The United States Peace Corps works within a 3-goal framework throughout communities the volunteers serve in:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Goal one focuses on technical skills: health care, agriculture, water sanitation, forestry, teacher training, etc. Goals two and three focus more on building relationships and fostering understanding between different peoples/cultures.
Here in Morocco, my role as a volunteer and a member of my community in Azrou is definitely focused more on Goals 2 & 3. While I’d like to think I am transferring some sustainable knowledge and skill sets to some community members, I think it is safe to assume the majority of my work here is focused on relationship building and cultural exchange. There is so much confusion amongst both Moroccans and Americans in regards to one anothers culture– religion, customs, normals, traditions, values, etc. I love having conversations and sharing traditions with Moroccan friends and family, while sharing my experiences with those back home in America.
Honestly, sometimes I question the difference I am making here in Morocco. Developing-world speaking– Morocco is developed and seem to have a good handle on their business. I am not digging wells for clean water, distributing vaccines, securing the healthy future of village crops, or anything of the like. However, given the current political climate of the Western World and “Muslim World,” I’d say my job here is pretty important. Does this mean I think my role here is strictly political? No way. Do I think Peace Corps still having a presence in a place like Morocco isn’t necessarily imperative to the future development of the country? Yes.
Peace Corps is only in 1 country in North Africa (Morocco,) and 1 country in the middle east (Jordan.) Volunteers in both of these countries do not focus their efforts on technical assistance as do some volunteers in Sub-Saharan Africa or South America. Part of me feels like Peace Corps remains in these countries to sustain relationships within the Arab World outside of the State Department or the United Nations. I’d like to think America understands the different kind of “ambassadors” it sends to these countries via the Peace Corps. We aren’t here to maintain security, spy, keep terrorism at bay, or the like. Peace Corps Volunteers, in Morocco, are simply here to form meaningful relationships within our host communities and build human capacity through life skills, job training, health workshops, and other such activities. Basically, anything our community wants our help with doing, we’ll do.
I see my role here in Morocco as, inch’Allah, bridging the gap between my friends and family back home and my friends and family here in Morocco. I want Americans to understand Islam and Arab culture and I want Moroccans to learn about America outside of Hollywood.
I’m happy to be here now.
Peace and be well.