Uno has been a hit!: starting work at the dar shebab (youth center)

I have started my work at the dar shebab by meeting people, observing activities, workshops, and events; and teaching English. The dar shebab is open in the mornings from 10:30-12:30 and afternoons between 4:30-8 Tuesday through Sunday. My day off is Monday, which is souk day.

From what I have heard the dar shebab was built in the 1970s. This is a photo of the outside of the building:

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I haven’t heard much about the dar shebab then though I did meet the former mudir (director) of the dar shebab, Abdelmajid, and was happy to hear about the first Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in the 1990s who taught English and played sports with children and youth. One of my neighbors, Hajiba, and the current mudir, Anaas, were his English students and the other day I saw a photo of them over tea, olives, bread, and cake at Hajiba’s! I hope that I will be remembered after 20 years!

Currently Tuesday through Friday in the afternoons, youth come to the dar shebab to play soccer, basketball, or ping-pong and hang out. There really isn’t anywhere else in the town that youth can go to hang out. They have complained to me about this, saying that they go from home to school, and from school to home. Though it is different for boys and girls. I will talk about the gender dynamics in the town in another blog post. Soccer is huge here! Boys and men share the field. Chess and checkers are also available.

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I have introduced Uno and some American card games and Uno has been a hit!

playing Uno with Ashraf, Ayoub, Samira, and Huda
playing Uno with Ashraf, Ayoub, Samira, and Huda

I also have provided English homework help and am going to the dar taliba (girls boarding school) in the mornings because the dar shebab is empty.

This is the outside of the dar taliba:

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I really like going to the dar taliba because of the female leadership. At the dar shebab there aren’t any female volunteers, which is sometimes difficult. The mudira of the dar taliba, Najia; counselors, Nora, Senaa, and Raja; and girls have been really welcoming and nice. After I help the girls with homework and play games with them, I have lunch with them and the lunch ladies:

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Even though sometimes school is held on Saturday mornings, there are more formal activities than during the week at the dar shebab during the weekends. I have observed some computer classes. The dar shebab got a grant from the STMicroelectronics Foundation for ten computers and a projector. The computer boards and manuals are in French so classes are conducted in French. This month some teachers have had review sessions for the Baccalauréat, the national exam at the end of high school, which is similar to the SAT in the US.

There are two associations that use the space of the dar shebab. The first is my host mom, Nadia’s, women’s association. After the festival, they have been teaching sewing classes for a small fee.

The old mudir’s house, next to the dar shebab, is being converted into a women’s center:

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The second association is a development organization headed by the mudir and some university students, Ashraf, Suhib, and Ayoub. They got a grant from an organization in the provincial capital Benguerir called Rhamna Skills which is associated with AMIDEAST, a well-known US non-profit that promotes cooperation between Americans and the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East through education, information, and development programs, to do workshops on drugs and alcohol with youth. Some trainers from organizations in Marrakesh lead the workshops. I also have observed more organized soccer games with kids and an event where Ashraf and Ayoub dressed up as clowns and did skits and sang songs. They were so funny!

Since the day I arrived to site, shebab have asked me to teach them English. This fits under Goal 2, “World of Work – Youth will develop skills and assets to enter the world of work” and Objective 3.1 “Employability Skills- By September 2017, a total of 14,000 youth will build employability skills including vocational skills in English and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)” in the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Peace Corps Youth Development Framework. The mudir helped me to translate an announcement into Modern Standard Arabic, which I had fun posting around town at the school, Internet cafes, and hanuts (corner stores) and lots of youth signed up for Beginner and Intermediate classes.

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I currently have two Beginner and one Intermediate class. The classes focus on reviewing lessons from school and conversation skills. I am really enjoying getting to know my students. I am also teaching my students about American culture more formally. So far I have taught about American holidays. I am writing lessons on school in the US, American history and geography, American food, and American music. I get excited writing my curricula and lesson plans. I am referring to some Peace Corps and City Year/AmeriCorps guides and trying to integrate lots of media into my lessons to keep my students engaged. Almost all of my students have a cellphone and some have Internet on it and in their free time they are always texting friends and family and on Facebook.

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These activities are helping me to get to know community and youth assets and where I fit in. I am figuring out what partners I can have and what activities, workshops, trainings, and projects will be useful and sustainable during and after my 2 years of service.

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