Lots of proud students and their families at the TALIM/FTAM (Fondation Tanger al Medina) ceremony to award diplomas to the women of the Arabic literacy program.
FTAM President Adil Alaoui presents diploma with French and Arabic teachers
Capping the end of the academic year, women received recognition for their work learning written Arabic, as well as cooking, sewing, and foreign languages (French and English). The range in ages is surprising: we've had enrolees as young as 15, and one of our star students is in her 84th year!
Teachers Fatima Benguerch (Arabic) & Rahma Bouhali (sewing/cooking) with graduate
Though the Arabic course can last up to a maximum of four years, some of our women never want to leave. Some stay on through the foreign language, sewing and cooking classes, the latter recently spinning off a budding cooperative which has been providing catering services to TALIM and other customers.
Recently we reported on the IBM Corporate Volunteers who advised FTAM on its organization and future directions. It was clear in that exercise that the Arabic literacy program is a core activity, not just of FTAM, but of TALIM as well.
In the past several years, we have encouraged students of the summer CLS Arabic program to spend time with the women of our literacy program, putting American students learning Arabic together with Moroccan women learning how to read and write Arabic.
The mix has always been fulfilling – and fun, as seen by the picture at right (courtesy CLS staffer Saddam Issa). What better way to learn a bit of darija than through a Moroccan recipe? And for the women of our literacy program, greater ease in interacting with foreigners can be a boon for those who seek employment opportunities.
Gerald Loftus; photos by TALIM Associate Director Yhtimad Bouziane.
Photo of IBM Corporate Volunteers and Tangier NGO reps (Misha Santa Barbara)
For the past month, Tangier has been home to an international group of corporate social volunteers. IBM's Corporate Service Corps has sent 9 volunteers – all from IBM's worldwide operations, from Rio to Tokyo – to Tangier, fanning out into three teams with three different non-profit associations. Organized by the Morocco office of CDC Development Solutions, the teams have been working with AMED, a university-based group active in sustainable development, the TMSA Foundation, the corporate social responisbility arm of the Tangier-Med port, and FTAM (Fondation Tanger al-Medina), TALIM's partner in the Arabic literacy program for the women of Tangier's medina.
Though TALIM hosted the kickoff event for the entire IBM contingent (photo at top), we've been especially closely involved in the work of the FTAM team: Misha Santa Barbara from the Czech Republic (and IBM's Atlanta office); Lavinia Frota Flach from Brazil, and Ryosuke ("Ryo") Sawazaki from Japan (photo at right, with Mohammed Hammich of the Tangier acrobats, one of the community artistic groups at the FTAM-sponsored cultural center of Borj El Hajoui).
Painstakingly interviewing members of FTAM, the team came to form an accurate picture of the foundation and its challenges. Through a series of facilitated workshops with the leadership of FTAM, IBM's corporate volunteers used their experience in management to stimulate frank discussion of impediments that have prevented the foundation from reaching its full potential.
FTAM's group has chronicled their work in blog posts, including two (Lavinia's and Misha's) on their work with the women of a spinoff cooperative from our Arabic literacy program. They unearthed a great Moroccan variant on MBWA, management by walking around – "work and you will be strong; sit and you will stink." The women of the cooperative are certainly hard-working, though concepts like pricing to cover their costs sometimes elude them. The IBM team provided them with another idea to augment their income: offer cookie-baking classes to foreign visitors willing to pay to get hands-on training. They tested out the concept in a fun cooking class.
Sometimes it takes an interested outside look to help spur a fresh approach, which has helped FTAM focus on its core values, and the strategy necessary over the medium to long term to achieve its objectives. And we are happy to find an interested partner in IBM, which is looking at the possiblities of adapting its online literacy program for use in our literacy classes.