Graduates of U.S. Exchange programs share their experiences in Ouarzazate Saturday

Graduates of U.S. Exchange programs share their experiences in Ouarzazate Saturday

By: Ouarzazate e-news stuff
A year after he returned from an leadership exchange program in America, Mohamed Ait Baha created Generation Leaders, a program which teaches young people to be leaders in their community.“This experience was an eye-opener,’’Ait Baha said about of his visit to America in 2006 on the Middle East Partnership Initiative.“It opened doors for me.  I had a sense of direction. I knew the person I should become. I had potential that I didn’t know I had. MEPI made me understand myself more others better.’’Ait Baha was among 15 Moroccan professionals who shared their experience today at the Congress Palace during Alumni Day, an event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.

The event was an opportunity for Moroccans who have participated in U.S. exchange programs to share their experiences and learn how to apply for grants and other programs to develop projects and expand existing ones. Moroccans who will be participating in U.S. Exchange programs this summer also participated in the event.

High School students who are involved in the English Access programs also learned about exchange programs for young people.The event seeks to connect alumni of U.S. Exchange programs with each other and give U.S. Embassy staff an opportunity to see what people are doing in their communities after they returned from the United States, said Matthew Long, cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy. Participants came from Tinghir, Errachidia, Zagora and Ouarzazate.

”The purpose of the exchange program is to change people’s points view about America,’’ he said. “We choose people who see themselves as leaders.’’

Every year, about 150 to 200 Moroccans participate in U.S. exchange programs, said Dominique Benbrahim, cultural affairs specialist at the U.S. Embassy. Some of the programs include Fulbright, MEPI, Girls Tech, Women’s Tech, Between the Lines, International Visitors Leadership Program, Near East South Asia Undergraduate Exchange Program, and Student for United States Internship and Space Camp.

Since 1953, three of the 28 Moroccans who have participated in the Fulbright Exchange program are from Ouarzazate, said Oussama El Addouli, coordinator and outreach director of the Moroccan Exchange Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange.Fulbright program provides scholarships for Moroccan students to pursue master’s and doctoral programs in America. Americans also come to Morocco to teach at universities or conduct research projects.

There are two Fulbright teaching assistant at Faculty Polydisciplinaire de Ouarzazate (Ibn Zohr).The United States Embassy continues to provide teaching assistants at the faculty, said Hanane Darhour, director of the English department at the faculty.“The coordination between Morocco and America is a good way to empower our relationship,’’ said Hanane Darhour, director of the English department at the faculty. “This exchange helps the faculty to be more popular in America and make it more powerful.’’

Sghiri Zoubir, of Errachidia, visited the United States on an International Visitors  Program last year. During his visit, he toured eight states including Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Miami and Virginia.

“This program changed my whole life, personally and professionally,’’ said Zoubir, an Arabic high school teacher. “I learned that time is money and that you have to be committed to what you are doing.’’

Souad Benmassaoud, 37, communication coordinator at Democratic League of Women’s Rights in Ouarzazate, learned about domestic violence services when she participated in the International Visitors Program in 2010.The program took her on a tour of police departments, rehabilitation programs for men who abuse women and agencies working on domestic violence issues.“I found myself in this program,’’ she said. “This is what I want to learn.’’

Manal Elattir, 29, of Rabat, participated in the Fortune Mentoring for Women in Business program in 2010. After the program, she created Anarouz Association, a program which helps women artisans’ find markets for their products.Elattir said she was inspired by the women she met in America as well as the Moroccan women she began working with after she returned home.“Some people are modest, timid and afraid about their abilities, but we have to be brave and try to bring change using our capacity and abilities,’’ she said. “To value the power in you, you can’t be afraid of your power, but embrace it and try to bring change.’’

Majida Chahid, 46, went to America in 2006 on a program to learn about women empowerment. The program inspired her to get involved in politics. Today, she is a councilor in  Tinzoulin in Zagora Province. She is also director of a women’s rights organization.

Ouafa Abba, 25, an engineer with ORNV Agricole (Office Regionale de Mise en Valeur Agricole), is going to the U.S. on the International Visitors Program in the summer. She hopes to learn new skills to improve herself.“Life gives us lots of opportunities, and it’s not enough to accept those opportunities,’’ she said. “But we have to act and take the initiative.’’
This article was written by: Rihame Al haiane, Hafssa Ait Tabamoute, Soukaina Bouihi, Sara Errajy and Abdel Moula Mdiouani

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