Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Goats For Gals Is On The Air

Last week, after much anticipation and many delays, the goats were received in Akka Ighane.  I made a visit to them and their new pen area (maintained by the Association) just to peek in and have a look and take a few photos.  We got:  1 buck, 9 mature females (3 of which are now pregnant), and 3 babies.  Quite a bit more than the original grant money was supposed to cover, so I'm very pleased.  The Association has really done an excellent job so far of fulfilling their end of the agreement, of which providing the pen area and food was a major part.  Right now they're eating a combination of barley (from the local fields), alfalfa (from local fields), some kind of prepared food mixture, and of course everyone's household food waste. Several of them also tried to eat my shoelaces right off my feet.  I have full confidence that the project is going to grow and thrive in the coming months and years.

Again, these are Alpine dairy goats, which look nothing at all like the native goats you see everywhere in Morocco.  They're much bigger, have horns (both sexes), and a much lighter, smoother coat.  And they produce a lot of milk, about 3 liters/day.  After I mentioned that I would like to sample some of the milk sometime, one of the women responsible for looking after them insisted on immediately milking the 3 goats that are currently producing and sending me and Bjai home with a bottle.  It was delicious, not nearly so heavy as straight cow's milk, and very sweet.  White gold!

The Buck (note his gruff)

When I have a faster connection soon, I'll also post the rest of the pictures on my Flickr:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Classroom Project Update

Before Goats For Gals, the other major project I worked on in my site was get a new classroom and bathrooms built for the Community Association of the village.  In a nutshell it's this:  the Association, which until a couple years ago had been fairly inactive, opened a new preschool building (occupying a small part of the Association grounds) a few months after I moved here.  The preschool has been successful, but like all public and most private buildings in the village, it lacks latrines.  As a Community Health Volunteer, one of my primary tasks is to improve community sanitation standards, often by building new latrine facilities and educating about their importance, hygienic use, and care.  At the same time, the members of the Association were coming to me with ideas for expanding their campus to build a new classroom for a women's literacy group, which was just beginning to form but didn't have a proper place to meet.  Eventually, these two projects got rolled up into one, and we got funding from USAID for constructing a new building that will house a dedicated classroom for the women's literacy group, and two new bathrooms which will serve both the preschool and the women's classroom.  We hope to have construction finished before the beginning of February.  Here's some snapshots along the way.

Front view of the Association complex

The site before construction began

Inside the preschool classroom

During construction, recently

Some Old News

Back in September, I was fortunate enough to get to help out Maureen, a PCV friend of mine, with a project in Ouarzazate, co-facilitating a 4-day workshop teaching basic journalism skills to a group of (mostly) high school age students at her Dar Chebab (youth center).  The project was a great success and got highlighted by official Peace Corps and US Embassy Press, as well as filmed for part of new series of short films called Peace Corps Postcards (though that particular postcard apparently hasn't been edited or uploaded yet, it should be coming soon and the others are worth checking out).  It was great fun, and from what I've heard, the kids involved have really been following through on the project, creating and sustaining their own journalism club that posts original reporting, in English, online.  I'm hoping to replicate the project in miniature for the Tata Spring Camp in a few months.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Important Message

Dearest Readers of this Neglected Blog,

Greetings during the holy month of Ramadan.  As you know, for the past year and a half I've been serving in Morocco as a Volunteer with the Peace Corps.  I live and work in a small desert village of 500 people in the remote deep south of the country where my official job title is that of a Community Health Educator.  That means I work in a local health clinic and local schools, speaking the native Berber dialect, where I teach about important health topics like pre- and post-natal care for women, childhood vaccinations, sanitation and hygiene, clean water, and a host of other things that we in the highly developed world often take for granted.  But my activities here are not at all limited to the health field.

There's another project that I've been working on for quite a while, which is now ready to be shared with the world and could really use your help.  One of the most important development issues in the community I serve is that of economic opportunity--namely, the lack of economic opportunity available, especially for women.  In my region, and in rural Morocco generally, it's common for young adult men to move away to distant parts of the country, or immigrate overseas, to seek employment because there simply are are no jobs available locally.  This is not the result of a temporary economic downturn but a permanent state of affairs.  Nearly all families are wholly or partly dependent on remittances sent home from male family members who move away like this, and most families barely manage to scrape by between that and the subsistence farming that is the most common occupation here. This economic arrangement is especially hard on women, as the males return infrequently, if at all, leaving the women in charge of families and households, usually without the ability to generate income for themselves.  (In Morocco, the Muslim culture makes it impossible for most women to work outside the home because it would require them to publicly interact with men in an unacceptable way.)

Working together with my community Association, we've developed a project to help local community women (like widows, divorcees, and unmarried women) generate income for themselves, to empower women and promote economic independence and self-sufficiency. We call it "Goats For Gals," and it's modeled on many successful projects in Morocco and other developing countries.  By giving targeted women in the community dairy goats, we will allow them to create their own small businesses selling goat milk.  The women will also receive comprehensive training in dairy goat care and management.  Livestock ownership, like dairy goats, is an especially suitable form of business enterprise for women in rural Morocco, because the goats can be managed from home and will eat just about anything you put in front of them.  Goat milk is always highly in demand, and can also be used to create value-added products like cheese. The project is all mapped out and ready to go; all that is lacking is the capital to buy the goats.  We need to raise about $4500 to be able to purchase the target of nine high-yield Alpine dairy goats.  That's where you come in. 

The Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) is a way for Peace Corps Volunteers to fund crucial projects in the communities we serve by raising capital from the private sector in the United States.  Individuals, companies, or any type of organization can contribute and become a part of the Peace Corps mission of promoting world peace & friendship--and sustainable development--one community at a time. 100% of contributions go directly to the specified project in the community served.  The money does not pass through government hands, there's no overhead or middle-men, etc etc.

Once the project gets fully funded, I plan to track its progress on this blog with stories, photos, and videos, so you will be able to directly see the impact of your contributions.  You can read an additional summary of my project and contribute directly online with a credit card in a few easy steps simply by clicking here.  You can contribute in any amount, and no contribution is too small (or too large).  All donations are 100% tax-deductible.

If you'd like some more information about the project, or anything to do with the Peace Corps or Morocco, I'd be happy to respond to you. Thanks in advance for your support.

Click here to contribute. It's fast and easy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Scripture for Father's Day

"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.

The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.

Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophesies:

Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent in their instructions:

Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:

Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:

All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.

There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.

And some there be which have no memorial; who perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.

But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.

With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.

Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.

Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore."

Ecclesiasticus 44, KJV (Italics mine)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reported Without Comment

Seeing she’d made no impression on me, my mother was incensed.  “In a country where men and women can’t be together socially, where they can’t see each other or even have a conversation, there’s no such thing as love,” she vehemently declared.  “By any chance do you know why?”  I’ll tell you: because the moment men see a woman showing some interest, they don’t even bother with whether she’s good or wicked, beautiful or ugly—they just pounce on her like starving animals.  This is simply their conditioning.  And then they think they’re in love.  Can there be such a thing as love in a place like this?  Take care!  Don’t deceive yourself.”

-The Museum Of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
[set in 1970's Istanbul]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Not Dark Yet

Reports of the death of my blog are greatly exaggerated.  It is merely in hibernation; look for updates and changes soon, I promise.  Inch'allah.

In the meantime, I want to hear about your favorite non-traditional, non-standard, non-classic, or otherwise offbeat Christmas movies (which can be any movie set during the holidays).  These three jump out for me:

-Eyes Wide Shut

Any more?