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April 16, 2014

April Newsletter – Volunteer Travel Trip to Morocco!

In our book, Reboot Your Life, we often talk about the idea of volunteering when traveling or on sabbatical.  Recently, Reboot Partner Cathy Allen, along with her husband and nine others, went on a two week trip to Morocco – as part one of many Passport to Folk Art Trips led by the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market to the countries of the folk artists represented in the market.  All of the Reboot Partners have a strong connection to this incredible Folk Art market and volunteer every year to mentor and assist the artists (as depicted in on our blog.)  These special trips are a chance to meet the folk artists and their families in their own villages – to get to see more of their work up-close as well as the environment where they create it – and to combine important volunteer work with a fascinating travel experience.

Cathy and the group got to experience the diverse climates of the region – from snow in the High Atlas Mountains to sweeping sand dunes in Erfoud to 90 plus degree weather in Marrakesh. They explored the winding narrow alleys of the Fez and Marrakesh medinas, rode camels to and from a tent camp in the Sahara, and toured palaces and museums and kasbahs from the 8th century forward.

Part of the Market volunteer effort is to get the senior government and corporate leaders in the host countries to support their artists as well as focus on economic sustainability and preservation of the traditional arts, and the trip was a great success in that goal. Cathy met with a number of women leaders in the country when she spoke at the Moroccan Women Corporate Directors meeting, and with the head of the International Women’s Forum in Casablanca.  The group got commitment from a number of senior people to help with Moroccan folk artists.

The most exciting and rewarding part of the trip, however, was meeting with the artists and seeing their work….and of course, supporting them by buying their art!  The group went to Sefrou to visit Amina Yabis and the Women’s Button Cooperative. Amina knew that Moroccan women needed to have access to the cash economy and economic life of their community to participate in public life outside of the home. She established Golden Buttons with the help of the US Peace Corps to develop a literacy campaign for women and girls (half in Morocco are illiterate) to learn to read and write Arabic.

They also met with Fatima Akachmar of Cooperative Adwal in Rabat El Kheir, created to preserve the weaving tradition. Supported by the Moroccan Ministry of Artisans, they formed a cooperative where many women from the community, all single, divorced or uneducated, have been recruited to train to become master weavers.  The trip was full of these artist visits as well as to the medina and souks of Marrakesh.

Nine rugs and lots of beautiful folk art later, Cathy and Paul struggled with their bags home. Two former Reboot Your Life retreat attendees were on the trip as well and all were amazed at the quality of folk art, the friendliness of the people, and the beauty and variety of the landscape.

It was a wonderful example of how you can combine travel interests, nonprofit volunteer work, and a love of being with friends into a combined package!