On the fringe of town, lies the twice-weekly open marketplace, called a souk. (Currently, also the location of the somewhat creepy carnival — photo on right). When it is not in operation, it is simply an open area which, at least in the south, is a vast expanse of sand and dust. The souk being what it is, it always accumulates tremendous amounts of trash. Much of the trash, blown by wind, makes its way toward the local middle school, called a collège after the French term. A local community association took it upon themselves, with the help of the students at the collège, to cordon off an area in front of the school in order to create an open, trash free, area in which they could play and gather.
In typically Moroccan fashion, there was a meeting over food, this time around Friday couscous at the Dar Talib — student housing for rural students living far from town. Another volunteer, Noa, and I had been invited. A group of local, well-intentioned men who like to do small projects around town, sort of like an informal rotary club, were discussing what to do about the trash near the collège. There was talk about an open, grassy area, about a playfield, about a garden, etc., but no firm plans. Noa suggested the area include semi-submerged tires on which the children could play, but that would also serve as a boundary. There was some confusion due to language misunderstanding, so she looked up a photo example on her mobile phone and passed it around. They were intrigued.
It was decided then and there that the next morning, the project would begin, though, to be honest, my still-developing language skills left me a bit in the dark as to what exactly this meant. So, by the time we arrived around 10 o’clock, most of the border to the area was already finished. About 100 tires had been donated, or discovered, then brought to the site and a backhoe had dug a channel in which the tires were placed. They were in the process of being painted by some of the middle-schoolers.
I left for lunch and to run some errands, but by the time I returned, it was totally completed. All the tires were in place and painted, as were strategically placed steel poles secured in place with concrete. Inside the school, a celebration party was developing, so I joined in. I even gave an extemporaneous speech about the importance of cooperation in meeting our goals. Tea was served, of course.
I was struck by the ease and order that develops when things are not overly planned. Essentially, good people had some beneficent plans, made some phone calls, arranged some groups, and made it happen. Were this America, it seems to me, there would have been endless red-tape, weeks worth of planning, awkward youth engagement, and calls for accountability. But, in rural Morocco, people see a need and fill it. Hamdulillah!
Below are some photos of the project in action.