I left Ain Leuh in mid-August and am now preparing to move to Philadelphia to enter a program in International Educational Development at UPenn! I had such a wonderful summer with the artisans at the cooperative and was sad to leave. I hope to return someday soon.
My role as a Peace Fellow with The Advocacy Project in Ain Leuh was to facilitate online purchases and to generate interest in the cooperative’s work. I also aimed to lay the groundwork for future volunteers through The Advocacy Project.
To facilitate online purchases, I overhauled the existing website and provided basic computer literacy training. The site includes translations into Arabic, French, German and Spanish, and now features a photo and description of each full-time artisan, their products, a video of the creative process, and a form to place orders.
The artisans of the cooperative were excited to participate in creating an Advocacy Quilt. Eleven women produced a panel featuring traditional Amazigh design motifs. The panels will be connected by a quilting guild to create one large tapestry for a three-month exhibition at the Human Rights Institute at Kean University in New Jersey.
This summer was also one of great personal growth. I’ve learned how to shoot and edit simple videos and photos, update a website, and utilize social networking sites like Facebook and twitter for a cause.
More than this, though, I’ve come to understand more about Moroccan Amazigh culture. Throughout my volunteer period, I lived with Khadija Oujkak, the cooperative’s treasurer. I am thankful to her for her patience and willingness to share with me her immense body of knowledge. She introduced me to each woman at the cooperative and made sure I was completely involved in the cooperative’s activities.
Thanks to her and the women of the cooperative, I was able to improve my Moroccan dialect, learn some key Tamazight words, understand the importance of weavings to Amazigh culture and document traditional motifs used in Amazigh weavings.
I was invited into their homes and they shared their lives with me. I met their husbands, children, and in many cases, their extended families. I broke the Ramdan fast with them, celebrated a birth and a circumcision, mourned at a funeral, attended a birthday party and countless lunches. Each day I spent at the cooperative felt like spending time with friends as I got to know them and understand what was important to them.
Thank you so much to each woman of the Cooperative des Tisseuses d’Ain Leuh for such a wonderful summer.