Oh what a week it’s been...a busy one...kept me from my blog, so here’s an update....
First of all it was good to get back to my place last Monday and sleep in my own bed! But that didn’t last long, as I was back out of town on Thursday.
Before leaving again, I had a chance to write up a report (and have it translated to Arabic scrip) on my observations and learnings from the Casablanca expo and shared it with the Coop. I’ve decided that this way I’ve documented the input in their own language and what they do with it is their decision. I also had a chance to say goodbye to Nathan, as he’s on his way back to the US-finished w/his 2 years of service in the Environment Sector.
Then it was on to Sefrou on Thursday night...a fun evening w/Jess-she generously lets me stay at her place when I’m in town. I met up w/Mina from PC Rabat on Fri morning for a meeting w/the Ministry Delegate I report to. It was good to have Mina there, not only for the interpreting, but since she’s Peace Corps staff, that facilitates better discussions of some of my agenda and that of the delegate (mundub). Found out that the budget to renovate the building next to the Coop building has been approved-Hamdullah! That will be a big opportunity, as the Coop space is very crowded with the weaving looms. There’s no place to display their products for the few people who wander in to see them. In addition, he mentioned that he’d like me to work with other artisans in REK to follow up on training that the Regional Artisana will be providing. I was excited to hear about this new initiative for a couple reasons. First, that they’re going to be providing training to others here in REK and that expanding my time and energies beyond Adwal will be supported.
Mina and I returned to REK Saturday morning in time to meet w/the Coop president, and again I took advantage of Mina’s PC role to help address misconceptions that could lead to issues.
Metalan (for example): Coop President talked w/us about getting a PC grant to furnish the new building when it’s renovated. First of all, I thought the mundub’s budget incl. furniture, yak? She doesn’t know. Second, PC doesn’t provide its limited grant $$ for capital equip-only for things like training, to build sustainability. Despite my having shared this in the past w/the pres., she didn’t believe me, and this could have been an issue. Now (Inshallah) she understands that we can work together on a grant submission, (no promises of funding), but it must focus on a training initiative for the Coop. Now she’s focused on getting Coop member input on training priorities. Hamdullah-that’s progress!
In addition, I used Mina to help reinforce the importance of two other things-succession planning and learning the computer. First the succession planning. As I mentioned, only 2 members currently travel to Expos since they pay their own food and lodging (found out the Coop does pay transportation) and they’re the only ones who can afford to do this. In addition, the mundub apparently encouraged them to send the 2 who are most experienced. I’m trying to help them think about who will replace them in the future. Who should they start to groom to take over responsibilities? Who should attend the expos along w/one of the experienced members? Everything is falling on the shoulders of the 2 lead members and they need to let go and get the others more involved in the business of the Coop. This is not an easy concept and I recognize that it’s a scary one, as it’s their baby. However, it will not grow if they rely on 2 members to do all the business. Second, the computer. They’re quite content to have me do all the computer work and say they don’t have time to learn it themselves. I’m working to get them to understand that my role is to model their future computer use, to help them see/understand/learn what they can do to improve their business and TRANSFER those skill so they are taking on that work themselves before I leave-not to just do the work for them. They already have a couple of young, new members who know how to use the computer and are literate. I’ve asked the Coop Pres. if I could start training one of them.The mundub says he’ll give us access to the computer consultants they’ve contracted with to build the Regional Artisanat website. We’ll see. Inshallah. Thanks Mina for the help w/interpreting and reinforcing the PC goal of building sustainability.
So now we’re up to Sat afternoon and gathering for the trek to Beni Mcoud. And what a gathering it was! Steve-Environ Volunteer has wanted to get the women of his duar going w/an Assn or Coop, as they’ve said they want to be more productive, make money, etc. So Madeline from Ben Smim and one of her medicinal herb Coop women came to share what they’ve done. In addition, I brought Fatima from Adwal to share her vast experience in starting and growing Coops and Assns. We also had the good fortune of Amina Yabis-an incredibly energetic “can-do” woman from Sefrou join us, Fatima Kamal who is bright, industrious and very well connected, and another woman from REK who just started the REK Women’s Assn and is originally from Beni Mcoud came along. Climb aboard the transit and let’s see what happens. Hamdullah we have to meet in the school, as 20-25 women have shown up! And at the end of an energetic and inspiring one hour meeting, the women decide that they are going to form a Coop, the membership and leadership is determined and the initial paperwork signed. We even overheard people talking on the transit back to REK on Sunday about it-pointing to us and talking about the new Coop that is being formed. It will take a lot more than enthusiasm to be successful, but they’ve taken the first important step. Attended the birth of a bled Coop. Hamdullah.
And just for a taste of transits, I should mention just how you get to Beni Mcoud. There are 2 transits each day from the duar, one at 6:30am and one at 2:30pm. It returns to Beni Mcoud from REK around 2-3pm. That's it. Takes about 1/2 hour to travel the dirt, rutted road about 10km. It's a van w/o seats-just benches along the sides and front. Stuff is stacked in the middle and serves as additional seating. They "stuff it" with as many people as need to go, as there are no alternatives. These transits are also called "stuff-its" in other duars. This was Mina from PC Rabat's first time taking such transport. Welcome to our world.
Saturday night, the 6 of us sat around (after feasting on Steve’s host sister’s incredible cooking) in Steve’s host family’s home and giggled, told stories and jokes-like a women’s sleep over-such fun! Fortunately the sun came out on Sunday and we all went on a fabulous long walk all around the hills and valleys of Beni Mcoud. Picking natural herbs that Steve’s sisters use to cook with, checking out the 3 natural springs in the area that provide their water (no running water out there), and checking out the land Steve wants to build on, as he’s staying there after he’s done w/Peace Corps this month. An absolutely delightful day. Hard to break up the party, but it must be done...back to our sites and our work, but feeling good to be part of the process of helping the women of Beni Mcoud start down the path to reaching their goals.