Fall at the dar shebab: Darija tutoring, English and Spanish classes, grant writing, and Life skills and leadership training

I can’t believe it’s November! Time flies. Soon I will have served in the Peace Corps (PC) in Morocco for one year! It’s fall in Morocco, and it hasn’t felt like it until this week. It’s started raining and the weather is in the 50s and 60s. The ground is no longer dry but wet and muddy. There are no changing colors and falling of leaves like in New England, and I miss apple picking, apple cider, and apple donuts! I put away my summer clothes and took out some winter clothes. I also bought a comforter and need a water heater and rugs. Houses are not insulated in Morocco so it is cold inside and out.

Darija tutoring

I finally found a Darija tutor! He’s my friend Mustapha who is 26 and is studying English at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh. He was a counselor at the children’s summer camp in my site and also teaches English Baccalaureate (exam at the end of high school like SAT) preparation classes from January-June. We meet once a week for two hours. I normally come to class with lots of questions for him. I am expanding my vocabulary, practicing dialogues, and working on my pronunciation through tutoring. I’m really glad he could make the time in his busy schedule to help me!

English and Spanish classes

I opened registration for English and Spanish classes mid September. This time I welcomed 15-30 year olds instead of 15-21 year olds like I did in the spring and capped class sizes at 15 and not 10 people. I want to reach more youth, especially the unemployed. During registration I conducted a Language Proficiency Interview to determine students’ language level. Almost 100 people showed up so I actually had to close registration early! The classes will run 10 weeks, one class per week, and I will reopen registration in January. Mustapha recommended I give students a certificate for 100% attendance and participation, because certificates mean a lot in Morocco.

characteristics of youth in Morocco
At the Life skills and leadership training, we did an activity portraying youth in our sites

Among those registered 30% are girls and 60% are boys and young men. About 50% are high school students and the other 50% are university students, vocational school students, working or unemployed. Their motivations for taking English vary from high school students who want to review the English learned in school and prepare for the Baccalaureate exam to university and vocational school students who use English textbooks in their studies. And, of course, there’s always the incentive to be able to communicate in the global language!

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Despite the high registration only 50% showed up for class! They have a busy schedule in school and university! Classes are held Monday through Saturday and students study over seven subjects at once! The weekend is Saturday afternoon and Sunday. It was tricky finding days and times to hold my language classes. Also girls do not show up if it is after dark, which now is around 6pm, so I have offered to walk some girls home.

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Right now I have two Beginners Low, one Beginners Mid, and one Intermediate English classes and one Beginners Low Spanish class. I’m busy preparing engaging classes each week! My counterpart Youseff is assisting with the Beginners Low classes. He is 21 and is also studying English Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh. My expectation is that with experience in curriculum and lesson planning, class management, etc, he’ll be able to take over the classes when my PC term is up.

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Grant writing

In October I wrote a PC small projects grant requesting sports equipment and board games for the dar shebab. Through the PC you can apply for two types of grants: the Small Project Assistance (SPA) program and the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). SPA funding comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and PCPP through private sector donations. I applied for a PCPP grant for funding a donation from King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Through conversations with the Mudir (director) and volunteers at the dar shebab, I found out that there used to be ping-pong and chess clubs but supplies were worn out, broken, or stolen. They said they’d like to revive these clubs and create more teams, like a Frisbee team–something I found out is super popular! Through the grant, we’ll establish rules, create sign in/out sheets, and hold workshops on club formation and sustainability.

We also listed the needs of youth in Morocco
We also listed the needs of youth in Morocco

Life skills and leadership training

The Peace Corps holds several trainings throughout the year, including library, entrepreneurship, and employment workshops, all developed by PC or PC Morocco for Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) and their counterparts. At the end of October I attended a PC life skills and leadership training in Marrakesh. I went with a dedicated volunteer at the dar shebab and active member of several associations called Souhaib. He is 22 and is in his second year of studying Islam at Cadi Ayyad University. During the training, we went over the needs of youth in Morocco, characteristics of youth in Morocco, stages in adolescent development, characteristics of successful facilitators, and strategies for classroom management in Darija and English. We also planned and implemented a Self-confidence session in the Life skills and leadership manual and received feedback. Souhaib and I are hoping to begin the program at the dar shebab in January 2016.

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Souhaib receiving his certificate of participation in the training from the PC Morocco President, Ellen Paquette

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I am feeling really good about my work at the dar shebab! I am so thankful that Mustapha, Youseff, and Souhaib as well as the Mudir Anaas are active collaborators. This is the result of many months of building relationships and trust as well as community assessments in my site. I look forward to developing more programs and projects with counterparts over the course of my service! My next project is to work on a program for recycled arts and art history classes, and another grant to obtain materials and supplies.

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All of the participants in the training!
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