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newsletter
V I R G I N U N I T E
GUESTS NEWSLETTER ISSUE 6 FEBRUARY 2008

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.

Morocco
C O N TA 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: sue.hale@virginunite.co.uk

V I R G I N

U N I T E

N E W S A N D D E V E L O P M E N T S F R O M T H E AT L A S M O U N TA I N S

K A S B A H TA M A D OT

ASNI

ASSELDA

TIMZRA

TA N S G H A RT

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virgin unite morocco
Virgin Unite and Kasbah Tamadot
In case you haven’t seen any of the previous editions of this newsletter, let me briefly explain. Kasbah Tamadot is working in partnership with Virgin Unite – the Virgin Group’s charitable arm – to create long-term sustainable investment projects in the local communities. Our aim is to teach skills to the women and girls in the nearby villages so they can generate income for their families. Having recently returned from Morocco I can now tell you the latest news from the villages and our future aims.

Patchwork tales
Patricia and I were overwhelmed and overjoyed.We divided the girls into a morning and an afternoon session. Patricia, who had done a wonderful job back in England, cutting out squares etc. for the girls to hand sew, began to teach them how to create patchwork bags and cushions. Fate had played into our hands when a kind guest at Kasbah Tamadot, hearing of my work, said they would pay for three sewing machines. Wow, no hesitation! Leaving the girls with their heads down learning their new trade (some had never seen a needle let alone thread one), I set off to Marrakech with Brahim, avoiding a throng of donkeys, bicycles and carts, only stopping at various stalls to buy thimbles, cotton, scissors, and finally sewing machines, before I ended up lying in the midst of a drapery shop trying out a mattress for the two rooms above the workshop. As we were hungry, Brahim said I had to eat the Moroccan way.

Later, on the way to the village of Asselda, along the rough track road, we were passed by a van delivering the sewing machines and mattresses. Things perhaps happen differently in Morocco, but they certainly get things done here!

Before returning to England, Brahim drove me to the next mud built village, Asselda, passing many rural sights: ladies carrying heavy bundles of hay, heavier and larger than themselves, a mule weighed down by his master, children playing happily in the mud – not a toy or foreigner in sight. Here we found the new carpet weaving room we previously funded, perched high above the village, making the ascent somewhat treacherous, but we are hoping to provide a better and easier approach. We have found an old Moroccan man highly qualified and experienced in the art of carpet making who will teach the villagers so that they are able to produce carpets well worth buying in the Virgin Unite Gift Shop, located just behind the tennis courts off the main road at Kasbah Tamadot. After three days of glorious sunshine and total peace save for the braying donkeys and the odd cockerel crowing in the distance, I am now able to sit back on the aircraft, feeling well satisfied, having left 48 girls who are now learning a trade well worth selling. All this thanks to the generosity of the Americans and helpers of ‘Rock the Kasbah’, the ongoing contributions

Reflections…and plans for the future
On my third day in Morocco, my thoughts returned to Los Angeles and ‘Rock the Kasbah’ (a charity event held earlier in 2007 to raise money for the villagers around Kasbah Tamadot). The funds raised are to be put towards a project to bring a herd of Cashmere goats to the area so that the girls in the craft workshop won’t have to buy raw materials from outside the villages. I went to inspect various sites where we will put about 30 English-bred goats and, of course, a Billy Richard! There has been a delay owing to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in the UK, but thanks to the money made in Los Angeles, we will be able to have beautiful white Cashmere goats roaming around the craft house before they wander up to the forest beyond.

My home away from home
Taking off from Heathrow with Patricia McLaughlin, a fully trained City and Guilds textiles teacher, and her photographer husband, the rain is pouring down as we taxi down the runway. We only just get away with our heavy luggage, weighed down with materials and essentials for patchwork, which Patricia intends to use to teach the Moroccan girls up in my mud-built craft house in Tansghart. Our destination is Marrakech to see how the craft house is progressing. As there is still a ban on animals travelling to Morocco, this time there will be no white Cashmere goats travelling with us (see issue 5 for more on my project to bring a herd of Cashmere goats to Morocco). Apparently they have just completed building the craft house, which has two en-suite bedrooms for the use of tutors and/or doctors, and which lies on the other side of the valley opposite Kasbah Tamadot. It takes longer to build a home in mud, and not only is it more attractive but oh so much cooler and warmer (in summer and winter, respectively) than buildings made of concrete. When we arrived for the patchwork session, to my dismay, the house was not finished. However, thanks to my friend Brahim, House Manager at Kasbah Tamadot, we raided the local workshop and found two long planks to make a work table for the girls and odd boxes for them to sit on - but we still weren’t sure how many girls would turn up. There was no need to worry, however, as slowly the empty work room filled up with no less than 48 Berber girls!!
Unfinished craft workshop

Buying a sewing machine

A proud achievement

Lamb and tea

Along the road to Asselda

Hard at work

Well, that consisted of a crowd gathering around an oven below the pavement where 20 dead sheep were dropped and cooked. Luckily there was a table nearby where one of the larger cooked sheep was placed before us. We proceeded to devour the meat with our hands – perhaps this is what made it taste so good? But time now to return to the girls. What a joy to find that all had nearly finished their bags and cushion covers which they proudly held up to be photographed. The excitement, keenness and happiness in that unfinished room brought me more pleasure than even a gift of a mink coat! And all achieved by Patricia even though she is unable to speak a word of Berber or Arabic.

I have also been lucky to find a young English doctor and even a dentist who have volunteered to run a monthly clinic at the house – access to medical services is extremely limited in the Atlas Mountains. And, hopefully, they will be joined by my next dream – a potter to work next to the craft studio.

from Kasbah Tamadot guests and its staff, and the gift shop sales resulting from the girls’ own achievements. I do hope you will find something in the gift shop that you can take home, with memories of your time spent amongst the Berbers and the Atlas Mountains.

EVE BRANSON

Where the Cashmere goats hope to roam

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