Katherine Camp (MID '12)
My internship in Moroccon (summer 2011) was a great opportunity to see international development in action. I was interested in working on a community-based environmental project abroad, and as it turned out, I did not have to go very far to find it.
I met Danielle Loustau-Williams, a PhD student at GSPIA, and learned about her work with Anzar Exchange, which she and her husband Tarik Iguermia started four years ago to fight soil erosion and desertification in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Through my work at East Liberty Development, Inc., a community development organization in Pittsburgh, I was involved in "green infrastructure" projects to reduce the amount of rainwater that reaches the city's sewer system. As I learned, some of the same rainwater harvesting techniques can prevent erosion and desertification in Morocco's arid climate.
In the village of El Mers, I helped test environmentally friendly practices to see how they could benefit rural Morocco. People in the area were not familiar with compost, but once we built and tended to a demonstration compost pile, many wanted to try it themselves. We also planted nearly 500 almond and apricot seeds that when transplanted, will help stabilize the soil from erosion and reduce flooding, in addition to providing food and income.
I especially enjoyed working with the enthusiastic members of the women's association in El Mers, who were concerned about litter in the village. We organized a trash cleanup - the village's first - as the kick-off to an anti-littering campaign. We also installed public trash cans where before there were none.
In addition to the opportunity to apply the skills I've learned at GSPIA, what made the experience valuable for me was getting to know Tarik's family. We communicated in French, and they taught me vocabulary in Darija (Moroccan Arabic). Our conversations about food, politics, Islam, and family broadened my perspective about life in Morocco.