Special Volunteer Trip - May 2012
Our volunteer trip back in May 2012 achieved an enormous amount (yet again) at our various community projects in Morocco. In Tijhza, progress was made on the Hammam and although proceeding at a Moroccan pace, the group had a dramatic effect and helped inspire the villagers to get closer towards a functional state. The hamman will be one of the most important buildings in the village both from a physical standpoint and a community aspect so we hope this will be ready for our visitors to enjoy in 2013! Another long term objective of our volunteer trips in Tijhza is providing the village with permanent concrete channels, crucial to the village’s irrigation system.
Over the years, our work has extended to other remote Moroccan villages such as Tafedna, near Essaouira. After a scenic tour through Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the volunteers were ready to get stuck in at the end of their holiday and completed painting on exterior and interior of school, as well as working on the new school toilets.
Special Volunteer Trip - April 2012
Andy recently visited Tijhza to see how developments were coming along with the Hammam we have invested in for the last 2 years. As many homes in the village do not have bathing facilities, common health problems arise frequently and are much worse without immediate medical attention. This Hammam (Moroccan steam bath) will not only help local hygiene but will also provide a self-sustainable income for many members of the village. Please watch the latest videos from Andy.
Special Volunteer Trip - May 2011
Our latest community work in Morocco includes:
- Redecorated 2 village homes (total is now 21 village homes)
- Distributed an incredible amount of materials to the various villages (approx. 200kgs)
- Started clearing the ground to build the Hammam
- Funds raised for ongoing medical contingency fund that paid for 2 urgent operations
- Optician evaluated many villagers and 100 pairs of glasses distributed
- Pre-school receives excellent attendance set up in a room renovated 2 years ago
- Fatimah, who had a lifesaving operation paid by Exodus many years ago, now creates her own jewellery and carpets to sell onto clients
- Visited new project in Tafedna near Essaouira
An Exodus team made up of 6 volunteers from our special volunteer trips (AMO) rowed for 6 hours on the indoor rowing machines in Shepperton to fundraise for our Tijhza Village project. Overall, our team raised GBP1000 towards the project and other teams including Baraka Community Partnerships raised the remaining GBP5500 so well done for a fantastic effort!
Water Tower update - 30th July 2010
Some great news!! Warawikt, a village part of the Tijhza Valley community, can now enjoy running water from their homes thanks to the new water tower Exodus helped to build. The villagers have paid for some taps and thanks to our recent volunteer trip, pipes have now been fitted to those poorer homes that have never previously benefitted from running water in their home.
Our next volunteer trip to Tijhza is on the 3rd October and costs £749 (including flights) and £529 (excluding flights) can be booked via our groups department - please contact Vanessa Fowler to reserve your place. We hope to be working on further renovations at the school and continuing the various schemes including providing beehives and tree planting. We hope to get our hammam project started soon, which should help provide employment for many villagers in the future.
Posted on website August 2010
To find out what our volunteers think, see the latest reviews from Holly Foat - I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on (May 2010) and Peter Florence (April 2010). For further details, see Volunteer Trips section below.
Watch the 'Volunteer in Tijhza' video (hosted on YouTube)
Special Volunteer Trip - 25th April 2010
Our departure in April this year saw 16 Exodus volunteers accompany Andy to Tijhza in our most successful trip yet. In three days of hard graft the group achieved the following:
• Conducted a medical clinic (we had 3 nurses and a doctor on the trip) viewing over 100 patients and providing educational workshops for the school children
• Planted 220 trees in conjunction with the Forestry commission and their reforestation programme
• Painted 3 school classrooms
• Fixed 15 leaks in the village's water pipe system
• Renovated 2 rooms in an elderly villager's home
• Additionally we helped promote some income generation schemes by purchasing locally made jewellery and carpets, and our regular Bee Keeping expert volunteer provided further training on Bee welfare and wax/honey products
On an ongoing basis the water tower that we helped to fund is built and ready to open its taps so, this summer for the first time in living memory, the village should hopefully not suffer from water shortages. April also saw the completion and installation of some desperately needed new school windows which were funded by an Exodus walking group to the village earlier this year.
We have achieved many of our goals already this year but there is still plenty to do - particularly regarding medical care, the school and environmental issues. The support of Exodus clients is essential if we are to improve the quality of life in Tijhza so please continue to donate your funds and consider joining us on one of our biannual volunteer departures. The next trip will part on October 3rd where we can guarantee that you will experience a rewarding holiday with a difference.
Thanks to all donations received, we have finally been able to start work on a new water tower for the villagers of Tijhza. Once completed, this will hold enough water for the majority of the village so we can feed running water through to those who are unable to walk to collect the water. Only a handful of homes have the luxury of running water and we hope our ongoing water provision and sanitation for the villagers is complete by the end of 2010.
Our beekeeping scheme has unfortunately suffered from a bad crop this year therefore our plans for a self sufficient income generation have not yet been reached. Your donations, however could help us buy more hives in order to continue expanding this worthwhile environmental project. Our expert beekeeper will soon be teaching the locals how to make products from the wax, which should start providing the vital income for our Berber beekeepers.
Exodus has also been working with the local mayor (Caid) for the last few years in order to get a medical facility closer to the seven villages that make up Tijhza Valley. Previously it was a 4 hour walk to the closest doctor, that many simply could not do. We are very pleased that now the local government has setup this facility in Anmiter - a one hour walk from Tijhza and a shorter distance for its neighbouring villages. Thanks to the local doctor who will visit the area twice a week, villagers are already benefitting from some much needed medical attention.
We had another successful visit to Tijhza in September, where our hardy volunteers helped prepare two school classrooms and paid for new windows to be installed in time for Winter. They also managed to set up goalposts in the village football ground, assisted by the local children of course. If you would like to help with our ongoing work in the Atlas Mountains, then please sign up to our next volunteer trip led by Andy Mckee on 25th April 2010. Package price is £659 and Land only is £539 - please contact our groups department for further information.
Our successful volunteer trip in the spring 2009 made some excellent progress this year with some much needed renovations on some of the poorer homes in Tijhza Village. Although painting seems a simple task, villagers believe it is a real skill and without the money to even buy a paintbrush, client efforts were very much appreciated. Progress has also been made with small projects led by Exodus clients: Diane has helped the local beekeepers. Thanks to the medicinal properties and the value of honey, we hope beekeeping will be an invaluable income for the villagers (see above link to her article). Another loyal volunteer, Richard, is finding an environmentally friendly way to provide compost toilets to as many village homes as possible, which has always been an issue due to lack of water (see above link to article).
• 2 major operations funded for villagers see (Fatimah's Story in Project Updates section below)
• Transport, drugs and Doctors fees provided for various villagers
• First Aid post created in the village
• Potential Doctors Surgery renovated
• Doctors living quarters built
• Much needed vitamins supplied to children, pregnant women and the elderly
• Over 100 pairs of reading glasses supplied to village elders
• Educational, sporting and dental supplies provided for both Tijhza and Igriss schools
• Wall built around Tijhza school, gates and goal posts provided
• Toilet block built and various improvements to Tijhza school include painting, sinks provided, water pipes, windows and doors repaired etc.
• “Sponsor a Tijhza School Child” programme launched by local family
• Set up a small school library
• Two classrooms renovated at Igriss school. Inspired by our efforts the educational authorities have since completely renovated the whole school.
• A large supply of clothes, shoes and food parcels for the village poor
• Every home in the village provided with a low energy bulb for it's living room
• Community Centre built and 2 looms provided to encourage carpet making enterprise
• Tourists encouraged to take meals and tea at village homes
• Assistance in promoting recycling facilities
Responsible Tourism is alive and kicking! Just ask the school kids and villagers of Tijhza, a small village tucked away in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco. Exodus has been visiting this remote mountain hideaway for over a dozen years now, however, it is only in the last few years that our regular visits have started to make a significant contribution to the lives of the villagers.
A water pipe, school toilet block, clothes and various school supplies have all been contributed by Exodus and it's clients in the past, but now we are moving up a gear after consultations with the school and the Village Association with whom we are in partnership.
Our current projects on the go focus around providing the community with a much needed Doctor and Medical Facility. In the interim, we are providing vital medication and assistance to some of the village's most needy. The two schools in the area have benefited from improvements and renovations, and our 2nd Volunteer trip is about to depart to further this valuable work.
Our environmental commitments include the commencement of a reforestation programme and the provision of a low energy bulb for each of the Village's 220 houses.
If you wish to help us achieve these goals please donate via the link on the right or if you are interested in joining us on our third volunteer trip departing 28 September 2008 (departure code: TMP839S) then please contact Vanessa Fowler
• Medical Support provided for 4 villagers for various serious conditions
Meetings with Village Association re:Rubbish/Recycling - support provided to improve rubbish collection and disposal and to develop recycling
• Progress the long term aim of providing a much needed medical facility and Doctor for Village: Meeting with regional Chief who approved the proposal. A house has now been built by the village for a future Doctor to stay in (a big stumbling block). Current status: Regional government are behind the project and are currently sourcing a Doctor. Funds are still needed for equipment and supplies for the medical facility. (approx £500 required)
• Computer provided to commence the aim of installing a computer room for the school (most Moroccan schools have computer room but Tijhza doesn't). One Computer costs approx £60.
• Support given to Sunday educational club for young women (women are neglected educationally after school at 14 years of age). (£30 would provide a package of material for clothes making).
• All school children provided with toothbrush and toothpaste. This is a regular provision by the project as dental problems here are acute. (£10 would cover one class).
• Half the village provided with one low energy bulb for their main living/eating/sleeping room. (approx. £150 needed to fund the rest of the village).
• Village first aid/medicine programme started.
• Food Hampers provided for the poorest members of community (e.g. one hamper costs approx £10)
• Sports Equipment provided for school ( e.g. one football costs £5).
In May this year, Exodus ran a very special departure to the Tijhza valley, where we have been supporting the school and community for a number of years. This trip was something different for Exodus and the clients who participated, as it was a volunteer trip to help refurbish the school and improve the facilities.
Amongst the chaos of paint being splattered over various school walls, one of the Exodus clients came across a little girl on the fringes of the school grounds being led around by her fathers hand.
The little girls name is Fatimah and as well as being obviously visually impaired, she was having a particular problem with the glare of the sun. Fatimah had never been to school due to her disablity and had never been to a doctor's for any sort of diagnosis. Her family are very poor, and there is no doctor capable of seeing her in the region.
The eleven Exodus clients on the trip took it upon themselves to take Fatimah under their wing. An impromptu whip round raised over £400 - a sum that has enabled Fatimah to subsequently undertake some operations to restore her sight. The operations were not cheap by Moroccan standards as lasers to perform the operations were needed to be transported from Marrakech to Ouarzazate in the south.
Additionally Fatimah's medical, transport and accomodation costs in the city had to be covered as her family simply had no means of paying. Our village project manager and Mr Fixit - Mohammed Kassami, spent many hours to-ing and fro-ing from Tijhza to Ouarzazate and organising Fatimah's hospital visits. It is not an easy task in a country which runs on the maxim "it's not what you know, it's who you know".
So far, it has all been worthwhile. On a recent visit there in September I was able to see Fatimah not only making her own way around the village but attending school. A happier schoolkid you would have trouble finding.
She still needs more medication and some glasses, and though the original money has run out, some of the group have rallied around once more and we now have enough money to pay for these. Hopefully we will have a little left over as there are a few other children in the village with eye problems who we are sending to Fatimah's surgeon for a diagnosis. There are also a few adults with medical issues that can't be sorted out in the village, so if we can raise enough money we might be able to help these too.
The long term aim is to build a medical facility for the whole village, and we have started the process in co-operation with the village chiefs. We dont have a lot of money in the pot at the moment so if you have been to Tijhza, and were touched by the people and the simple beauty of the place, please donate to this important project via our website. A small donation can make a big difference there.
2007 Volunteer Update
In May this year, Exodus leader Andy McKee landed at our gite in the Tijhza valley, armed with eleven hardy volunteers, bags of school and sport supplies, and a long to-do list. The eleven volunteers were Exodus clients who generously signed up for this special trip aimed at getting stuck into the long awaited renovation work at the Tijhza valley school where Exodus have been supporting various projects for many years, to put something back into the community that has given our clients so much in the past.
To be tackled first of all were two of the main rooms in the school, where much needed repairs were undertaken. One of the rooms was replastered and both completely repainted. The larger room was filled with colourful cartoon characters and animals, a cheerful change from the standard ochre walls. The childrens initial bemusement quickly turned to rampant enthusiasm and they mucked in with the group and soon little hands were leaving smudged handprints behind left, right and centre.
New doors and much improved windows were installed, along with new benches and blackboards. New pipes and taps were installed in the kitchen and toilets and are now drip free. A rubbish collection was undertaken in the area surrounding the school, and the crowning glory, the new wall surrounding the classrooms was finally built. Goats are now persona non grata in the school yard and mis-hit footballs now bounce reassuringly back, instead of rolling down to the bottom of the valley.
It's not all work, however, and time was taken for the regular Exodus Rovers V Tijhza School FC football match, young and old crowding into the schoolyard to watch and take part. The new wall offered some exclusive vantage points as Tijzha School FC took the game to Exodus and it all ended in what can be only described as a goal fest for the home team. The winning team gamely applauded the defeated before a party for all, to celebrate the week's successes, got into full swing. As the sun set behind Mt. n'Oughlagal and darkness fell, laughter rang through the village and down the valley, testament to the special ties between Exodus and this hardy mountain community.
Moving forward, we have our sights set on improving further the facilities for the village and school, with the hope that we eventually hand control of these projects back to the local community in order to allow them to be self sufficient and not reliant upon outside help. The next project will hopefully be a much needed medical facility for the valley. Most people we speak to up at Tijhza have lost at least one relative prematurely and the main reason for this is poverty and distance to the nearest doctor and hospital. Our long term aim, in conjunction with the Village Association, is to bring a Doctor permanently to the village. In a bureaucratic country such as Morocco, this will be a challange, but would certainly not happen atall without a dedicated building. We now have that building ready and in place.
There were other successes over the days spent there, the highlight of which was an impromptu collection organised by the group to help fund medical care for a local girl called Fatimah. Fatimah has been virtually blind since birth, but thanks to the generosity of the Exodus clients, at time of writing, her first operation has resulted in her being able to see clearly in one eye for the first time. Her second operation has just gone ahead and we are awaiting news of it's success. We very much look forward to seeing her on our next visit, but more importantly, her seeing us, and the wonderful work done on the school.
Exodus would also like to sincerely thank the eleven clients who generously gave of their time and money to contribute towards the work during this week. It is very much appreciated by both the staff at Exodus and, more importantly, the children and people of Tijzha.
When they said the village of Tijhza was remote, I hadn’t fully appreciated what they meant.
We roared out of Marrakech on a smooth asphalt highway. Two hours drive into the High Atlas mountains this became a hard pack dirt road. A further hour and the jeep spat pebbles, as we turned off this onto a narrow winding track, zigzagging higher into valleys, branches scraping the doors. We came to a halt beside the Exodus gite because we had no other choice. The track had narrowed to a pathway as it disappeared between the ochre mud walls of the village.
A man on a donkey ambled past us as the engine died.
While a large part of the allure of somewhere like Tijhza is it’s remoteness, this also has a down side for the native Berber people who inhabit these mountains. It’s inaccessibility means that basics are never taken for granted and issues such as education, sanitation and water are always of importance.
Exodus sends hundreds of clients to the valley of Tijhza each season and, as part of our ongoing Responsible Tourism policy, has been working with the villagers for a number of years to improve facilities and to put something back into an area which has given so much to our clients over the years.
To date a new water pipe has been built to help irrigate the local orchards. As we strolled down through the village, the branches of the trees hung above us, heavy with apricots and figs. The small fields were freshly ploughed and the rich scent of fresh mint drifted from the hedgerows.
An ablutions block has also been added to the village school. The teachers Raschid and Nordine look after about 120 children aged between five and fifteen, who are currently divided between two cramped classrooms.
We sat with them a couple of weeks ago as they took a lesson outdoors to the dusty playground and they told us of some small things which could make a difference to their daily lives.
There’s no wall around the school ground, which leads to goats wandering through and the odd cow sticking their head’s through the door.
There is only plastic in the window frames instead of glass and winter mornings, with snow piled in drifts against the wall, can be harsh.
Basics such as schoolbooks, calculators, pens and copybooks are always welcome.
A girl’s football team has recently been formed by some of the older girls but the battered leather football they have to play with has seen better days.
These may all seem like small things, Raschid told us, but are difficult to obtain in such a remote and poor area. Even his referee’s whistle needed replacing, he smiled ruefully, and blew a sad toot on it.
Exodus encourage people to take what they can out to help the school. Aside from school supplies, children’s clothes and shoes are always welcome.
A visit is normally arranged for after school time, usually when the school team’s weekly football practise takes place, and gives everyone the opportunity to join in and try and get one past the small but nimble goalies.
But for all the other basics, including future plans which include building an extra classroom and a medical project for the village, what is needed most of all is money, pure and simple. While there is a huge amount that clients can gain from visiting areas like Tijhza, at Exodus, we recognize that the cultures, environments and economies we visit are fragile, requiring a sustained commitment from us to ensure that we have a lasting positive effect. Our tourism can be a real help to local communities providing income, positive cultural exchanges and the financial incentive to protect the natural environment.
It was really only when we had the chance to meet and speak to the people of Tijzha, that it was brought home to us how little is needed to make a huge difference to these proud and hardy people.
Brendan Phelan and Amanda Ceraolo oversee the Tijzha school project and visited in June this year.