Thanks in large part to tourism, Morocco is developing fast. Although at 130th (out of 187) in the UN Development Programme Human Development Index, it still has some way to go. (Even if with the five-star hotels, flash sports cars and sprawling villa developments around Marrakech these days, that is sometimes hard to believe; there are clearly some very rich ‘haves’ in Morocco which can mask the plight of the ‘have nots.’)
Most people in low- and middle-income countries don’t want charity; they want the means to earn a fair wage in a job which gives them some satisfaction and allows them to provide for their family and/or plan for the future. Here are three initiatives that you can contribute to if you want to make a difference and help facilitate the change that is needed in Essaouira. If you are looking to volunteer or set up your own local non-profit, read this article.
The High Atlas Foundation
The High Atlas Foundation works in at present 10 Moroccan Provinces – including Essaouira – to support human development as determined by the beneficiaries. It’s participatory approach helps communities determine their own sustainable socio-economic development through initiatives such as training, fruit tree agriculture, organic nurseries, coop creation, school infrastructure support and many other areas – always decided upon and implemented by the communities themselves. You can give directly through the HAF website or via platforms such as GlobalGiving or GlobalGivingUK.
Based out of Dar 91 in the impoverished Chbanate neighbourhood of the Essaouira medina, this initiative collects funds via donations, a handicrafts shop, and the project ‘Leave your wardrobe in Morocco’, which encourages tourists to leave clothes behind for sale. Project 91 supports local young people to get skills and training (such as a hairdressing qualification, English language or driving lessons) and also promotes fair-trade produce made locally and sold in their shop. You can donate through their UK bank account or at the shop or guest house.
Bayti, which means “my house” is a Moroccan national NGO and has been working in Essaouira for 15 years. They work with children from difficult family backgrounds and those who live on the streets. An international volunteer week was organised over the Easter holidays in 2014 to renovate the Bayti building. If you would like to contribute to the education of kids who are beneficiaries at Bayti Essaouira, click here.
Next time you see a beggar in a Moroccan medina, a young boy selling tissues or are approached by someone telling you the street ahead is closed, remember: Morocco has not social security safety net. If a Moroccan’s family can’t provide for him, he is alone. In particular for people from the rural hinterlands of Moroccan cities, begging, earning or scamming a few dirham from a tourist is their only option – and they may be the breadwinner for a family. By supporting these organisations, you can help them help to help Moroccans create a better life for themselves.