88 Kisses and 44 Smiles: Sweet Success of Project SOAR

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To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Growing up southern, I’d hear my Mama Sargeant and Grandaddy say when they greeted the grandkids : “Give me some sugar.” A couple of weeks ago, I exchanged eighty-eight kisses  Moroccan- style, one on each cheek, with forty-four sweet girls as they excitedly entered the Project SOAR gates as they do every Sunday during the school year. My students and other volunteers were all smiles and laughs, too.

Last week the last session ended the season for summer break, but sadly, for me, it was another marker of the end of my season in Morocco.   Lord willing, or as Moroccans say, Inshallah,  I will be teaching students in the Caribbean when Project SOAR resumes in the fall.  I will miss the girls, my students who love working with them, and the wonderful people who started and sustain Project SOAR.  I am forever grateful for the hospitality shown to me by Maryam and Chris and the opportunities to teach their son, Tristan, and to serve Douar Ladaam girls.  I believe in Project SOAR’s mission to “empower underserved Moroccan girls through art, sports, and health education…(and to) help keep girls in school, breaking the cycle of girl marriages and early motherhood, and preparing girls to have productive and fulfilled futures.”

From afar I will continue to invite others to get involved in person or through financial support.  Though it is time to be nearer my family and leave Morocco, a country I have come to love the last two years, I will carry this place, these people forever with me in my heart.

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Sports instructor, Alice Elliot explains circuit training to ASM girls, Zineb and Rania, who will lead sports for the day.

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My former student visiting from the US, Jessica Markwood, will being interning in Mozambique this fall.  Four years ago we had just returned from a service trip where we worked with children in Ecuador.

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After sports at Peacock Pavilions we walk to the Project Soar Center in the village.

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Bochra Laghssais leads art class with an empowering project to make leaves for a tree that lists their personal goals and pursuits.

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Last winter students Abla, Najma, and Kenza also volunteered with me.  Project SOAR was chosen to pilot the Be Girl program in Morocco–the first Muslim country that is keeping girls in school by providing them with a hygienic, eco-friendly, vital product.

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Both beloved by the girls are Warda Belkass and Brenda Garcia Jaramillo.

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Volunteering with the girls of Project Soar has been good for students of The American School of Marrakesh as well.  They love laughing and playing with the girls.  Below, they demonstrated ballet moves and then asked the girls to strike a pose.  I am so thankful for their beauty, innocence, and enthusiasm.

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Memories Made at Project SOAR:

In Marrakesh Girls SOAR

Painting Party at Project SOAR

International Women’s Day

 

 

Saturday American Artists To SOAR

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Project SOAR

I can hardly wait for Saturday to return to Project SOAR, this time to paint alongside master American artists like Maggie O’Neill of Swatchroom.

www.maggieoneillfineart.com
http://www.maggieoneillfineart.com

She and other creatives are flying in to decorate welcoming spaces at Peacock Pavilions and the non-profit’s new Dourar Ladaam village center.  There girls and their moms will take classes in health, sports, and yoga.  Also coming in 2015 is a Big Sis program and a Be Girl pads launch.  Learn more about how you can help.

DC-based fine artist Maggie O’Neill paints works inspired by fashion, travel, and music.  She also specializes in interesting Washington places and folks from Uncle Sam to Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt to President Obama.  Partnering again with Maggie are the girls of Gypsy Mint, a Minnesota-based company donating stencils for the weeklong mission.  Committed to giving back and eco-friendly best practices, painters and designers, Alicia Danzig, Kelly Fee, and Peg Malanaphy worked with O’Neill at Project SOAR in December 2013.   You can be a part of ongoing support provided by Maggie O’Neill Fine Art and Gypsy Mint.

On the Gypsy Mint website is this inspiration:

www.gypsymint.com
http://www.gypsymint.com

Showing girls how to discover their own passions means also modeling pursuits of our own.   I’m thankful that since moving to Africa to do a couple of things I love– teach and travel–other passion paths have aligned.  Writing, serving, finding community, even painting again. For all of us, taking the road less traveled does make all the difference.