more on the topic in this past month (in the last few days, especially. I was given a small lecture by another guy in my community on the recent political history of my area and why the idea of the Rosemary Coop has been presented before and failed very, very miserably). This is absolutely not a project that can be pushed through quickly, as I was originally led to believe – but hopefully, through the cooperation of a few neighborhoods and associations, the community can be led to understand how a well functioning coop can be beneficial to their lives and, most importantly, their profits.

5) Finding Women Leaders in town for a Women’s Association: This is an ongoing project. Most of the women who seem to want the building most seem least interested in starting programs before the building is had – it’s difficult in my slow Tashelheet to give them a convincing speech about working with what they’ve got before they build a fancy building with outside help. Imik simik, as they say. Little by little.

6) Meeting with new Agricultural Associations: The Associations don’t have their official stamps yet, so they’re still inactive. Hopefully they can do things (like have meetings) before the end of March.

7) Research about Solar Ovens: Sadly, everything I looked into pretty much showed that solar ovens aren’t a good option here, despite the amazing amount of sun. Solar oven projects have been tried repeatedly in Morocco and none were successful – there just isn’t any convenient technology that replicates the current baking method closely enough.  I am a little intrigued by biogas, though… it has some serious flaws (such as water requirements, and the output of a liquid fertilizer), but it works well in many parts of the developing world and may have potential here.

8) Creating a project plan for a GLOW Camp: This one got put on the backburner.

Unexpected Projects:

1) English Library Books: I had asked around about English books for the Middle School students in the fall, and this month I received a big box of books from the American School in Rabat! They’re now all part of the (or perhaps the entire) library at the Middle School. They’re all above the level of the kids, but as the kids get more exposure to English, hopefully in future years the kids might be able to read some on their own. As for now, Molly and I can certainly use passages from the books in English Club.

2) Errachidia Music and Culture Festival: PCVs will be working with various organizations at the festival – local small business volunteers will be there with their cooperatives, and health/youth development volunteers will be leading activities at a youth center close enough to the festival that it will be receiving a relatively large amount of festival traffic. I’m planning Environmental Education activities for the youth center – hopefully we’ll be talking about watershed health (and constructing a Stream Table!), pollution, and local ecosystems (including native flora/fauna).  I’m hoping to come up with fun activities for kids as well as information for adults that stop by.

3) Knowledge: This is not a project, but I feel like people have been dropping all sorts of information on me this month. I don’t know if that’s because my Tashelheet has reached some new benchmark or if it’s because people are used to me and therefore trust me more, but I feel that I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about my community’s social and environmental history these last few weeks. It feels good to actually KNOW something.

This is not an exhaustive list of everything I’ve been involved in/considered working on, but I think it’s a good list of the highlights. I’m finding motivation from nearly being at the one year in country (10 months in service) mark, and trying to brainstorm/organize projects in a way that will allow the second year to be more fruitful in terms of both capacity building (getting people to talk to each other and set goals, mainly) and actual project work (the catch on this is that I need to find a community counterpart who wants to take the reins – that’s hard to find).

While sometimes the glacial pace at which things seemed to move here annoyed me, I’m practicing patience and trying to do the best in each situation as it comes to me. When a third party was standing us up for a meeting we had very clearly made the day before, one of my Moroccan counterparts commented that by showing up prepared we had done the best we could do, and all the rest was out of our hands and did not reflect on us. I’m choosing to take that to heart, so overall I feel that February was a relatively productive month. Here’s hoping March goes even better!


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