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Programs with vulnerable youth

Updated: Jul 17

By Said Bennani

HAF Project Manager

New Educational Workshop and Nursery for At-Risk Youth in Fes

According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate for young people ages 15 to 24 in Morocco in 2016 was over 20 percent. This figure does not include people who are underemployed or who work in the informal sector doing menial work in exchange for extremely low wages. Societies in which young people have few or no job prospects face a greater risk of experiencing political instability, rising inequality, rising crime, and increased religious and political radicalization.

To address this concern, this month the High Atlas Foundation inaugurated a new youth educational program at the Center for the Protection of Children – Abdelaziz Ben Driss in the northern Moroccan city of Fes. At-risk youth ages 12 to 18 who live at the children’s Center have begun working on creating a new tree nursery that will be large enough to grow trees and plants for the surrounding region. The land upon which the nursery will have a restored and deepened well that will have a good supply of water, and a 70-cubic-meter-capacity water storage basin which needs to be repaired after many years of disuse.

 The land had been left fallow for a long time, so it is full of weeds and big plants. It is a new experience for the urban youth in Fes to work in a field, clearing it out to prepare for the construction of the new fruit tree nursery. The boys enjoy working in the field but since it is getting hotter now in Fes, they work up to two hours in the morning and one and a half hours in the afternoon.

The children were very excited to work on this project and asked many questions such as, “What will we do here? Why are we doing this work? What is a nursery?” The children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn were very encouraging. Our HAF staff member was happy to answer the boys’ questions and begin teaching them about HAF’s future projects in Fes. The children will participate in an ongoing workshop throughout the year that will teach them about horticulture and provide valuable vocational training which the children can use to pursue careers in agriculture, landscape architecture, botany, or any other profession that requires knowledge of how to grow and care for plants. Perhaps one day one of the children will join HAF’s staff!

Thank you, Ecosia in Germany, for your essential partnership in growing this and other nurseries in Morocco.  And thank you Morocco’s association – Experts bénévoles pour le développement – for your total dedication to the welfare of the Center’s youth.

Through HAF’s nursery project, a group of children will learn about complex irrigation systems and horticulture and will gain first-hand experience caring for plants and trees. Since the boys live at the Center and most of them have ample free time, they have an opportunity to create their own projects caring for trees. If the children give the proper care to the trees, they will enjoy the satisfaction of watching the trees grow tall and strong.

HAF will also teach the children about the environment, the role of trees in creating a healthy ecosystem, and the importance of biodynamic agriculture. Through this education, it is our hope to train the children to become active and contributing citizens and members of their society. We will practice communicating effectively and respectfully with others which is a skill that these children need to develop. Due to their difficult childhoods, some of the children only think about when they will leave the Center, but our educational program aims to encourage the youth to take an interest in developing themselves to lead productive lives.

Some of the children at the Center do not attend school and therefore lack the educational background and skills required to gain stable employment. Because these children have no hope for a better future, it was difficult in the beginning to convince some of them to join the trainings and workshops. However, after a few days of interacting with our HAF staff member, the children became more interested in participating, and they even began opening up about their own personal problems and asking for advice. Serving as positive adult role models and helping the children make good decisions during their formative years are important components of HAF’s program. It is truly a privilege to shape and influence the future of these young lives.

For the children who have a strong desire to learn about the tree nursery project, one of the most exciting experiences will be transferring the seedlings to the community and witnessing the impact of this project and their hard work. Rural farming communities surrounding Fes and schools will receive seedlings and plants from the new nursery; the plants will then grow in their fields and school children will have an opportunity to learn about trees and the environment.

It is our hope that later this year the children at the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center will see the fruits of their labor. They will be invited to tree planting events and will help distribute trees that they grew themselves from tiny seedlings to local farmers and schools. We are sure they will derive great satisfaction from seeing how all of their hard work has helped their community. One-by-one, tree-by-tree, HAF will continue to create a brighter and better future for the people of Morocco.

 Thank you so very much, Ecosia in Germany, for your essential partnership in growing this and two other community nurseries in Morocco totaling 1.17 million organic fruit trees.  Thank you to Experts bénévoles pour le développement for your total dedication to the welfare of the Center’s youth.  The mission-driven staff at the Center of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and of our many provincial partners at the Ministry of Education – are vital contributors to success.

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