Exodus client Richard Thornton talks about his involvement with the Tijhza Volunteer project…
Richard joins the Tijhza Village project each year and his efforts in helping to promote compost toilets in Tijhza is much appreciated.
"Having previously visited Tijhza with Exodus, it was great to go back in 2007 with the first volunteer trip, and then again with the 2008 and 2009 trips. One of the most rewarding aspects of the volunteer trip is the opportunity it gives to interact with the villagers and a different way of life. Even with the cultural differences, and in my case the language barrier, friendships will be made. What becomes almost immediately apparent is the strong sense of village community and friendship.
Days are generally spent sprucing up village houses and schools, as well as trying to organise the many eager helping hands. This has in the past stretched to roof repair along with litter clearance. Sadly the latter is to my way of thinking a real problem for the village. A positive; following the efforts of the 2008 trip the authorities were moved to completely refit the school we had worked on. In many ways this is the key, seeding activity and being part of a partnership effort. Not just riding in as ‘saviours’ for a few days.
This year the focus turned to the village, rooms in three houses inhabited by older members of the community with little means of supporting themselves were painted. The kindness with which we were invited into their homes, an endless supply of mint tea, was touching and all were genuinely pleased with the end result. It is amazing the difference plaster and a few coats of paint can make.
An interesting project as part of this year’s trip was planning and building a compost toilet for one of the village houses, which has no toilet facilities. Beyond providing a modicum of dignity for a basic human necessity there are the potential environmental benefits, the compost and a long-term way of reducing consumption of a scarce resource - water. The first toilet is in and I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes (no pun intended) and whether it is accepted by the community. The hope is that once one toilet is in place the villagers by their own enthusiasm will assess the benefits and take on the idea.
A word of warning, your new found friendships will be set aside for the annual ‘volunteers vs. teachers’ football match! A set of goal posts donated back in 2008 is now a permanent playground fixture.
If you do sign up your memories of Tijhza, the sun setting over the Atlas Mountains and the many smiling faces will stay with you for a long time. You will need to muck in and contribute otherwise you won’t get the most from your visit. DIY skills are not essential, enthusiasm and good humour are. One thing to learn is things take time in Morocco, like buying timber to build a compost toilet! Best to go with the flow, as the locals might say ‘inshallah’.
As an aside Tijhza is a great place to visit, so there is opportunity to relax on the terrace or take a walk into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. After a few days in the mountains there is nothing better than a trip to the hamman (bath house) in Marrakech to wash away the dust."
If you would like to help out and join one of our successful and popular volunteer trips to Tijhza Village, and still enjoy a walking holiday in the Atlas Mountains, then contact our Groups organiser: Vanessa Fowler.
Click here to view our Tijhza village project page.
For more information please see Trip Notes.