So you want to start a non-profit…

Starting the Amal Center was a difficult endeavor, I can’t explain why exactly I did it, I did not have a very clear plan on how it would all develop, I did not have answers to people’s most basic questions, like “how long will the women train there?”  I would freeze up and give vague answers like “well, we are still in the experimental stage trying to find a successful formula…”

I did not anticipate also the strain it would have on my family, of course no one could foresee that my daughter would develop a bone cyst that we discovered about 10 days after I signed the lease for the Amal Center, and that would put her on crutches for the next 5 months.  I would never wish it on anyone to undertake a major remodeling job AND have your daughter need emergency surgery and a metal plate inserted.  I felt that I had made an internal promise and engagement to help women who have had lives much more difficult than my own, but ultimately found myself often torn between the responsibility I felt to honor that promise, and the responsibility I felt to honor the more fundamental promises I have towards my husband and children.  My husband is a good and patient man, and I feel like he has been just as responsible for the manifestation of the Amal Center as I or anyone else has.  He works long hours to allow me to follow this weird and inexplicable dream to create, from scratch, a massive institution to empower women.  He supports me in this, and often provides a realistic perspective to counter my “woman’s intuition” approach.  Did I also mention that when you are the president of a non-profit, you don’t get paid.  But you get the cool perk of being the president of something, which is totally worth the blood, sweat and tears (please pick up on the sarcasm).  Just time-wise, the Amal Center needed as much as I could give it, and so did everything else important to me.  Valuable relationships and friendships suffered damage because of this.  My management and communication skills (my least developed skill set) were tested to the extreme.

However as you can see all these sentences are in the PAST tense, not because the Amal Center fell apart, au contraire.   At the most crucial time, deliverance appeared.  Help came in many forms: an experienced board of directors came together (which would have been so valuable from the beginning: don’t work alone is a big lesson learned), volunteers took over chunks of the work (delegate!), and a life-saving grant was awarded to the Amal Center by the Swiss Drosos Foundation (apply for any and all grants, sooner or later someone will believe in what you are doing and want to help!).  All of a sudden, a very skilled and experienced director was hired to run the Amal Center.  Another talented and gracious person came on board to take care of communications, which is basically telling the story of who we are and what we do to many audiences through many mediums. over and over.  Soon we will also have a social worker (!!!) to screen potential trainees and monitor their progress.

Now if you ask me all your trick questions like “how long will the women stay at the Amal Center?” or “how are the women selected?” or “what happens to them afterwards?” I no longer need to bob and weave through them, there are actual solid, well-thought out answers. The women will spend 4 months in training.  The candidates are selected either through our partnerships with other local non-profits, or based on an application and interview process to determine socio-economic need.  Priority is given to mothers who are the primary support of their families (widows, divorced, single mothers) and to women who were child maids.  The women also need to demonstrate a degree of motivation and the desire to enter the job market.  While they are at the Amal Center, the trainees will learn: Moroccan cooking, “Cuisine Internationale” (will show you photos in a bit), baking and pastry-making, waiting tables.  And they will pick one language-based course to study: either Arabic literacy, French or English.  In addition, we are going to be having workshops on what is referred to in the field as “soft skills”, such as life-planning, empowerment, non-violent communication, reproductive help, and this thanks to a working partnership with Search for Common Ground, a Rabat-based international NGO.  Simultaneously, our Amal Center team will be networking with potential employers to facilitate job placement for the women once they graduate from the Amal Center.  Insha Allah!

Right now we are in transition mode full-swing.  The entire team is getting used to the new structure and putting everything in place to ensure that when the new trainees come in, they get a really top-quality training experience.  5 of the women who started out as trainees and made it through some of the rocky transition times are now full-time staff members with work contracts and benefits.  And also we saw that it would be impossible to move forward without a clear leader in the kitchen, so we hired a very capable chef (male, I think that also makes a difference and helps balance dynamics).  On the one hand, we’ve come a long way and are now working with a very clear objective.  On the other hand, I’m impatient to actually get down to the training and job placement!  We have not even gotten to the real work.

And in the meantime, we also have a restaurant to run.  The restaurant has been a huge success (alhamdulilah).  In November (pre-grant) we served an average of 13 people a day.  In December that number went up to 29!  I think January’s going to show even more of an increase.  Friday is by far the busiest day: couscous day!  The number of customers on Friday has been gradually increasing until we broke 100 recently.  Here’s what some of them have to say on tripadvisor  Mostly people love the place/food/social concept (a few people were not feelin the love though).

Speaking of links, the Amal Center is having its (annual?) fundraiser, an effort that is spearheaded by some of our volunteers.  Anyone who wants to be a part of our humble endeavor here in Marrakesh can use this rockehub link  which will be up only until the end of January.

New garden couches:

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Tea time cookies:
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The ceramic teap-cups are part of a donation from a local artisan businessman.  He gave us hundreds of pieces.  Those are the kind of amazing heart connections that happen.
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It tastes like deviled eggs, and salad nicoise.
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This is what I want to eat for every meal:
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A “light snack” for the mothers and toddlers weekly class.

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Traditional Moroccan cookies:
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Wow. I don’t even know what this is:

raspberry

 

 

 

 

The team that is behind all this amazing yumminess:
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Kitchen looking good:
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And this!  I could also eat this…a lot.  Seafood bastila:
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Again, no idea what any of this is, sigh…
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Cooking lessons happen in a sort of informal way:
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The Amal team had a booth at a local fair, another opportunity for the women to display and sell their goods and mostly to become confident in a rather intimidating setting (a good number of the fair-goers were European).
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And here is that donation link again http://www.rockethub.com/projects/35895-expansion-efforts-for-moroccan-women-s-center-working-to-employ-empower .  If you made it to the end of this post, thank you dear ones near and far for reading first draft material!

 

Ramadan reports, recaps and realizations

It’s been so long since I last posted that wordpress has totally changed their interface…have not even “checked my stats” in about 3 months, which if you’re a fellow blogger, you know how obsessive that can get.  I feel both flattered and kind of guilty that an average of 250 people visit my blog daily to find…nothing but a 3 month old post about the Amal center.  Well, you can all blame the Amal center for the complete lack of novelty on this blog.

Where should I even begin?  A few updates are in order.  The thing I am most thankful for in the span of the last 3 months is that, after a gruelling 5 month stint on crutches (bone cyst surgery), my daughter Karima finally got to walk unassisted, just a few weeks before her 11th birthday.  She journeyed very deeply into the world of disability, and just as she was starting to identify with that world, by God’s loving grace she came back again,  The layers are still falling off, as she adjusts to her body, which she has been afraid to harm, as she adjusts to being part bionic girl…as she receives permission from her doctor to do anything she likes.  Can I kneel in prayer?  She asks him.  Yes, by all means.  Welcome back baby girl.

And there is the Amal Center.  Such a rich theater to observe the human character.  Every day some new dynamic to learn and be aware of.  The women there, although they come from disadvantaged backgrounds, have a very rich and complex culture and belief system.  It’s an intricate weaving of spiritual and cultural threads, sometimes hard to pick out one from another.  One thing is certain, their belief in God and His infinite mercy, and their complete acceptance of His decree is where everything they do emanates from.  Everything starts from that belief and returns to it.

Other times their beliefs border on superstition, for example, if someone comes to work in the kitchen, and right after that the Amal center receives a lot of customers, the ladies say that that person has “hot heels” meaning that a lot of people where hot on her heels.  The opposite is true as well, if a person comes to the kitchen and all of a sudden, there’s no sign of customers, that person has “cold heels”.  Everything is measured in terms of this increase or decrease of “baraka”, the blessing that emanates from the Divine.

And the ladies are fun to be with.  There is one lady there who would like very much to get married, and is getting to that age where no one asks your age anymore for fear of offending you.  She’s not shy about the fact that she’s getting into old maid territory, she’s boisterous and loud and jokes about it all the time.  At the beginning of Ramadan, she looks around at us and says:

“Here’s my prayer for this Ramadan, she lifts up her hands in supplication and tells us, everyone, put your hands up with me.  Oh Lord, I’m asking You, please, this Ramadan, send me someone who needs a woman to cook him harira soup every night.”

And everyone says “Amen!  Dear Lord please don’t let her down”.   So if you all out there are making any prayers this month, remember that in Marrakesh, in the Amal Center, one lady would really love to marry a good man and what’s more she will cook him some great soup.

Once we started getting customers at the Amal center, a lot of the customers turned into regulars.  It’s been really interesting to watch that community take root.  A few of the regulars would come almost every day, alone, but hoping to strike up some friendly conversation, and they would find the other regulars and sit there together for hours over a chicken tajine.  One lady we called “vegetarian briouate” because that’s what she ordered every single time.   Other people always came in small groups, so we have the “bankers”, the “call center folks”, the “university professors” and for some reason, lots and lots of doctors and medical professionals.  My husband said, “It sounds like Cheers over there”.

One day a couple of eye doctors came in, and after their meal, one of them generously offered free eye exams to any of the ladies working at the Amal center.  I said, joking, “That’s great because there’s just one blind girl after the other in that kitchen”.  And then the other eye doctor said,”May there be many, many blind people cause they are our bread and butter”.  I always suspected that that’s how doctors thought, just never heard it stated so bluntly.  Then one day a dentist starts to come to have lunch at the Amal center, and those ladies, if there’s anything worse than their eyes it’s their teeth.   They were obviously excited that the dentist might offer them some care at a reduced rate, since dentist work is not affordable to them.  When the waitress came back to the kitchen after serving him, they asked her “So?  Did you smile at him a bunch so he can see how bad your teeth are?”  and she said “I smiled til I scared the daylights out of him,  My teeth are so bad he couldn’t even look at them”.  Unfortunately they did not get any offers for dental care yet.

There was one moment that wasy very significant to me.  We needed business cards, and so I’d gone to get some made at the printers.  I tried to come up with a few words that would sum up the two “wings” if you will, of the Amal Center.  One being great home-cooked Moroccan food, and the other being the social aspect of helping women.  So I chose the words “Amal Center for Culinary Arts in benefit of Marginalized Women” (in French and Arabic).  I felt pretty pleased with myself, showing up with 1000 business cards printed up and ready to hand out to customers.  I gave some to the women…then about half an hour later, they came to me and said “Nora we have to say something but please don’t be offended.  We read the cards and we don’t like the word “marginalized”.  We feel like people will think that we are ladies coming off the streets, that we had gone astray or something.  None of us want to be referred to that way”.  I was stunned.  And embarassed.  Because for once the two worlds that I was operating in finally overlapped…on the one hand, I am working with these women every day, I know who they are very well.  On the other hand, I’ve taken it upon myself to be a spokesperson for them to a world that they don’t have access to, in languages they don’t speak.  And I realized how careful I need to be in checking with them how they want to be represented.

I’m sorry to say that in the end, because it was convenient, we used those cards anyway, then got another batch that says “women in need” instead of “marginalized women”.  That’s the wording that they all approved.  The word marginalized sparked A LOT of debate.  Customers came to us with suggestions for other wording.  One woman, upon hearing about the women’s resistance to the term, asked them :

“Did you have an education?”

“No”

“Do you have health care?”

“No”

“Do you have any social security?”

“No”

“Do you have enough money to meet your basic needs?”

“No”

“Well, let me just say that you ARE marginalized.  You are not enjoying your full rights as a citizen, and that is the point of you being here, to change that!”

The reason I am speaking about all this in the past tense is that since Ramadan started, obviously the whole lunch scene died down.  Then the Amal center will close for August.

With Ramadan coming 11 days earlier every year, this year we started fasting on July 9th.  Started out in Marrakesh with some 110 degree weather (45 C).  That means we are dealing with two things, the fast, which is physically challenging but not as challenging as people who aren’t fasting perceive it to be.  Then there is the heat, which, even without fasting, is incredibly exhausting and makes normal activity really slow and difficult.  So what do people do?  They settle in to survive the long haul.  They alter their schedules in whatever way possible to make the fast doable.  Obviously the builders across the street aren’t going to work their usual shift of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  They defer to common sense and have two possible shifts: from 4 a.m. to about 11 a.m. or they start right after the sunset meal and go until the crack of dawn.  It’s busy all night around here.  Not to mention the various calls to prayer in the early morning…one to gently awaken people, remind them to eat a little something…one to announce the first thread of light, stop eating and go to prayers…the different readings of quran reaching us from neighborhood mosques at all hours of the night.  That’s the real Marrakesh night life.

I read a few teaching stories about the benefit of fasting in the extreme heat.  One of them was about Aisha, the prophet Muhammad’s wife, who would choose to fast voluntarily on some of the hottest days.  When she was asked why, she said “When the price is cheap, there are a lot of buyers”.  I love that.  I have to admit that I have always “bought when the price is cheap”, i.e. when the days are short and cool, I will fast any days that I missed from Ramadan or any voluntary days.  But experiencing this fast in the long, hot days and knowing its worth is amazing.  There’s no breezing through this.  There is only surrender to it and the hope that this is door to God.

One realization came to me during the first few days, when I was both hungry and thirsty and kind of weak, not much energy and it was playing on my mood and making me feel kind of down…then I thought, there are people for whom this state is everyday reality, there is no feast at the end of the day.  At that point all I could do was weep.

This difficult fast, it breaks me appart from the cocoon of comfort that I surround myself with and never question.  The cocoon where every small whisper of hunger is immediately shushed, every pull and taughtness of thirst is immediately eased.  Where the illusion of MY strength, MY doing in this world remains unchallenged.  It’s such a welcome upheaval.  There’s no more wonderful thing I’d rather do in the company of a whole country and a whole portion of the world right now than partake in this collective subduing of the ego.

And I’m thrilled that this is the third or fourth year in a row that I can share of little of Ramadan on this blog.  Each year a little different, and I am blessed that this blog allows me to reflect on the flavor of each Ramadan (so to speak).

Come on Amal center, almost there!

 

 

After a good 2.5 months, work at the Amal center is finally wrapping up!  Every week, the contractor takes a look around and says “all right, I’m going to put more workers on this site and we’re going to finish this thing.  One week max, we’ll be out of here”. This is the first time that I think we might actually have a chance.  Let me show you a few of things we’ve been working on.

I’m very happy with these windows we found at Souk el Khmiss, the huge covered flea market where no tourist dares set foot. The windows are so very quintessentially Moroccan and they’ve got soul, that’s what we want for this place.

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Do you see the wooden posts there?  They are the beginning of a picket fence that will be installed tomorrow, insha Allah, around the kids’ garden.  And that color of paint, it’s so Marrakesh, we had to stick with it.  It’s called Rose Mamounia.  DSC_0225

 

Just got aluminum windows put in the kitchen today.  It looks so bright and airy with the nice cream colored paint and tile work.  The industrial sink is also from the flea market.DSC_0227

 

 

Here is the reception area. Salam alaykum and welcome to Amal, how many are in your party?  Also it will be a display area for all the cupcakes, brownies, cheesecake and assortment of Moroccan cookies that the ladies will make…DSC_0231

 

 

Part of the indoor dining area.  Planning to put some nice Moroccan banquettes here.DSC_0230

 

The kids’ room!  The circles on the wall are chalkboard, so the kids can draw with chalk straight on the wall.  The chairs are also locally made, painted by our very dedicated volunteers.DSC_0232

 

The main dining room, all painted.  These chairs were also a flea market find. I was having such a hard time finding something wooden, comfortable, durable and inexpensive, but when we came across these chairs I was just thrilled.  They need a good sanding and oiling…volunteers….DSC_0229

 

And this is a view from the front door…the garden has been tiled in Moroccan brick called “bejmat”, and we actually opened up a new entrance from the street that is in line with the front door.

DSC_0235All in all, it’s turning into a beaautiful place.  And although I get overwhelmed by the weight and responsibility of it, I just have to remember to ask for help from all the people who believe in the project.  And most of all, asking for help from the One who sends forth all the we have.

In case you haven’t read my previous posts, the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant is a non-profit organization whose aim is to train and employ underprivileged women in Marrakesh, Morocco.  We plan to serve breakfast and lunch daily, and hope to open in March 2013.  For more information please email me at amalnonprofit@gmail.com 

 

Before and during pictures

Construction is going in full swing over at the Amal Training Center.  Luckily we have a really competent and patient foreman who is in charge of all aspects of the building, otherwise I might have already had a breakdown.  Everyday some combination of us gather to feel and talk through the space.  We’ve torn down a lot of walls, closed up doorways, and even removed a drop ceiling to create a sense of height.  Below you can see the future dining hall which was made by combining three smallish rooms.  Funny story about this space we rented, it used to be a doctor’s office.  The same doctor who delivered one of my kids.  We’re trying to get rid of that doctor’s office feel.  And this process feels a lot like pregnancy, growing something beautiful…

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The kitchen was also made by combining 3 different spaces.  This part of the building was not used for like the last 20 years.  This is how it looked last week.

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And this is what it looks like now…  The plumbing is just ancient and has to be stripped.

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Outside of the kitchen, last week:

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And now…

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It’s been fun to figure out how the kitchen should flow, slowly the end vision is emerging.

And lots of people are coming forward to offer help in neat and unique ways.  I’ll write about some of them in the next few posts, but for now I’ll tell you about one of them:

We have a resourceful young intern named Rachel who is, at the moment, in charge of outreach (i.e. fundraising).  She’s put our project up on a site called RocketHub, which is a new kind of site called a crow-funding site, similar to Kickstarter (crowd-funding is now “a thing”, in case you didn’t know).  We hope to raise $5000 in 50 days for kitchen equipment, and it’s been amazing to watch the donations pouring in.  As of now, the site has been live for a week and we are at 70% of our goal!  Whenever I open my email I get about 5 notifications telling me that someone has donated to the project, it’s almost too much goodness for my heart to bear…  Now it’s really feeling like a community effort.  I am in awe as I see God’s loving mercy flowing and flooding these women’s lives.  Their lives will never be the same after this.

Here is the website if you would like to support the project.  I don’t enjoy asking for money, so please feel no pressure.  You support this project through your encouraging words, loving thoughts and prayers, and through this dream we are all carrying to give these women a chance at a new life.

http://www.rockethub.com/projects/12451-amal-women-s-training-center-and-moroccan-restaurant

 

Pics of the new place

Here are the pictures of the space we rented for the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant.  We went on a Sunday, a few of the actual women who will be training there, their kids, and a couple of volunteers, to see the space together.

Here is the front entrance.  The glass bricks are nice but will be replaced with glass windows for more connection between indoor and outdoor.  There is a lot of garden space, some of it will be paved with bricks to make a larger outdoor seating area.

Amal Women's Training Center

This is part of the indoor dining area.  We don’t have electricity yet, and this was at the end of the day, so I could only take pictures of this front room. The other room that is visible there will have a display area for the baked goods.  In addition, there will be another dining room, an office, and a classroom where the ladies can learn to read/write.

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Detached from the main villa, there are some rooms in the back.  We’re thinking that these would be the ideal place for the training kitchen.  Little Si Mohamed discovered a rickety old ladder, we had a hard time getting him down from there.  He’s right in the terrible two’s all right.

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Little Chaima climbed the orange tree and picked as many as she could reach.  In the end her family went home with a bag full.   I smiled to think that this place is already yielding “fruits” and that seems like a good sign.

DSC_0051Fatiha, a dear friend and future trainee, with Melissa, a dear friend and volunteer.

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That patch will  turn into an herb garden (inshAllah Godwilling):

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A little orange party:

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There’s a bit of work to be done.  Some of the place was well-kept and some of it is in disrepair.  Tomorrow I have a meeting with a builder to start in on the alterations.  I’m excited because I connected with the perfect person to help out with this project.  I was talking to Meriem, the young woman in the picture above (holding a shoulder bag).  I was telling her how I want to put together Sponsor Packets to present to potential sponsors.

Then she said “Oh, I’ve done that for a few projects at the University”.

I said “Wait, what did you study again?”

“Economics”

“And now you’re done with school?”

“Yes I have my Bachelor’s and I’m taking time off now”.

“Um, would you like to work on this project…for free?”

“YES!”

I’m so happy, both for the project’s sake and for Meriem’s.  I know she’s a smart, resourceful and hardworking person and will bring a lot of energy to this venture.  I’m much relieved to have someone of her caliber and skill set on board.  This project has been like this, serendipitous connections and unfolding of new things.  It’s so beyond what I might do or dream for it, it’s so much bigger and more beautiful.

 

Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant

Doesn’t that sound good!!???  I’m so very excited and happy to announce that this dream is finally coming into reality.  I’m in excitement overdrive right now about the whole thing so bear with me.  

Last time I wrote about how we had decided to establish this project as a non-profit.  We had a general assembly, elected a board of 7 members from among the women.  Naturally, it made sense for me to be the president or director of the non-profit, Lalla Khadija is the treasurer, and a lovely woman named Meriem is the secretary.   After we did all this, we had to iron out our statutes.  We stated as our basic goals:

To establish a training center in Moroccan cooking and pastries for at-risk women to rescue them from poverty.

To establish a simple restaurant to sell the products of the training center.

Then we put together a dossier that contains the statutes, the list of board members, the minutes from the general assembly, and photocopies of each of the members’ ID cards.  All of this of course in seven copies, each page notarized, as is the custom here in Morocco.  A person’s signature here is worthless unless it is notarized.

But we still needed one crucial document to establish this non-profit, and that was a rental contract.  That’s right, to register any kind of business or non-profit in Morocco one first needs to have a rental contract.  If a person is a homeowner then they can use their home address temporarily.  But none of us are, so the final step of renting a place was crucial for us.

I’ve been looking for spaces to rent since about May/June.  I’ve hired samsars (kinda fly-by-night agent that helps locate rentals), knocked on doors, found places that I got excited about but that weren’t meant to be, and spent probably 100s of hours day-dreaming and obsessing about “our space” (and the project in general, I even had very realistic dreams that we rented such-and-such a space).  I made a lot prayers, especially the prayer of asking for God’s direction in making a decision salat al istikhara.  It goes something like this:

Allah, if you know that this matter: renting this house for the women’s center, is best for me in my spiritual and worldly affairs, in this life and the next, in the immediate and the long-term, then will it for me, make it easy, and then put blessing in it for me.  And if You know that this matter: renting this house for the women’s center, is bad for me in my spiritual and worldly affairs, in this life and the next, in the immediate and the long-term, then drive it away from me and drive me away from it, and will goodness for me wherever that may lie.

A beautifully simple and liberating prayer.

Everyone I met and told about this project also would make prayers of ease and blessing.  Allahumma yassir, Allahumma barik.  We work and strive in this world of cause and effect, but ultimately where things are truly determined is in a realm far beyond us.  I never know who’s prayer is being answered or if it is a confluence of collective prayer…

Finally, the right space for our project materialized.  It’s the downstairs of a villa in the Gueliz area.  It has a wealth of light and all out good vibes.  The street is lined with trees, the house is south facing so receives good light all day, there is a nice garden for outside dining and an herb garden, and plenty of space inside to create a great training kitchen, dining area, and display area for the pastries (I’ll try to post some pics soon).  Thanks to private donations, we were able to pay the first year of rent in advance!

We are overjoyed with the space.  The villa is old and needs some work, but the general feeling there is that it’s a safe and beautiful place for these women to learn and grow.  Honestly it feels like a haven.  The next phase is to make the necessary alterations and aesthetic improvements.  An architect friend is kindly donating his time to draw up a plan of the space and make suggestions on how to proceed.  Then next week we will bring in a builder to start tearing down some walls, putting a few doorways and windows in, etc.  By the end of December, inshallah, we’ll be ready for equipment and furniture.  Then the actual work and training can begin, yeah!

At this point, like I said, we’ve received some very generous support for the rent and repairs.  We are now looking to raise the funds needed for the equipment and furniture.  I’m appealing to you, dear readers and blogging community, for this support.  I’d like to invite you to be part of this project with any donation that is possible to you.

I’m planning on asking some of the major equipment companies in the Food Service industry if they’ll sponsor our training center via some kind of donation of equipment and/or discount.  I’m talking about Promark, Arcade Equipment and Foyelec.  We don’t need a lot, but there are minimal pieces of professional equipment that we need like a big refrigerator, good range top and oven (I could go into great detail about what we need, I’ll save that though for a future post).  Maybe one of my readers is somehow connected to one of these companies.

Here is the bank info for the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant:

Bank name: Attijariwafa Bank
Account number (R.I.B) 007450000806500030059496
SWIFT code: BCM.AM.AMC

Here’s our name and address:

Association Amal pour la Cuisine et les Gateaux Marocains
Villa Simone
Angle Rue Allah ben Ahmed et Ibn Sina
Quartier l’Hopital
Gueliz, Marrakesh, 40 000 MAROC
 
Phone number: +212 613 10 84 60
email: amalnonprofit (at) gmail (dot) com 
(website coming soon!)
Facebook: AmalNonProfit 

Please support these needy and at-risk women with whatever donation is within your means.  Peace and blessings to you all.

Remember him?

 

He came into life under difficult circumstances.  He is Saeeda’s son (name changed for privacy).  Such a curious, funny, quick child.  Since his birth, his mother, who is unmarried, drew the veil of secrecy around herself and her child in order to protect them both from scrutiny.  With time however, she introduced him to her family as “the son of a woman who can’t take care of him”.  The family just adores him.  With time, many of them came to understand that he is in fact her son,   By that time, they all were in love with him already, they were able to come to terms with it in a palatable way.  The story is a still there “to save face” in front of others… neighbors, strangers.

It’s been almost two years since his birth, since that day when she was penniless and homeless and still weak from childbirth, and we were able to open our home to her for a few weeks.  Things have gotten so much better.  I have had the great pleasure of working closely with Saeeda over the last year in the context of our baking endeavor.  Often times she had her son on her back, and when he was older, scampering about with the pots and pans.  I can honestly say she is one of the best mother’s I’ve seen.  She talks softly and reassuringly to her son, a soothing narrative of what they are doing together.  She takes great care in preparing his special food, soups and baby bottles.  She keeps him clean and well-dressed although she has very little money.  She laughs at the 100 funny things he does, her own small rewards.  Her eyes just shine when she looks at him.  She doesn’t get impatient, she always gives him time.  Being around them both is very soothing and joyful.  Everything in her life has always come to her at great difficulty, even the circumstances around the birth of her son.  But even the burden of being a single mother in Morocco is nothing compared to the love she has for him and the joy he has brought her.   I can see that he is clearly her dearest treasure.