Updated: Jul 17
By Manon Burbidge
As the sun sets on my three months with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech, I return to the experiences I have had, the lessons I have learned and the people I have met.
My first two weeks were jam-packed with field visits and outings to diverse settings and sites in Morocco; a children’s rehabilitation centre in Marrakech, a women’s cooperative in Aboghlo, schools in Taguelft, a carbon monitoring site in Anamer, a walnut-processing factory in Asni… It was amazing to have the opportunity to talk to people, find out their opinions on development and climate change, to listen to their hopes for the future, and to see the impact that HAF has had on their livelihoods.
I was also lucky enough to join HAF for their experiential conference hosted in Tahanout, where the staff conducted workshops on their field methodologies, and invited US university professors held short lectures upon their ideas for future improvements and innovations for the Foundation.
After this, I was more office bound, working on translations, spreadsheets, report and letter-writing, articles and blog posts. My key project has been translating and editing a book, originally in Hebrew and French, to English, on the Moroccan Jewish community and its wonderfully culturally-rich cemetery in Essaouira. I also published an article for the first time, co-authored with Dr Yossef, on alternatives to mass migration, positing participatory development as a potential solution.
Being an intern at HAF is never boring – there are plenty of opportunities for getting involved, both in a hands-on fashion and with more traditional office-based work. I have learned a lot from being here – don’t be afraid to ask for help or to question why, how to negotiate and discuss ideas when you don’t always agree, but also more generally, gaining an insight into the everyday workings of a small NGO. Having come from UNDP Ukraine prior to this internship, it was great to partake in the spectrum of international development, from such a large international organisation to a grassroots one, some of whose projects are funded by UNDP.
Being a Human Ecology student, we have a lot of training in social science theories related to the core themes of culture, power and sustainability. It has been insightful to see how these are applied in a real, gritty, human situation, and where theory sticks or where the books are thrown out of the window in practice!
By good fortune, a couple of Moroccan public holidays coincided with my internship, allowing me to travel a little and see more of the beautiful country. My particular favourite was watching the sunrise over Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, near Ouarzazate.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the fantastic staff, my wonderful colleagues for taking the time to answer my questions, attempting to teach me Darija, and being such good friends.