Like many who come to Morocco, I have stepped off a camel onto sand soft as powdered sugar. I have stepped onto a balcony overlooking nothing but ramparts and sea. I have stepped around a corner in the mountains knowing that more blue alleys await. All marvels and memories under the Moroccan sun. But one of my best Marrakesh moments was stepping into a circle of girls who show up Sundays at Peacock Pavilions ready to SOAR.
Since before moving to Morocco I’d been following the award-winning lifestyle blog, My Marrakesh. I loved the author’s story of moving to Morocco and building a beautiful oasis for guests and girls. Maryam Montague, a writer, interior designer, and international humanitarian aide specialist, founded Project SOAR with her husband, architect Chris Redecke. I hoped to meet them one day when I moved to Africa but had no idea it would happen so soon. They are parents of one of my students and this fall the American School of Marrakesh began volunteering with the nonprofit organization, Project Soar, whose mission includes working with girls from the village Dourar Ladaam. From that first Sunday when I caravanned through gates where girls gathered excitedly, I saw all the good growing in an olive grove, hugged girls SOAR serves, and met students and adults of all ages volunteering. From near or far there are ways we can all help here. Led by a college mentor (her interview below), they filed in, took their name tags from the board, and joined hands with volunteers from Chicago to Texas, New Zealand to Austria. We all introduced ourselves and then, through wide smiles, the girls said their mantra: “I am strong. I am smart. I am capable. I am worthy.”
Maryam Montague and a volunteer show the girls America, the home country of their teaching artist, Designer Amy Butler.
Saloia, fourteen, plans to go to university. She said she has been coming to SOAR for about a year and added: “I have learned sports and arts and how to be independent and work with my friends. I use what I learn here back home to be a good person.”
Souad (left) is thirteen. She said she has been coming since Ramadan in August : “I’ve learned to make kites and bowls. I’ve learned how to play sports and health information from the doctor who comes when we take yoga.”
ASM student Chama (center) translates from Arabic to English for Khadija (left) who does all things with giggles and confidence.
Outside, the other half of the girls learned teamwork as well as ASM student, Mehdi, and Upper School Principal and Basketball Coach, Todd Stiede, taught them drills and how to run relay races.
It takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, children inspire us to rise to our best selves. On any given Sunday one finds community, creativity, collaboration, and global citizenship here. Two ASM volunteers explain. Chama: “It’s important to share special moments with people from different cultural backgrounds. We open their minds to a bigger world and the idea that we girls in Morocco can do big things….The SOAR mantra is true, and no one can take that from you.” Says Sophia when asked why she regularly volunteers: “We have to. It’s the least we can do. As much as the girls learn from us, we learn from them.”
Thanks for bringing attention to this fantastic program. Looks as though it is touching so many lives.
It is, and I am excited about the new English classes curriculum we are working on.
What an amazing programme. The joy and happiness in the children’s faces is what would bring you back week after week. Thank you for sharing this story.
SOAR looks like a great program. The faces you’ve captured in the photos all look very happy to be there.
Hi Donna–it is a wonderful program! The girls are so sweet and fun.
Thank you for the introduction! Changing the world, one girl at a time! Lovely photos too.
Thank you, Suzanne.