The Marrakech Express
Salaam wa Lakum! I’m Kristen Young, a graduating student from the College of Charleston Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, as well as the co-founder of a non-profit in Morocco. I am happy to share with you some information about travel, research, and working in Africa. Having spent the summer working there, I’ve got some advice for those of you who want to pursue study abroad research and work possibilities.
My summer trip and research all sprang from the idea to start a non-profit in Ouoauizerth (wah-wee-zart), a very rural community in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Why Morocco? As an undergraduate in 2009, I focused in African Studies. I went to Africa twice in 2009: once, to South Africa, and then on a short volunteer trip to North Africa to work with Peace Corps Volunteers and the ACLS (Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness). Fast forward to August 2012; with a half-year of MPA training underway, a friend and I filed for incorporation of our own legal 501 (c) 3 non-profit. We came up with the plan after witnessing a successful Peace Corps project for peer education, and decided to mimic the pilot in another area. We had recognized that the Ouaouizerth community was in need of basic services such as health education, job training, and women’s empowerment. Ultimately, the mission of the organization is simple:
To improve the lives of Moroccan youth and the development of the Ouaouizerth community by facilitating peer-to-peer educational pathways in basic health, job training, and women’s empowerment.
CCDM has now grown to a 7-member board comprising both Moroccans and Americans. We approach learning as a partnership and recognize the importance of fostering global alliances. We have hosted three American graduate students as interns in development, and recently acquired a grant from the Kingdom of Morocco (in partnership with another local organization called Amzawro Association for Development) for seven teachers’ salaries. We also recently purchased ten computers, hundreds of books, and a projector for our classrooms. And through the computer learning, job training, and women’s literacy classes offered we have been able to reach over 200 local residents to date. For my graduate research, I appropriately decided to focus on strategic recommendations for Moroccan non-profits to identify the best methods for implementing projects with CCDM. I spent the summer doing research there courtesy of grants from the College and other sources, and subsequently won the Robert L. Kline award for most outstanding student paper in the Southeast region for Public Administration.
You can do stuff like this, too!
There is no limit to the things you can accomplish through the College of Charleston. If you have a great idea for research or travel, or if you just know you want to have a meaningful experience, the College has a range of research opportunities available through the International Studies department and the African Studies department, as well as travel and volunteer opportunities through the Center for International Education. I started out by creating a poster outlining my research goals for the competitive College of Charleston Graduate Student Poster Session, which awards small grants for students to pursue their research. I didn’t win, but it was great practice—in talking about my organization and ideas for research, getting ideas from other people, and shaping the future of my study. More importantly, it was an introduction to all the hard work I would be doing to make my dream a reality. I cannot stress enough the importance of hard work and dedication to a venture like this. Going the “extra mile” by being involved in things like conferences and poster sessions could make or break an application for funding, or to graduate school, or for an international experience. Be involved, knowledgeable, and strong. Know yourself and your goals, because you will be advertising both!
The College of Charleston has a wealth of resources for students who want to do research, volunteer, or work internationally. Ask for help from everywhere, and listen to people when they give you advice! Go to your faculty adviser, or seek help from other people who have traveled abroad. Make new friends. Seek out all opportunities and then apply for them. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get funding, or get less than you wanted. Odds are, if you work really hard and believe in yourself and your goals, other people will too! For more information about how you can get involved in learning adventures like this, contact the International Studies (http://internationalstudies.cofc.edu) or African Studies (www.cofc.edu/~africanstudies) departments. For information on international funding, contact your program office, or the Center for International Education (https://international.cofc.edu); for larger long-term study grants, check out the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (http://nationalawards.cofc.edu). The possibilities are limitless! You can learn more about my organization CCDM at: www.ccdmorocco.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shukran bisef (thank you)!