So many joys in my life this holiday season. The “cold” weather that necessitates a blanket (or 2!) at night, the hour-long Christmas mixes that some really wonderful people posted on youtube for those poor Americans stuck in Morocco without any, a successful “holiday-themed” lesson plan, teaching 6 poor Moroccan kids how to sing Rudolph, the 0.09 in my American bank account that BOA kindly just notified me about (at least it’s not 0.00?), recovering successfully from a bad case of the Moroccan plague….endless, I’m telling you.
One of my on-going joys that has only exponentiated- which I’m currently being told is not a word- that has only….increased dramatically…? this holiday season is: project planning.
What a wild beast to tame.
This summer, I think it was another hot July afternoon, I sat at the local cafe with two of my local counterparts and my Regional Manager. The RM basically serves as my direct Peace Corps boss. She was doing a routine site visit, ya know, making sure I was actually doing work and all that, and she met with two of the people I work a lot with. During this little chat, one of my counterparts, Mustapha, asked her about a project idea of his. “What do you think about some sort of interfaith dialogue? Perhaps a conference of sorts?” Samira, my RM, shook her head. “That’s not a sustainable program. Peace Corps will only help out with projects that can continue and grow stronger.” I’m sitting there, between the two of them, bein’ all like, what the heck, you’ve never told me about this little project idea of yours, and simultaneously, what the heck, not sustainable?!!! there’s gotta be a way….
After chatting a bit with Samira, we agreed that all we needed were some firm project plans mapping out things like sustainability, what it’s worth to the community, etc., and there could be the possibility of Peace Corps support.
Enter: one of my two Ramadaan extracurricular activities (the other one was eating non-stop when the sun wasn’t down.)
Mustapha and I worked a ton on the logistics of this- it was like, okay, so, we’ve got this idea, how the heck do we make it look pretty on paper? What do we even want to happen at this event? Who gets to come? How many tea breaks can we fit in? Serious logistics. There were a lot of long afternoons in cafes discussing every aspect of the event, a lot of explaining the project to local associations to get them on board, a lot of emailing Moroccan associations and potential counterparts, a lot of checking emails over and over, and even a little of convincing people this wasn’t a mass conversion convention (seriously). Basically, we’ve looked like this since July:
This was both mine and Mustapha’s first ever attempt at grant writing, logic model creating, and general interfaith dialogue planning. I’ve worked on putting together events, but they were all in a university setting with a very specific group of people targeted. Mustapha’s worked on events, but they’ve never required near this much paperwork. For both of us, this….was a little different.
We ended up coming up with a little somethin’ like this:
The Association Al Anwar of the Tiefa Jazouliya of Tameslouht, Morocco will be hosting a one day forum on religious understanding and coexistence in March 2013. The Tiefa Jazouliya is a conglomerate of three religious associations. It originates from a five hundred year tradition of religious coexistence, as taught in the ancient zaouia of Tameslouht.
The forum will bring together members and leaders of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities of Morocco. A panel of 6 total university professors, religious leaders representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism, along with representatives from the Islamic Affairs ministry will be present for discussion and debate. Topics addressed will include the history of these religions in Morocco, the relationships between them, and how their respective belief systems manifest in contemporary Moroccan and global society. The end of the forum will be dedicated to assembling a committee of interested attendees who will work towards the development of a permanent multi-religious association. This association will work on future projects and forums to further the goal of disseminating accurate information of these three religions in Morocco. It will function as a resource for individuals and groups wishing to develop a better understanding of the impact of religion within Morocco. Additionally, this new association will serve as Morocco’s chapter of the international World Faith organization, which promotes interfaith discourse and action worldwide.
This event will be marketed towards university students especially, as this demographic is poised to benefit the most from such an event; the majority will be entering the global workforce and community as representatives of Morocco, thus shaping the future of Morocco most substantially. University students will be encouraged to participate in the publicity of the event, the forum, and the subsequent development of the association. Half of the eight member committee will be comprised of university students, as will the association board for the newly formed association.
Through this forum, an open dialogue about religion will be established and sustained in the community of Tameslouht, in Morocco, and, potentially, in this important region of the world. It is made possible by a partnership between the Jewish communities of Essaouria and Marrakech, the Catholic church of Marrakech, Dar America, Peace Corps, World Connect, the Marist School, and the Tiefa Jazouliya of Tameslouht.
We event made a logo!
But man, there was a lot that happened in between the idea and being able to write that nice little summary. We got in contact with the Catholic church in Marrakech. We tracked down the president of the Jewish communities of Marrakech and Essaouria. We talked it up in our community. We scheduled general interest meetings. We turned in our grant. We had to fill out another one. We changed the date. We changed the date again. We had another meeting and changed the date again. We got some posters made. We gave a tour of Tameslouht to all of our project partners. We chose an event site. We got in touch with Dar America. They helped us to write another grant. We changed the date again; we had new posters made. We asked various people to do translations. We asked new various people to do translations after we received poems and speeches instead of the requested translations. We had more logistics meetings and changed the date again. HOLY MOLY.
After all of that, we’ve got ourselves somethin’: a Facebook page!
….okay, well, we have (a lot) more than that. BUT what I’m really trying to do is not so subtlety suggest that you “like” our Facebook page. Whhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy is what you’re probably asking. Well, honestly, it helps a lot with publicity- and we want to publicize this for several reasons. Mostly, we want people to come, but- and maybe more importantly- we want as many people possible to know what kind of events are being conceived, planned, and executed by Moroccan youth. 2 out of the 3 goals of Peace Corps are cultural exchange; I can think of nothing more that I’d like to show people back home about Moroccans. “Like” us and you’ll not only be helping us out with that, but you’ll also get project updates, inspirational interfaith quotes, pretty interfaith-themed pictures on your minifeeds, and notifications about interfaith events- possibly even in your area! (And while you’re at it, you should “Like” Dar America as well. They’re the cultural wing of the US Consulate in Morocco and do some pretty cool events.)
So, thanks in advance for helping us publicize our project. I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Inchallah I’ll be back celebrating it with these lovely folk next year!