Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day.

-- E. B. White

Here is a little about what keeps me busy.

Ryada (Exercise): Leading these women to move, sweat and stretch never ceases to make my morning. Same goes with the 6am walks! The most exciting part is seeing them show off their slimmed figures. Honestly, I cannot tell the difference. But they feel healthier. So I play along. They've asked me questions about my diet. Hopefully I can start the conversation with them about nutrition. Exercise is only half of the healthy lifestyle equation.

Teaching English: By popular request, I've started English classes. It's unexpectedly fun! The ladies get out their pen and paper. They're ready to learn, speak and write English! I have their full attention, especially when I have a handout. They've even asked for homework and quizzes! I have such respect for each one of them. This has motivated me to push my Darija. Since September, learning Darija has been that mandatory chore. I didn't approach it with a hungry appetite for desire to be "filled up." This is great. I'm learning. They're learning... I hope.

Building a Child Care Center: The women are wonderfully enthusiastic, unlimited in motivation and determination. However, they are strictly bound by childcare responsibilities and meager resources to ease this burden. About a third of the members cannot always come to the nedi because of childcare responsibilities. As a result, they cannot fully take advantage of the nedi's activities. Other times, these women bring their children, nieces and/or nephews to the Women's Center. On average, 16 children regularly accompany their mothers/aunts to Arabic literacy classes and Sewing/Needleworks class. We do not have the proper capacity or environment to look after these children. Instead, their cries create a disruptive learning and working environment. Lastly, women who do not attend overwhelmingly express childcare responsibilities as their reason for staying at home. Inshallah, we will finish the Women's Center roof, creating a healthy learning environment for both women and children.

Now comes the million dollar question- how can we finance such a project? Pieces are slowly falling into place. Last month, the Association President met a representative from Global Fund for Women. There's a potential donor! We are also hoping to use Peace Corps' SPA grant as a third donor. I've talked to these women about the importance of community contribution and ways to muster up cost-sharing. Community financing is coming... slowly. A nearby eco-tourism company donated a small sum. A community leader has offered to purchase the brick. Trainers for necessary workshops have agreed to donate their time. We're in the process of securing a generous soul to offer his car and time in order to transport building materials from town to the Women's Center. We're reviewing budget items line by line. Perhaps this can amont to twenty percent!

The best part of this whole project is the fact that the Association officers want to write the grant themselves. My tutor knows someone whose job is to offer grantwriting trainings. Is this not too perfect? Talk about grassroots development! This is exciting. I cannot wait to cross off all the pre-planning to-dos. I cannot wait to start start.

Expanding Product Line: Since its foundation in 2003, the Association has attended six craft fairs to test and sell their products. Five women have left the village, unaccompanied by a male relative, to attend business workshops. Furthermore, Planet Finance MAROC has conducted four workshops in this village. These women have gained an array of business skills, including costing and pricing, product development, marketing, microfinance and customer service. However, they still do not have a sustainable relationship with a boutique. And how to you find new markets? You create new products to reach new consumers! I'm currently working with two women to expand our product line. We make beautiful bracelets. Why not make other forms of jewelry?! We make adorable soap bags. Why not make other types of bags/purses?! They both have had rough starts. Our goal is to have polished samples by mid-May. (I will be traveling to Rabat for Peace Corps purposes. PCVs are a great test market!) I go between pushing these ladies and sitting back, relaxed. I want to enjoy their world as it is as much as shake things up. It's a great mix!

Goal #2 and #3: Two out of Peace Corps' three goals are that of cross-cultural exchange. And this is what sets PCVs apart from other development workers. We live among the people with whom we work. And my site has shown me immeasurable love. From prolonged greetings to bottomless cups to mint tea, it's great being their little American PCV.

** Please note that I am the third consecutive SBD PCV in my site. There is a strong history of extrodinary growth among these women and Association. I credit the diversity of projects and my busy schedule to these ladies and the previous work of PCVs.


Val said...

Hi Joy, my name is Val, a PCV in Moldova, coming to Morocco June 3rd with my boyfriend, would love to meet you if you have time, please email me back either way. Thanks a lot!

B said...

Wow! that's a pretty full plate. I love the plan for a child-care center ... that could transform so many lives. I am in awe of all that you're doing, lady!