Morocco Volunteer Experience Review
Waking up on our first morning in the village we were greeted by grey skies and rain. Not what we had expected at all! The day before we had walked into the village from the trailhead, our luggage carried on mules, under blue skies.
Fortunately, today’s planned work was painting and we set off with paint brushes, rollers and paint to the houses that had been designated in need of redecorating. Our group had a huge advantage – one of our members was a fully qualified painter and decorator. Helen did a fantastic job of organising us into an effective work force, and under her guidance we succeeded in transforming the living space and a bedroom of two of the houses in the village, albeit in a colour that was rather pink! Several of our group had been to Tijhza before and had their paint splattered t shirts to prove it. Since our association with Tijhza, 21 of the villager’s homes have been redecorated.
Apart from painting, our main focus for this trip was to make a start on clearing the ground for the village’s very own Hamman. In this modern age it was amazing for me to learn that none of the houses in and around Tijhza have bathing facilities. In consultation with the Village Association last year a request was put in for Exodus to fund the building of a communal bathing house.
The persistent rain of that first day turned the village paths into streams and made for challenging conditions in getting back to the gite where we were staying. Andy was concerned that our plans for the following few days may be compromised by the unseasonable weather conditions. However, the following day, normal weather resumed and blue skies and sun returned. The rain was fortuitous in that it had softened up the ground and made the removal of rocks and stones that bit easier.
The night before we had a meeting with the men of the Village Association to discuss the work required to get the Hamman started. When we arrived at the site the following morning we were cheered to be joined by so many of the village men who had offered their labour to work alongside us to clear the designated site. I was particularly fascinated to watch them splitting a huge boulder by lighting a fire underneath it! By the end of the day we had cleared the ground of rocks and boulders and the site was level enough for building work to begin after we had left. There was a great sense of satisfaction amongst the group that night at a job well done, and after dinner we were joined by some of the men of the village and much singing ensued (not so much from the British contingent who were too shy to join in!).
The following day most of the group were taken on a half day walk by Andy, leaving a few of us behind to finish off the painting from the first day’s work. Helen pronounced she was satisfied with the standard of our work, and we joined the rest of the group for a well deserved lunch. The rest of the day was free, and I took the opportunity to take a guided tour of the village with Kathy, who has visited Tijhza on numerous occasions, to distribute some of the clothes and toys for the children and women of the village.
The entire group had brought out as much as they could in the way of clothes, shoes, medicines, colouring books and reusable nappies. The community is extremely poor, and so all of these items are greatly appreciated. Walking round the villages with Kathy was like stepping back into time. Chickens, goats and cows occupied the yard of many of the homes we visited, and although many of the homes now had running water (thanks to the water tower and pipes installed as a result of previous funding) living conditions were very basic for many of the villagers we visited. It was a real eye opener for me, and left me with a profound sense of gratitude at what we all take for granted back at home.
Since we left we’ve had an update on how work is progressing on the Hamman. Although they were delayed in starting the foundations by more severe weather and heavy rain, the plan is to have it finished by Ramadan in August. The Village Association has employed a chimney builder from Marrakech as they want it to be as efficient as possible. They are also employing a cement builder and are using two local builders to assist. The village men have been taking up the river sand using mules and are well on the way to making and baking 3000 bricks. Hopefully, our next group to visit in September will see the Hamman finished!
By Kay Palmer - Exodus HR & Responsible Tourism Manager