DELIVERY: Girls’ Refuge in Marrakesh, Morocco

Expedition Press Release

DeliverAid Expedition Delivers Training and Supplies To Help Children’s Development 

Reading, UK, Mar 10th, 2017 – Powered by a sponsorship syndicate of philanthropic businesses including Segura Ltd, DeliverAid’s second African expedition provided a shipment of stationery, sports equipment, toys and computers to children in North Africa.

The DeliverAid team (consisting of expedition leader Peter Cameron Burnett, photographer Vicki Yates, and transport/logistics manager Toby Vennard) was warmly welcomed local charity Project SOAR, which provides assistance and ongoing development to young girls to allow them to fully develop their potential. As well as a shipment of supplies, the team also delivered training on how to use the provided Raspberry Pi computer equipment as part of their ongoing BootStrap Programme.

Peter Cameron-Burnett said:

The team worked very hard, and we had some interesting challenges along the way! It was wonderful to meet the children and see their reaction to what we had provided with the generous help from our sponsors, and also to finally talk with our African charity partners face-to-face.

Olivia DiNucci, field manager for Project Soar, said:

“We want to extend a huge thank you to all for your donation, distribution and training at Project Soar. We are so happy to start this collaboration with you!! We are so grateful for the time you dedicated to making the distribution happen. I hope next time, you are able to spend a bit more time in Morocco!”

END

NOTES FOR EDITORS

DeliverAid was founded in January 2017 to provide sustainable and direct assistance to children who are at risk or face disadvantage in refuges, orphanages, and camps internationally. The team’s efforts are powered by a sponsorship syndicate of philanthropic businesses. The DeliverAid team itself consists of a small core of media and project professionals who are looking to do something worthwhile, who are ably aided by volunteers both in the UK and overseas. Wherever possible, the team purchases supplies from UK charities so that they also substantial benefit from the expeditions. As well as delivering supplies, the team also provides computer equipment and training as part of their Bootstrap Programme to allow the children to develop skills that will not only assist themselves in building a better life, but which will also create employment and opportunity within their community.   

For Further Information

Contact Vicki Yates (OutReach Officer) at team@deliveraid.org


Our “BEHIND THE SCENES” Travelogue …

The DeliverAid Team are off on the road to Casablanca. Which is a shame, as that’s not where they are supposed to be going …

My grandma had a saying – “the key to happiness is believing that today will be better than yesterday”.

(It should be noted that another of her favourite sayings was “full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!” which explains why she spent much of her naval career swimming.)

We are certainly hoping that today will be better than yesterday. Yesterday proved to be a big picnic of fail-and-cucumber sandwiches which had left us demoralised, angst-ridden and vaguely hungry.

To be fair – there were faults all round.

For instance, we had assumed Douar was the name of the village we were aiming for. On looking at the map, we found it instantly, and off we trundled under a glowing blue sky with spirits high and a song on our lips. When we arrive, however, the local folk look blank when we cheerfully enquire where our destination – a refuge for girls called Project Soar which is “somewhere near Marrakesh” – might be found.

And it’s at that point that we discover that Douar isn’t the name of a village. It’s the local word for village. The reason we found it on the map so easily is that it’s everywhere.

And it’s at this point that we make our next schoolboy error.

We ask for directions.

Normally, that isn’t a problem. Despite perceived stereotypes about the sexes, I personally have never had a problem with asking random strangers where they think I should go. Sometimes, the suggestions I get back are helpful. (On other occasions, not so much.)

The problem with asking here, however, is best explained by revealing two inherent traits of the indigenous folks of Morocco.

Firstly, as a people, they are incredibly warm, welcoming and courteous. They dislike saying “No”. This is beneficial if you are asking for a glass of water, but when the question consists of “do you know where X is,” then it becomes a problem. They are torn, trapped in a no-win situation between disappointing you and misguiding you. Do they make you sad now, or lost later?

The second factor is that there seems to be a shared genetic kink that leads all Moroccans to believe that any place they can’t immediately locate probably lies about 15km to the north of where they are at any given moment.

“You have arrived at your destination.” Au contraire, SatNav.

We gradually start to realise this over the next couple of hours. Everywhere we go, we get the same reaction on asking a local. There is a pause, a haunted look, then inspiration seems to strike, and we get the same answer. Ah yes, I know this place. I know that person. It’s up the road, they say pointing north. How far? About 15 kilometers, maybe.

And it’s not just your average person in the street. We get exactly the same answer from policemen and soldiers.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that data costs for a visitor in Morocco are pretty high, and so we’re off-grid. We don’t have the usual safety net of data, maps and communications.

By the time we have worked out what is going on, we are halfway to Casablanca.

We pull over by the side of the road, and sit in the cab of our van, contemplating the wide African landscape. Short-haired green fields roll away to the horizon for many miles in every direction. I’m absently-minded struggling to twist the top of a domestic Oreo biscuit I bought at a service station many kilometres ago.

Toby looks over at me. “They are French,” he says.

“What?” I’m brought back out of my reverie.

He gestures to my biscuit. “Continental Oreos have a left handed thread. You’re just screwing the top tighter on.”

I twist in the opposite direction, and sure enough, the tops lifts smoothly off, revealing the hidden white creamy layer. I scrape it off with my teeth. “Oi hay nee heg bag koo ge giitty.”

Vicki looks up from her camera, where she is checking her panoramic shots. “Say what now?”

I finish the Oreo. “I say we head back to the city.”

We agree, and roll back onto the highway, heading south this time. The day is fading by now, and we are treated to a beautiful sunset as the Atlas Mountains slowly rise back into view.

A sunset fit for the Lone Ranger, but yippee ki yay is in short supply for the team …

After a night at a beautiful Riad in Marrakesh, which costs us about £10 per head, we are back on the road. We’ve hopped on WiFi, cross-referenced addresses, and done as much as we can to get the location.

One of the problems that we face, whenever we do a delivery, is that the majority of places that care for children do not widely advertise their address – and rightly so. We are therefore usually reliant on a description sent by the venue themselves.

This means that despite our best efforts, the next morning we’re still trying to triangulate where we should be. We stop off at what looks like a general store in a vilage some miles from the main road … and suddenly a sun-tanned European woman walks round the corner and stops in surprise when she see the van.

We know exactly where WE are. It’s the rest of the world that we’re not sure about …

A stroke of luck for us for a change! The woman turns out to be Olivia – the Peace Corps volunteer who is the field manager for Project Soar. She hops in the van and under her guidance, we are at the destination in a few minutes.

We unload our bags from the van and bring them in. Pens, sports equipment games and toys are unloaded.

We’ve also brought a Raspberry Pi for them, a low cost computer which plugs into the television like the Spectrums and C64s from back in the day. It costs about $30, but it means that the children can learn to use office packages, as well as learning how to code, create music and other media packages as well as play a few games. It’s a whistle-stop tour of the Pi’s capabilities, but they have manuals and guides that we have provided – as long as I can whet their appetite for “what” it can do, they will quickly work out the “how”.

Olivia explains that the project which currently helps about 100 girls expand their education, skills and future prospects, is looking to expand and provide help to girls in more locations, and what we have delivered today is a step in that direction.

Our aid delivered, it’s time to go. We shake hands with Olivia and the team at Project Soar.

“Apologies for our late arrival. We were hoping to be here yesterday, but we got a little lost.”

They smile sympathetically, and agree that yes, the roads around the village here are a bit of a maze. As a team, we exchange glances and decide that it’s probably best it we keep quiet about the fact that we ended up about 80 miles away.

It’s a beautiful afternoon as we head back to the airport. The snow-capped Atlas Mountains are stunning, hanging like clouds in the blue haze, as we head along the highway.

Toby checks the fuel gauge of the rented van. “How far to the airport?” he asks.

I check the map. “Ha!”

“Ha?”

“It’s north of us … by about 15km.”

Vicki shakes her head. “Here we go again!”

— END

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