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V I R G I N U N I T E
G U E S TS N E W S LE TTE R I S S U E 5 S EP T EM B ER 2007
Compiled by Eve Branson
“WHAT IS VIRGIN UNITE? WHAT IS ITS AIM? WHAT DOES IT DO?”
WELL, AS RICHARD HAS ASKED ME TO HELP WITH THE LOCAL VIRGIN UNITE ENTERPRISE IN MOROCCO, THIS NEWSLETTER GIVES SOME ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS.
C O N T A C T
Virgin Unite 6th Floor Communications Building 48 Leicester Square London WC2H 7LT tel: + 44 207 664 6161 fax: + 44 207 664 6099 email: email@example.com
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NEWS AND DEVELOPMENTS FROM THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
K ASB AH TAM ADOT • ASNI • ASSE LDA • TIMZRA • TANSG HART
vir g in unite morocco
Virgin Unite and Kasbah Tamadot
A year ago I started this newsletter at Kasbah Tamadot, and during that year I would like to think that, thanks to both Kasbah Tamadot and Virgin Unite, the Virgin Group’s charitable arm, the nearby four villages have beneﬁted. In case you have not already read the past editions I will brieﬂy explain our aim, which is to teach skills to the local girls, so enabling them to generate money for their families and village without having to rely on charity. You may well know that the villages of Asni, Asselda, Tansghart, and Timzra are inhabited by the Berber tribe – different in culture and religious customs from the Arabs who make up the majority of Morocco’s population. Having just returned from Morocco I can now tell you the latest news from each village and my future aim. Let us continue our journey, travelling along another unmade, bumpy track where the river gushes past on one side, and where the snow-tipped mountain ranges are silhouetted below a clear blue sky. We soon arrive at Tansghart, another mud bricked village which you can see from the Kasbah. This village had not had help in the past until I started to teach a few girls to knit, an activity which soon became very popular! But with no room to sit, save on granny’s dried mud ﬂoor, I am having a craft workshop built for the girls to work in and two bedrooms above for teachers with craft skills that might want to earn a free holiday. Another idea I have is to ﬁnd some young doctors to organise a monthly clinic in exchange for a free night or two in the Moroccan hills. At present there is no doctor nearby.
Rockin’ from California to the Kasbah
How a chance meeting I had in Morocco led to a star-studded charity event in Los Angeles – all for the beneﬁt of the villages around Kasbah Tamadot! Some time ago my son Richard was ﬁlming the television show “Rebel Billionaire” in Morocco, and whilst the dangerous stunts were being performed, the onlookers had time to spare. I got talking to the programme’s lawyer, who asked me to tell him all about my charitable work in the area. This must have made an impact, as the result was an email from Los Angeles. In it was a proposal to organise a ball in my honour to raise money for what I’m trying to achieve in the villages around the Kasbah. I had visions of a small party to make a dollar or two and my mind raced with the thought that, at last, those 50 Cashmere goats and doctor’s clinic I dreamed of might become a reality. You can imagine my surprise when on July 1st this year, in the Los Angeles heat, Tim Souris (Chairman of Rock the Kasbah) and the auction Co-Chairs Fiona Whitney and Nicole Friedman announced to my husband and I that all 500 tickets for the ball ‘Rock the Kasbah’ had been sold. An enormous amount of thought, time and work of those three wonderful people and their dedicated committee members must have been put into making the evening so amazingly special. How, for instance, did they manage to produce celebrities such as the Moroccan Ambassador to the US, the Oscar winner Mariel Hemmingway, and the acclaimed singer Jewel, the most sparkling singer/songwriter since Joni Mitchell? Other famous guests included Buzz Aldrin, one of the ﬁrst astronauts to walk on the moon, and even my son, Richard, who had ﬂown in for the occasion. And so, thanks to the generosity of my American friends in Los Angeles, and their guarantee I can use the proceeds for my local villages, we will be able to have our white Cashmere goats after all. And, with a bit of luck, they will not only provide enough Cashmere wool for my girls to knit, but also cheese, butter, meat and baby goats (kids) which I hope will be to the beneﬁt of those deserving villagers who have proudly asked for nothing. As a direct result of the ‘Rock the Kasbah’ ball, we are forming a trust fund that I hope will beneﬁt all the adjoining villages for many years to come. I hope you are all now able to enjoy the beneﬁts of the Kasbah Virgin Unite shop. By buying the local girls’ rugs, embroidery and knitted garments, you are supporting the local villagers with well-earned money from which they will all beneﬁt.
A journey through the local villages
The nearest village to Kasbah Tamadot is Asni, where the local girls are learning how to embroider. Owing to the cramped space and poor lighting in their current workshop, we hope to re-house the 80 primary schoolchildren sharing this space. This will leave ample space and light for the girls to continue their embroidery work on materials that we hope will be to the Kasbah guests’ liking! Virgin Unite was recently able to open a shop on one of the approaches to Kasbah Tamadot, and is already selling the girls’ handmade bags, knitted hats and scarves, rugs and slippers. If you continue down past the market in Asni and cross the river, you’ll ﬁnd yourself in the simple village of mud-clad structures that is Asselda. For generations this village was renowned for its carpets, but they had only one loom which stood in a damp, dark corridor of a kindly neighbour’s house. Thanks to Virgin Unite, however, you can follow a steep rough path up to where we have built them a spacious, well-lit room big enough to take 8 looms where 16 girls can work in shifts. We are hoping to organise the very best carpet teacher so that in future you will be able to buy fantastic carpets at the Kasbah gift shop - at reasonable prices - without the hassle of bargaining in the Souk!
50 Billy Goats Gruff
Forgive me as sometimes my aims get somewhat out of control! My last wish was to locate a white Cashmere goat herd as well as the land to house and feed 50 of them, an idea that needed not only money but organisation! Realising this dream would mean the girls in the workshops wouldn’t have to buy their raw material from outside the area. On a recent visit, Brahim, the house manager at Kasbah Tamadot, took me over the river to a remote hilly area. There, up a steep grassy slope, was a hand made bamboo hut with a proud shepherd who generously invited us in for mint tea. As it turned out, yes indeed, he would love to mind 50 Cashmere goats, as at present he only has sheep roaming his land. I knew I could manage the organisation required to get 50 goats to travel to Morocco from England, but ﬁnding the money was not so easy. Virgin Unite had generously given me money for improving the local drinking well, school and carpet workshop, but I wanted to create the foundations that would make these indigenous Berbers self-sufﬁcient. As you will see from the next story, everything is now falling into place for my plan to bring the goats to a piece of land near Kasbah Tamadot.
Cashmere goats in England
Girls at work on their new looms
The ﬁnished product
Billy the goat
The goat herdsman
Perfect goat country
Over the river to Tansghart
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