ACF President launches blog for research time in Morocco

Erickson and daughter, Noor, in Morocco.

Cloe Medina Erickson, ACF President, has received a research grant from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. Erickson will spend 10 months in Morocco researching cultural preservation in Morocco’s rural regions. Erickson’s research will complement ACF’s cultural preservation initiative by building off our past lessons and projects and preparing us for a new era in preservation in rural Morocco.

Follow along with ACF President, Erickson, on her research journey. Erickson will be posting regularly to a blog that will chronicle her journey doing research, community development in rural Morocco with her three year old daughter in tow. Keep up on her research, the goings on of the Atlas Cultural Foundation and personal insights into spending 10 months in Morocco.

Follow the blog here: www.medinamorocco.wordpress.com

Thank you AIMS!
Erickson’s Research Abstract:
Conservation of Morocco’s Rural Built Heritage: A Non-Renewable Resource at Risk in the Face of Emerging Rural Development. An emergence of rural development has put Morocco’s deteriorating traditional and historic earth and stone buildings at risk of complete loss in favor of quick and easy construction being built to house this development. Meanwhile, Morocco’s rural communes are being challenged to find a balance between their traditional cultural identity and the unavoidable demand to become a viable force in their modernizing country. Morocco’s historic fortified granaries, kasbahs, and vernacular architecture hold a plethora of untapped potential for preserving the traditional culture and simultaneously supporting sustainable community and economic development. Cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource and if the historical buildings are lost, part of the cultural identity and heritage of Morocco will be lost with them.This research will be invaluable to the parallel advancement of the conservation of Morocco’s rural built heritage and community and economic development. It will contribute a vital component that has been missing: research and outreach about the planning, implementation, partnerships, and long-term management of the conservation projects.

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Community Finalizes Library Management Plan

The local association, Amezray SMNID and the owners of the igherm have reached the final stage of drafting the library’s management plan. Once this management plan is signed by both the association, the igherm owners, and project manager, Cloe Medina Erickson, the final stage of construction can begin. This spring the drafting of the management plan for the library was given to Amezray SMNID, which is a local and legally registered Moroccan community association.  Throughout the spring and summer, Youssef Oulcadi, the association president has been working with the community to draft a community-wide plan that will discuss all details of the library management including income, financial reporting, librarian job description, operating hours, and more.

“The process of creating a community-wide agreeable plan is very important for the sustainability of the project,’ stated Oulcadi.  “Without taking the appropriate amount of time to draft this plan we would risk the outcome of the entire project.”

Oulcadi anticipates that the plan will be finished by September 2011 and signed by all responsible parties in October.

Youssef Oulcadi, Basou Adi, Jim Miller, and Mustapha Qadery (from left to right).

Additionally, in July the Moroccan American Commission for Cultural Exchange (MACECE) visited the project with their Fulbright-Hayes Summer Seminar group, which included 15 American academics and scholars representing their affiliated universities.  The MACECE group visited the igherm and learned about all of the Atlas Cultural Foundation’s work in the region.

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Midwife Training Program Expands to Five Years with Ministry of Health Partnership

Genevieve Chabot of the Global Midwife Education Foundation spent four weeks with me in Morocco this spring kicking off the program.  After many lengthy meetings with officials from the Ministry of Culture, local village leaders, and the women who will be trained, the program has been expanded from a one-year to a five-year program.  The goals of this expansion are to incorporate the Moroccan Ministry of Health and their medical professionals in the trainings to foster a relationship with the local women and to include a transfer of skills component to the program that will follow each woman back to their home villages and help them apply their new skills in a hands on manner. The five year Midwife Training Program is training 12 women selected by the local associations with the agreement of their families.

Chabot will return to Morocco in October to initiate the first of the trainings which will include blood pressure training and time keeping training among other basic skills that will be needed in the more medical trainings.

In these five years, we hope to be able to demonstrate a low-cost program that the Ministry of Health will be interested in implementing in other remote, road less, and nomadic regions of Morocco.

The training will focus on:

  1. Sanitation and Hygiene
  2. Nutrition
  3. Childbirth
  4. Care of Newborn Babies
  5. Identification and treatment of basic medical problems, especially infections

The main goals of the five year GMEF-ACF Midwife Training Program are to:

  1. Reduce maternal and infant (0-12 months of age) mortality by 50%.
  2. Increase utilization of the Zawiya Ahansal clinic and Azilal hospital for births and medical care by 100%.
  3. Decrease infectious diarrhea through increased toilet use and water sanitation.
  4. Provide education and supplies for hygienic home births if transportation to the local clinic or Azilal hospital is not possible.
  5. Improve nutrition for pregnant women and children.
  6. Educate women regarding newborn care and identifying sick newborns who need medical treatment.
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Peaks Foundation partners with ACF.

In April, Peaks Foundation visited ACF in Zawiya Ahansal to discuss potential partnereship, see ACF work and discover the region where we work.  After four days of visiting with locals, trekking to the villages that ACF supports and a lot of brainstorming a new partnership was formed. Peaks Foundation organizes global mountain challenges for women who seek adventure, a sense of personal achievement, and an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world. Peaks supports and empowers women and girls in communities where the challenges take place, through initiatives such as education, maternal healthcare and community-led conservation. Peaks will organize two trips every year to Zawiya Ahansal, the first is scheduled for April 28 to May 6, 2011.  Sign up here.

www.peaksfoundation.org

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2011 Field Work Begins

I arrived in Zawiya Ahansal, Morocco a few days ago to oversee the field work for the next three months. The first week or two in country is always busy with administration and paperwork. Yesterday we solidified an official partnership agreement between Atlas Cultural Foundation and the local association Amezray SMNID. Atlas Cultural Foundation is an American NGO that was formed last winter to manage and house the philanthropic work of Erickson Creative Group in Morocco. ACF is a registered 501c(3) non-profit project under the umbrella of Adirondack Sustainable Communities, Inc. Amezray SMNID will act as the local representative of the people and will also be able to collaborate and communicate with our Moroccan Ministry partnerships in the absence of ACF staff. Today we signed an agreement with the owners of the Amezray Igherm to begin construction of the library and community room portion of the project. We also began discussion about the initial management of the library and training of young men and women to become the eventual librarians. We finished the restoration of the building in the Fall of 2010 and will now focus our efforts on the construction of the library. We hope to complete the construction this spring and finish the interior in Fall of 2011. Youssef Jini, the gate keeper for the igherm, was very excited about starting the next phase of the project. “This project is for the next generation,” he said. “It is for our children and the future of Zawiya Ahansal.” In addition, this spring we plan to begin the restoration of a second igherm in the village of Aguddim. The Moroccan Ministry of Culture will be paying for the restoration of this building and will send a project contractor and architect to meet with me. ACF will act as the on-site manager of this restoration. We are continuing discussions with the locals about the best use for this building; some of the ideas are a preschool or women’s birthing center. Genevieve Chabot, a representative from the Global Midwife Education Foundation, will visit us in May. She will accompany Youssef Oulcadi, the president of Amezray SMNID, and myself on a trip to Rabat to visit the Moroccan Ministry of Health with the hopes of securing the necessary permissions to begin the Midwife Training Program. During this trip to Rabat we will also meet with officials at the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education. All programs and projects are progressing well and the spring is shaping up to be fruitful.

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ACF Founder Highlighted on Public Radio

ACF Founder and President Cloe Medina Erickson has been highlighted on Mountain West Voices, a public radio show that tells compelling human stories from the interior west of the United States and Canada.

The show aired on Montana Public Radio, Wednesday, March 9 2011 at 8:25 p.m., MST and on Yellowstone Public Radio, Sunday, March 13 at 7:35 a.m, MST. You can hear it here.

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North African Scholar Speaks about Regional Turmoil March 3, 4.

El Qadery speaks at a village meeting in Morocco.

Mustapha El Qadery, a renowned North African scholar, historian and anthropologist, will speak about the current political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa on March 3 and 4 in Bozeman.

On March 3, El Qadery will present “The Berlin Wall Falls in the Middle East and North Africa,” at Montana State University, 7:00 pm, SUB Ballroom A.

On March 4, El Qadery will present “How Arabism Hijacked Islam,” at the Bozeman Public Library, 12:10pm to 1:00pm.  Please bring a sack lunch.

Currently, El Qadery is a Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Virginia State University in Virginia.  In Morocco, he works at the National Library of the Moroccan Kingdom and in the Faculty of Law at Rabat University. El Qadery has published over 30 papers on his field work which focuses on Colonial and Postcolonial Political Systems in Africa and the Middle East. El Qadery’s latest paper, published in France in December 2010, is titled “Did Africa Lose the North?” El Qadery is now finishing a book, written in Arabic and French, titled Nationalism of the Self-hate, including a specific text about the end of Franco Salazar’s rule in Tunisia. Also a documentary film producer, he was recently awarded two Moroccan film awards regarding his work on the history of the Colonial Conquest in the Eastern Moroccan Sahara.

For the past five years, El Qadery has worked closely with Cloe Erickson, MSU alumni and the founder of the Atlas Cultural Foundation, on community development work and an MSU study abroad program in a remote region of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. In addition, El Qadery has been a guest scholar for the Livingston-based travel company Bella Treks.

El Qadery’s visit is sponsored by the Atlas Cultural Foundation, Montana State University’s Office of International Programs and Bella Treks. Both presentations are free and open to the public. For more information please contact Cloe Erickson, 581-1865 or medina@atlasculturalfoundation.org.

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Moroccan Ministry of Culture partnership approval!

I am very pleased to announce that the Moroccan Ministry of Culture has approved our partnership proposal. They have agreed to fund the restoration of a second igherm in the region (there are eight historic igherms). Work on this igherm will begin in April of 2011. The community is currently deciding on the best use for this igherm and is contemplating renovating it into a preschool or women’s birthing center. Either of these uses will compliment the library in the Amezray igherm.
The partnership from the Ministry means that as an organization all of our fundraising dollars will go directly to the uses within these historic buildings and to the management and operation costs of the development projects. The actual restoration will be funded by the Moroccan government.
“The ighrems (fortified granaries and saints’ houses) in Zawiya Ahansal have a great value and give beauty to the whole region because they are old historical monuments. “The igherms are our future and through them we can create future projects. They are everything, we don’t have anything else.”
Ahmed Amahdar, the Sheikh of Zawiya Ahansal.


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Project expands to include women’s and newborn health initiative.

Over the past six years I have had the opportunity to work intimately with
locals on the Igherm Restoration Project in the remote region of Zawiya
Ahansal, Morocco.  We have successfully restored one of the region’s eight
igherms (fortified granaries) and are in the initial phases of two more
restorations through the generosity of American Donors and partnerships
with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the local community association
Amezray SMNID.

The initial goals of the Igherm Restoration Project were to preserve the
region’s cultural heritage, through the restoration of their igherms, and
increase literacy rates in the region and supplement the inadequate
government education through the establishment of community education
projects within the restored igherms.  Through our work other community
needs have come to light that are too great to ignore, especially that of
women’s and newborn’s health.
Rural Morocco has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates
in the developing world.  This is due to many circumstances, including
remoteness, traditional beliefs and distance from clinics and hospitals.
Partnering with the Global Midwife Education Foundation,
www.midwifeeducation.org, we are currently in Morocco establishing a
program that will train 8 to 12 traditional birth attendants in 2011.
These birth attendants, along with a newly establishment government
clinic, will ultimately serve the region’s population of over 10,000
people.
This initiative compliments the goals of preserving the region?s cultural
heritage and decreasing illiteracy and will brighten the future of young
women such as Saadiya.
Saadiya’s bright eyes reflect the energy and innocence of a 17 year old.
She lives in the village of Aguddim; with a population of just over 1000
people it is one of the largest villages within 100 kilometers.

Saadiya giggles when she mentions her engagement to a
young man from Ouarzazate.  Ouarzazate lies just over the rugged Atlas
Mountains to the east and is a big city in her eyes; it has hotels,
schools and even a hospital.  She will get married when she turns 18, the
youngest legal age for marriage in Morocco.
She is able to read and write only a little due to her third grade
education.  She desperately wanted to continue her schooling but
sacrificed her education because her family needed her at home to help
with field work, house work and her two younger sisters.
At this point in life she will probably never accomplish her hope of
higher education but because she has the rare opportunity to marry a man
from the “city” she will have an opportunity most women from Aguddim never
will, to give birth in a hospital.

“I am afraid to die in childbirth,” she admits.

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Living the High Life

MSU grads use talents to help develop community in mountainous Morocco. 

“Just as Cloe Medina Erickson, ’00 M Arch,, has always known that it was her destiny to work in Morocco, Kris Erickson, ’97 Photo, has known that he was made to climb mountains.
The two have found a way to combine their passions by helping villagers restore an ancient building located in a remote and mountainous area of Morocco.”  MSU Collegian, Spring 2010 Issue

Download full story here. 

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