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G U E S T S N E W S L E T T E R I S S U E 9 M AY 2 0 0 9
Compiled by Eve Branson
U N I
“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.
V I R G I N
U N I T E
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: email@example.com
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 Touch Down
If you’ve read my last newsletter you will the many appreciate hurdles we had to overcome to import 30 Cashmere goats to Morocco, a crazy idea that came to me in the middle of the night! A year ago I had a dream. Normally dreams do not materialise, but my determination kicked in and I bought 30 Cashmere goats from a local English Farmer, Pat Thorne, to be flown to Morocco.
It’s a Goats Life
So you will understand the excitement when in April I, along with a Virgin Unite film crew, flew to Morocco to be reunited with our goats. I awoke at Kasbah Tamadot, the sky blue, the sun rising, then I was off to the Moroccan isolation farm to help herd the goats into a truck. The Moroccan vet passed all 30 as fit, save one, number 8, who had to remain in isolation. I don’t know who was the happiest and most relieved as we drove them to their final destination near the vilage of Tansghart. As we lowered the ramp, all 30 goats ran and bounced to their new 5 star hotel. I wonder if they realised they have the finest view in Morocco - snow capped mountains on their left with the river below rushing and gurgling by. Lucky goats!
Beautiful bags created in Tansghart village
Goats lounging about in isolation
As you may be aware, there have been some setbacks along the way. Firstly, owing to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England, soon to be followed by the blue tongue disease affecting livestock, our permission to export the goats was declined. Eventually, all permissions to ship the goats to Morocco were granted (provided our English vet examined each goat). But the goats were oblivious to these setbacks, as Billy, whom we named ‘Richard’, had been busy! Pat Thorne, the farmer on our goat project, who is also President of the Cashmere Goat Society, not only had to select then sort out 30 of the best goats, but also had to put them into an isolation container for 3 weeks. A signed declaration by the vet was then read that all was in order to travel abroad. Finally all the documentation was ready, when a week before they were due to fly, DHL couriers announced to us they were cancelling the plane! Not only had the poor goats been enclosed for 3 weeks but by now I’d booked tickets for a film crew to be there for the goats’ arrival and organised various other help to be in Casablanca. A week went by. Frantically the Thornes and I were becoming desperate when Jonathan Blackney, our transport manager phoned to say Royal Air Maroc would accommodate our goats. They would fly via Paris and then Casablanca; relief all round although the cost would be £12,000. So come April 2009, I received a most joyful phone call from a lovely man called Brahim Bendar, House Manager at Kasbah Tamadot to say the goats had arrived safely at Casablanca and they were now tucked up and on their way to ‘Ormvah’ quarantine stations, situated near the hotel. The only hitch had been, somehow, the farmer’s wife had mis-counted and added one too many for the customs papers! We were made to feel like criminals, but none of us was put in prison and the goats were soon grazing peacefully on an isolation farm.
They arrive at last…thank goodness!!
Learning to spin
Cushion created by a student of Asni village
Tea With ‘Grandad’
The last day was my next challenge. Kenton Jones, Kasbah Tamadot’s General Manager, mentioned he’d come across a village called Imsker in the Higher Atlas Mountains which was completely primitive and undiscovered. Ok that’s me. I was off - off with my film crew. Then I started thinking… if they needed help, money would be essential and already I’d heard of a Japanese girl who thought her father might be able to come to our rescue. And to film the village would surely make any generous benefactor realise the desperate need for support. Parking the car outside Imsker we wandered through the village. The village chief known as ‘Grandad’ had been told of our arrival. Yes, I felt like the pied piper with most of the villagers and children following me up the unmade alleys, passing the odd thin cow in a doorway and scrawny hens surrounded with their day old chicks – slipping and slithering, higher and higher we climbed, with ‘Grandad’ holding my hand, until finally we came to his mud house. Stooping, we entered and went up the dark narrow steps and out to the sunny small balcony where we were graciously offered local Berber mint tea. I’d been here before but my film crew were overwhelmed in this small room as to what angle they could capture this generous hosted tea party, all the while dodging the two light bulbs dangling from the ceiling, unattached by any electricity. By now ‘Grandad’ had organised some of the teenage girls to come to a small empty room next door as I was keen to know if they wanted our help to teach them crafts and indeed they did. After seeing their handmade loom made of string and posts, we strolled through the village to see three different sites that might be for sale and suitable for a craft centre. Nothing will be possible without funds, so I hope the film we’ve just made with Virgin Unite will convey the help those Berber girls in the Higher Atlas Mountains who have nothing but a heart of gold, so well deserve. I’m committed to doing the work if there are the funds to fund it.
I left them utterly content; they are even enjoying a ready water supply as now we’ve bought water to the village. We left Asise, their new herdsman, combing their fleeces and smiling broadly, proudly in charge of the only herd of white Cashmere goats in the whole of Morocco. Being some of the only Cashmere goats in Morocco, I shall not feel happy until they produce their kids and the local brown and black goats keep well away! Meanwhile, my next job is to focus on how we’re going to breed the goats, as we weren’t able to send “Richard” the Billy who’s been so very busy up to now!
Reflections… and plans for the future
Thanks to the generosity of our friends in Los Angeles, who once a year in October host a Moroccan-themed ball in association with Virgin Unite called ‘Rock the Kasbah,’ we’ve been able to fund several projects. Not only is it a wonderful event, but the money raised has so far enabled us to lay water pipes, provide teachers for schools, create looms, build goat sheds and much more of the basic necessities. The Berbers are very special people, Piping water to the village of Tansghart generous, proud and full of love and laughter. But funds won’t stretch to yet another village – I’ve formed the ‘Eve Branson Foundation,’ so every penny spent is accounted for. Now with yet one more dream, I’m so hoping for the funds we need to create another craft house in Imsker. Please help make this dream come forth to reality and visit www.virginunite.com to see how you can help. If you are interested, I hope you get a chance to book another visit to Kasbah Tamadot where you’ll be able to see my next newsletter.
Spinning in the High Atlas
So what will the goats be used for, you ask? My aim is to teach crafts to girls at the three adjoining villages to Kasbah Tamadot, using the goats’ Cashmere wool to produce beautiful gifts that they can sell and become self supportive. Each village specialises in a unique craft; Asni in embroidery, Tansghart in knitting and crochet and Asselda in carpet making. Finding volunteers to teach the crafts is difficult but luck so often comes my way.Two lovely ladies,Ann Saunders andWendy from‘Ewe to Spinners,’ a not-for-profit organisation arrived at my English house, complete with 3 spinning wheels and Cashmere wool. Not only did they give me a lesson, but said they would volunteer to teach the girls in Asselda. To make sure the girls had all the tools they needed, we donated a large room with 8 looms for carpet weaving – my dream is that one day they will be weaving and making Cashmere carpets! And for some strange reason luck was still on my side. Patricia McLaughlin and her friend,Veronica Ferguson, decided to return to continue teaching patchwork to the 40 girls at Tansghart and Asni. The finished work is available in the Virgin Unite shop.
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