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  • Elizabeth Cochran

Volunteering in Morocco

Serving at the Smile Center in Meknes, Morocco. My service learning program with the women’s empowerment center is such an enriching experience. The purpose of this program is to provide a center for women to be more independent, sew, learn, and have a space for them and their children to come to. The program does a lot for the women as it gives them a place to learn skills such as sewing, literacy classes are taught here, and events to learn more about health or their rights. The idea is not to impose independency or anything like that, but more a center to help the women with what they need and provide support as a community.

At first, adapting to the language barrier was a huge frustration, but I persevered. There were so many questions I had that I had no way to ask or understand the response. Little things frustrated me at the beginning because I had no way to communicate clearly. Doing service abroad is definitely a learning experience as there were so many things I wanted to accomplish right away and at the same time be culturally competent. 

Some time had passed at my organization and now when I look back I have accomplished a lot.  At this organization I painted walls, brought in local artists to support the community, organized activities with the kids and I am teaching English. Here I am learning new perspectives from the women, such as what women’s empowerment means to them.

From the words of a Moroccan woman “To me it is a sense of finding what I am passionate about. I want to learn and tell other women about it. I am content making these clothes, because it makes me very happy. I do not wish to have a business, just for my kids, or maybe others here in the community.” I asked what other women’s view about this was (as I could not ask them myself). They said similar things and also that they want to be educated so they can make their own decisions or just have their own hobbies. They want to learn other languages, to have better opportunities. That is what their view was on women’s empowerment.   

Coming up is an organized event for the women named “Its On Us”. This day will consist of a local speaker to talk to them about physical/mental health, informing them about their rights as women. Also, we will be doing various activities to teach them about recycling and ethical practices with their hair, makeup, skin routine so that they can all buy in the markets. And we will do candle-making.  

Here are some pictures of my organization.

I painted these flags so the children and women can learn about different parts of the world, be curious about it. (It isn’t quite done yet) 

Also here is a mural from a local artist we brought in. We got to practice and learn some calligraphy skills. ZorgArts

Posters for the kids!

Look at her writing in English. Amazing and so much progress. It is phenomenal.

Overall, there are complications and frustrations when serving abroad, but in the end it is all worth it. You learn so much about people and the community. I finally can see that I have made an impact in Morocco through service. I recently saw progress in the kids as they are beginning to write. I taught them colors, pronouns, some songs, and it touched my heart. They started to learn and I saw that what I was doing was helping them. I taught them that, me. It brought me to tears when I went back to my apartment, as I saw what I did, and also how much I love my organization. Learning from these women and serving at this organization has really opened my eyes to different perspectives and the meaning of community.

Giving back and serving is such an enriching experience. I truly love what I am doing at a Smile Center and will continuing serving in the future.

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