newsletter

GUESTS NEWSLETTER ISSUE 8 APRIL 2009
Compiled by Eve Branson

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“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.

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C O N TA C T Virgin Unite The School House 50 Brook Green Hammersmith London W6 7BJ tel: +44 (0) 203 126 3962 fax: +44 (0) 203 126 3980 email: sue.hale@virginunite.co.uk

Morocco
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 • IMSKER

virgin unite morocco
Goats Get the Green Light
You may have read my August newsletter where I talked about bringing a herd of Cashmere goats to Morocco, so you’ll perhaps be sympathetic to all the difficulties I’ve encountered. Firstly, owing to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England, all permissions to export my 30 cashmere goats were cancelled. The goats, however, were quite unconcerned. Oh no… not with Billy, the male, in their midst, who was happily working overtime!
Mountain village Making new friends Passing the odd cow

The result was that we then had 60 goats to contend with, and if that wasn’t giving me a headache, just as we were granted permission to ship some of them out to Morocco, blue tongue disease (also affecting livestock only) developed in England. More gloom and despair… What? Just what does one do with 60 Cashmere goats and no permission to export them? Well, in desperation, I even asked the second in command to the King of Morocco to help, while at the same time chasing DEFRA (the UK government’s environment agency), who managed to unearth all the unanswered faxes we’d been sending them. Happily - joy of joys, late in November, a detailed fax arrived from DEFRA saying as long as we kept the 30 goats in an uncontaminated 40 foot container for 3 weeks, we could then fly them out! Well first we had to sell 30 of these beautiful Cashmere goats which we’ll put towards all the many expenses which lie ahead. With this hopeful news I visited Morocco once more in January to check the goats’ final destination. I’m confident they’ll feel it’s all been worthwhile after their cramped journey when they arrive to find a 5-star goat shed with all goat mod-cons AND what a view! They’ll be greeted with snow covered mountains in the distance and a gurgling river below!

Entering Imsker

A generous man

Higher and higher we climb

Where we hope to build a craft centre

Blazing a Trail in The High Atlas
While I was in Morocco with a ‘to-do’ list long enough to fill at least four days, I met my Moroccan voice piece, Abderrazzak Zoubair, who not only speaks four languages but has also been teaching English to the girls in the craft house once a week. With the help of a Kasbah Tamadot driver plus a four wheel drive, we set off to find a remote village in the high Atlas Mountains that Kenton Jones, the hotel’s general manager had first discovered. The challenge was on – higher and higher, bend after bend, whilst the road was gradually getting narrower and rougher. But with the sun out and a clear blue sky each bend bought a more beautiful picture of the valley below. Finally Kenton shouted out,“That’s it!”What, just what were we going to find? About 2,000 Berbers living in mud houses all perched on a steep hill, dotted amongst narrow paths of rough stone and mud, with only one black water pipe running through – their only means of water. At present in the village, which I later found out is called Imsker, there is only one school, but I’m not sure if many of the children attend. No cars enter this village save for a truck once a week which takes the fruit to market. We only saw one toy amongst all the children which was a broken muddy truck on three wheels. By now our driver had met a friend, Mr Hosein, who used to work at Kasbah Tamadot – a serene saintly face who offered us tea in his house. Well this wasn’t quite as you might imagine, as he led us higher

and higher, narrower and narrower, our feet slipping on the rough broken stones with the odd child gaping at us as we passed. A turkey scurried by on the way and we also passed a few scruffy chickens, scratching, ever hopeful. By now we felt like ungainly mountain goats when finally we came to his front door. Ducking, we were led up a narrow staircase to a bare room with hand made carpets made from cut up material. They were made by the locals with their only inherited skill. Next door we were led to his so-called terrace with four hand made wooden chairs, mud floor and two bulbs dangling from unattached wires. Gingerly we sat down whilst our host bought us green tea. Surely we can learn a lot from their generosity! As we were leaving his beautiful 13 year-old daughter, Jamila (meaning beautiful), and her friend appeared. We asked them if they would like us to build a craft centre and learn to make and sell crafts. Indeed, yes, they would! As we were leaving the girls bought me a present of a wooden hand-carved pot her dad had made with a plant – generosity here knows no bounds! I will cherish this forever. Slithering back down the paths, “Zoubair” I said, “We’ve got to help these girls!” First though, we must find a sponsor and build them another craft centre as in Tansghart for the girls to learn new skills. Our last path took us past orchards of apple, cherry, plums, pear and quince – how beautiful it must look in spring. At present that is their livelihood whilst the girls leave school at 13 after which they have nothing to do but hang around, perhaps

helping by driving the odd cow. Just before leaving the village I saw a half finished building on the outskirts. I have asked Zoubair to find out if it’s for sale as it would be a perfect site for a craft centre. I resolved to get back to the village soon to see how we can help.

Reflections…and plans for the future
On the way back we stopped for a picnic in the sunshine by the river before returning to give my 40 girls at Tansghart more material and ideas. With a flurry of emotions I must now return to England and set to work on my next task which is to secure the final permissions for the goats, after which we’ll concentrate on helping this remote mountain village Imsker. In my next newsletter, I hope I will be able to report that we’ve managed to pipe water into the village of Tansghart, that a clinic will be operating from the craft house once a month and that my Cashmere goats will be grazing peacefully. Above all I’ve got to find funds to build the craft house in Imsker. If you are interested, I hope you get the chance to book another visit to Kasbah Tamadot where you’ll be able to see my next newsletter!

Doctors On Call
Back in the village of Tansghart with all the girls sat happily around their tables sewing and knitting at the workshop we built, I asked if they would like a weekly medical clinic. Indeed they would! At present there is no doctor and no means of getting to the nearest one. Yes, one more challenge and hurdle to overcome, but first, with the help of Brahim, Kasbah Tamadot’s House Manager, we must consult the local Governor as I’m sure it would be more prudent to have a Moroccan Doctor visit the craft centre once a month. I’m also pleased that the girls are now so advanced in their work that Patricia McLaughlin, their patchwork teacher from the UK, has visited the craft house for the second time!
Proud of their work

EVE BRANSON

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