In Marrakesh Girls SOAR

IMG_4075Like 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. IMG_4021 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.” IMG_4025 IMG_4026 IMG_4032

Maryam Montague and a volunteer show the girls America, the home country of  their teaching artist, Designer Amy Butler.
Maryam Montague and a volunteer show the girls America, the home country of their teaching artist, Designer Amy Butler.

IMG_4047 IMG_4103 Half of the girls were led to the arts tent where internationally known artist and designer, Amy Butler, taught them teamwork in making textile necklaces. IMG_4130 IMG_4077 IMG_4079 IMG_4134 IMG_4068 IMG_4081IMG_4094IMG_4093IMG_4096 IMG_4110

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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.”

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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."
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.”
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ASM student Chama (center) translates from Arabic to English for Khadija (left) who does all things with giggles and confidence.

IMG_4121 IMG_4126 IMG_4128 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. IMG_4056 IMG_4062 IMG_4055 IMG_4053 IMG_4050 IMG_4049 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.”

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Cindy McCain

A Southern Girl Gone Global, I flew from my empty Nashville nest in 2014 to land in Africa where I lived two years in magical Marrakesh, Morocco. Now I live in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and continue sharing my journey--so far across 27 countries on 4 continents and the Caribbean. This travel/lifestyle blog is about letting go of fear, clinging to faith, and following your heart's desires. It's a celebration of beauty, adventure, relationship...roots and wings.

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