Dar shebab and markaz update and Supporting People with Special Needs workshop

It’s been a while since I’ve posted! I was on vacation most of August and September in Spain. The village was dead with the intense summer heat. I didn’t see anyone out and about until 6pm. Lots of people traveled to see family in duars (farming villages), Marrakesh, or coastal towns (Agadir, Casablanca, and Rabat). The days I was in site, the heat was unbearable. It was hot inside my apartment and outside. The fan didn’t help. At night, the coolest place to sleep was on my kitchen floor, but I still woke up sweating and dehydrated two or three times a night.

It’s been a slow start to the school year with Eid Al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) mid September and parliamentary campaigning and elections at the beginning of October. School started last week and university this week. Here in Morocco, and living in a small village, there is quite a different pace of life than in the US!

The Mudir (Director) and other volunteers have started to organize the library at the dar shebab (youth center) though. We’re using extra grant funds to paint the room and build more shelves. I’m thrilled about establishing the first library in the village! The elementary, middle, high schools don’t have libraries. Achraf and I also presented on the Employability program this weekend at the markaz jadema alshebab (youth work/vocational center). We’re planning on starting the program this week!

img_5311Last week I was at a workshop organized by Supporting People with Special Needs Committee (SPSNC) at Peace Corps headquarters in Rabat. I brought two active youth leaders from my site with me—Mustapha, who was my Darija tutor, and Youssef, whom I teach English and tried to start a hiking/environment club with. They have had no experience working with people with special needs but expressed interest in doing so. My counterparts and I have been able to benefit from a lot of workshops the past couple of months (Employability, Library, and Supporting People with Special Needs)! As I mentioned in another post, Peace Corps Morocco has various committees (SPSNC, Gender and Development, Sexual Health, and Write On!) that mainly provide Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) and their counterparts with helpful resources. The SPSNC has Starting the Conversation, Day of Persons with Disabilities, Yoga for Everyone, and Art for Everyone toolkits.

At the SPSNC’s first workshop, we received information on intellectual and physical disabilities and strategies to work with people with special needs in general and in the classroom. We also heard about successful PCV programs and projects like building wheelchair ramps at dar shebabs and nedi newsis (women’s centers), Arts and Sports clubs, and inclusion Spring and Summer camps like the “Ability camp” I had a wonderful time volunteering at in Tata last April.

At the end of the workshop, we brainstormed projects to implement at our site. Currently, there is no one working with people with special needs in our community although there is a registered association for people with special needs. Mustapha, Youssef, and I decided we would like to contact the president of the association and offer to do language, art, and sports workshops with the kids in the association at the dar shebab or markaz once a week. I’m excited about another new project though I am worried I am doing too much! I am lucky that I have dedicated partners to work with.

There will also be a new volunteer coming to my site at the beginning of December! A new Staj (group) of Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Morocco in September and they are currently in Pre-Service Training, learning Darija and working at dar shebabs and nedi newsis. I recommended that there be another female volunteer in my site because I think there is lots of work to do with girls and women. I found her a host family to stay with the first month of her service here—the extended family of my next-door neighbors. We’ll overlap for a couple of months before I COS (close of service) in April!

The day before the workshop, Mustapha, Youssef, and I spent the afternoon exploring the medina (old city) of Rabat and the beach. It was lots of fun to get out of site with them! They had never really been to Rabat and it was funny for me to be the one showing them around.

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