Despite the weather being somewhat foggy and wet on the first 2 days, we were quite worn out from our adventures in Marrakesh and were quite happy to curl up with a good book in front of the library fire. On the second afternoon, I'd finished my book and came across some pamphlets regarding the Eve Branson Foundation and what she does for the 3 villages Tansghart, Asselda and Asni in this remote region.
What blew my western-feminist mind was the revelation that the local girls of this area are expected to leave school at the tender age of 13 and have nothing to do during daylight hours except mind the cows until the prospect of marriage arrives. Can you imagine being a teenage girl with absolutely nothing to do?
Eve Branson had the same reaction and has had the amazing energy and temerity to say, "Enough! What can I do to help?"
For those of you wondering....yes, Eve Branson is Richard Branson's mum. She is apparently in her 80's and thinks nothing of scrambling about the countryside looking for land for the cashmere goats (see Newsletters 5 and onwards).
Richard Branson has taken the initiative and wishes his companies to give back 2% to the local community. At the Kasbah Tamadot, they decided to recruit and train mainly local Berber people instead of bringing in trained people from the cities. This took 5 years to train the staff in various skills and in learning English and French. Many of these adults had never had a job before. 90% of the staff today are local Berber people who are so friendly and ever so happy to make your acquaintance.
For more information about Kasbah Tamadot and their views, please click here:
This is a short documentary portraying the positive impact of Eve Branson, helped by Virgin Unite and the Hotel Kasbah Tamadot, upon surrounding communities in the Higher Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
On the 4th day of our stay, the sun was back out and we took a trip with Zoubair (Eve's Project Manager & interpreter) across the valley to visit the cashmere goats in Tansghart. We also visited the new building that houses the young girls that have been learning to sew and embroider. Their work is simple, colourful and wonderful to behold.
The girls are also improving their English by taking 4 hours tuition a week from Zoubair to help improve their job options should they wish to one day leave the village or work at the Kasbah.
Morocco's main industry is tourism along with some fruit export. Morrocan people are well known for their ability to pick up languages......even in the deepest alleyways of the souk's of Marakesh I heard a young man talking to a potential customer in Afrikaans (South African Dutch)!
My heart really went out to this community, these girls and what Eve Branson is trying to accomplish. Oh, that I have half her tenacity at her age!
This is the elderly shop minder who along with his son Yunnis sells the most beautiful throws, rugs, handmade jewellery, antique wooden bowls and various pottery ALL made LOCALLY within the area, on behalf of the Eve Branson Foundation. 30% of the cost of what you pay goes directly back to the community to help fund various projects such as providing teachers for schools, creating extra looms, building goat sheds and perhaps the most relevant of all - the village opposite the valley from the Kasbah, Tansghart, was finally able to have water piped in for the first time.
Should any of the above caught your attention and you perhaps are hungry for a little more, please see below the Virgin Unite Newsletters to read at your leisure.
Virgin Newsletter 1 - 2005
Virgin Unite Newsletter 1 - 2005
Virgin Newsletter 2 - August 2006
Virgin Unite Newsletter 2 - August 2006
Virgin Newsletter 3 - December 2006
Virgin Unite Newsletter 3 - December 2006
Virgin Newsletter 4 - February 2007
Virgin Unite Newsletter 4 - February 2007
Virgin Newsletter 5 - September 2007
Virgin Unite Newsletter 5 - September 2007
Virgin Newsletter 6 - February 2008
Virgin Unite Newsletter 6 - February 2008
Virgin Newsletter 7 - August 2008
Virgin Unite Newsletter 7 - August 2008
Virgin Newsletter 8 - April 2009
Virgin Unite Newsletter 8 - April 2009
Virgin Newsletter 9 - May 2009
Virgin Unite Newsletter 9 - May 2009
Virgin Newsletter 10 - October 2009
Virgin Unite Newsletter 10 - October 2009
Virgin Newsletter 11 - December 2009
Virgin Unite Newsletter 11 - December 2009
Virgin Newsletter 12 - June 2010
Virgin Unite Newsletter 12 - June 2010
Virgin Newsletter 13 - October 2011
Virgin Unite Newsletter 13 - October 2010
Virgin Newsletter 14 - December 2010
Virgin Unite Newsletter 14 - December 2010
Many thanks to Robert Speirs at Virgin for forwarding me the back issues.