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Updated: Jul 27

Letter from HAF’s President to former Peace Corps Volunteers of Morocco

I am writing to you from Mohammedia where the High Atlas Foundation created in partnership with Hassan II University the Center for Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development.  From here we manage the different field projects of HAF and conduct participatory training workshops with students, local government representatives, and civil and community leaders.  For each of us and in as many ways, the Peace Corps and Morocco have come to mean so much.

Yet with the rises and falls of life, not all of us have been so incredibly fortunate to have made it this day.  The High Atlas Foundation has memorialized two from among us who have passed too soon, too young, and with so much love left behind. In December 2003, RPCV Kate Jeans-Gail ‘03 passed with her mom, Victoria, in a car accident in Oregon.  This past February 11th, RPCV Tom Tolen ‘82 left us suddenly in his home in Antioch, California.  Their families know that the RPCV Morocco community shares in their loss and grief.

 Kate Jeans-Gail Tree Nursery Memorial was created in 2006 to embody her ideals.  Her Memorial is currently building its third community-managed nursery with villages neighboring the Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ouarzazate (Kate served near Ouarzazate).  Most of the saplings for the nurseries now come from fruit trees (walnut and cherry) from earlier HAF distributions – and they have taken root, which means that local people can replenish their orchards without any additional purchases.  Our next goal is to do the same with almond and fig (with a nursery of 80,000 saplings) – and achieve community self-sufficiency with trees that do not require the application of pesticides.  In Kate’s memory and example, HAF and its Moroccan and U.S. friends and partners are building a model for the country.

Tom Tolen Tree Nursery Memorial is created to socio-economically and environmentally benefit the villages neighboring the Tazekka National Park, near where Tom served.  Building on experiences and lessons learned, the initial launching of an 80,000 cherry and walnut saplings planted in Tom’s Memorial will on average double household incomes after 8 years, benefitting approximately 10,000 people.  His Memorial will strengthen the environment – an abiding ethic of Tom’s – by preventing soil erosion, offsetting carbon emissions, and decreasing local people’s dependence on the fragile natural resources of the Tazekka National Park by creating new and efficient income sources.

The investment of $50,000 is required for each Memorial to achieve its goals.  On average, $25 from each of the approximately 4,000 RPCVs from Morocco will make it happen.  Let’s do it, and give thanks again to Morocco, the Peace Corps, for all that we have every day, and for the bond we have with each other from shared experience that we can yet make stronger in the face of loss.

As you may know, I and other RPCVs who served in Morocco began the High Atlas Foundation in 2000 as a way to utilize relationships and knowledge gained during Peace Corps service for the continued benefit of the Moroccan people. I am proud to say that HAF’s outside audit last year showed a mere 6 percent of its budget went to its overhead.  HAF is a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a registered Moroccan association.  We are here to serve.

How to Contribute to Kate’s and Tom’s Memorials Your contribution to the Kate Jeans-Gail Memorial and the Tom Tolen Memorial helps local communities purchase almond, cherry, fig, and walnut saplings for the nursery and supports workshops that transfer important technical skills in fruit tree agriculture.

You can make a secure online donation or by sending a check to the address below.  When donating online please send us an email to let us know the Memorial you would like your donation directed to, and when donating by check simply indicate the same information on the check memo line.In 2006, HAF launched its One Million Tree Campaign and has planted with its community partners 310,000 fruit trees and saplings in five provinces of Morocco.  HAF’s trees and saplings have an approximate survival rate of 80 percent.  A key partnership of HAF is with Morocco’s High Commission of Waters and Forests to work with villages neighboring the country’s ten national parks.  Here you can read about HAF’s 2011 community initiatives.

On behalf of the High Atlas Foundation, a heartfelt thank you to the family and friends of Kate Jeans-Gail and Tom Tolen for your confidence in us by bestowing this most significant responsibility.

In friendship born from Peace Corps Morocco,

Yossef Ben-Meir ‘95 President of the High Atlas Foundation

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