COUNTRY: MOROCCO
PROJECT: AMAL
DIRECTOR: NORA FITZGERALD
To donate to Morocco, click here.
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EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE

Under normal circumstances, the Amal Center, focuses on training impoverished and marginalized women in the food industry to help them find permanent employment (scroll down for the description). They have two training centers: a restaurant in Gueliz and a catering/cooking class center in Targa where students get hands on experience in all aspects of the food industry.

During crises, they morph into an amazing organization that provides desperately needed food relief for suffering families in and around Marrakech. You can “meet” the team and view their efforts during Covid shutdowns as they cared for over 2,000 families through this video: https://youtu.be/rlsRWWMOmZw?si=HWGuC7LMfyEHHVpg  Every year during Ramadan, they also extend love to 600-800 families with food baskets.

EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE: PHASE ONE
Amal quickly responded to the devastation caused by the September 9, 2023 earthquake – targeting villages in El Haouz region where the epicenter was located. A friend of Amal’s from a village at the epicenter pleaded, “Survivors have nothing to eat nor water to drink. They are on the streets with no clothes or money and very little support. All local markets are closed or destroyed. People have nothing on them but the clothes they were wearing when the earthquake happened… People are sleeping next to the river with no mattresses or covers. They have nothing! Please send help!” In response, Amal provided over 19,000 meals, 80 tents, 192 solar lights, 54 toilets, and 43 showers.

EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE: PHASE TWO
After the initial humanitarian response, it was important to tackle longer-term issues, helping families who lost everything recover and rebuild their lives. Nora and her team are always thoughtful and deliberate in their efforts. They spent time with affected villagers, listened to their struggles, and worked with them to determine the best ways to help.

The villagers most immediate concern was for their children. Since schools in the earthquake zone were destroyed, children in affected villages were relocated by the government to boarding schools, but the children arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. Amal provided mattresses, blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, soap, shampoo, detergent, sanitary pads, nutritious food supplements, clothing and shoes to the 424 students from their targeted villages who were relocated to schools in Marrakech. They also offered love and encouragement – including playing Uno with the kids and taking them to a soccer game – as these children were far from their families in a strange place after experiencing the trauma of a devastating earthquake.

Villagers, who lost everything, were also eager to receive cooking supplies so they could prepare meals, so Amal created kitchen kits for individual families. Each kit contained a pressure cooker, couscous steamer, kettle, teapot, coffee pot, large dishes, stainless steel tajine, bowls, glasses, stainless steel mugs, silverware, pan, pot, plastic tub for washing clothes, bucket, a few plastic Tupperware items, and a burner that could hook up to a fuel bottle. They distributed 630 kits among their 27 target villages. They also sent 2.5 tons of vegetables each week – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and two types of squash – for a total of 52 tons of veggies.

The next priority was helping families through the winter. 160 mini housing units were built to protect families from sun, rain, snow and cold. 1,356 heaters were also distributed. With these important goals met, Amal is now shifting into phase three.

EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE: PHASE THREE
With immediate needs met, Amal is now working with the 27 villages to develop their income-earning abilities. Almonds and walnuts are key crops, but traditionally the growers sell to wholesalers so their profits are low. Amal is working to connect the villagers directly with buyers, and this will increase their profits. Higher profits will allow families to rebuild their homes and lives over time. Helping families help themselves is the ultimate goal.

We invite you to help shoulder the burden these families are facing by giving to Amal’s relief efforts.

To give specifically for earthquake relief, CLICK HERE

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AMAL WOMEN’S TRAINING CENTER

In Morocco, there are many women born into difficult circumstances – women who are orphaned, widowed, divorced, handicapped, or are single mothers. Few doors are open to these women, and in some cases, they are stigmatized. Life for them can be quite desperate.

Nora Fitzgerald used to pass one such woman each day as she walked her daughter to school. The woman sat begging with her young children, and Nora saw in her a mirror to her own life. “Her children were the same age as my own, but she was struggling to make 2-3 dollars a day to keep them alive. My heart broke, and I couldn’t NOT do something,” says Nora. As Nora pondered how to help that woman, and others like her, to become financially independent, the idea to teach her how to cook and bake took hold. Eventually Amal was conceived and founded – a non-profit restaurant serving as a training center for disadvantaged women. After six months of training the women are placed in jobs in restaurants, hotels, riads (traditional bed-and-breakfast establishments), and private homes.

Three years later a second training center was opened, this time focused on catering and cooking classes. The second center allowed them to expand the number of women they could serve. 30 women now receive skills training and job placement with each 8-month course. Amal is truly changing lives and giving hope to desperately needy women, and the basic program is almost totally funded by restaurant and catering sales. The restaurant has become a popular eatery with locals and visitors alike, who flock there to savor the tasty delicacies they prepare such as couscous, chicken tajine with preserved lemons, and their famous mint lemonade.

In addition to cooking skills, Amal’s trainees learn life skills, receive French lessons, and build their self-confidence. In gratitude for this opportunity, they have decided, on their own, to start giving to others. Without any help from Nora, Amal, or Global Pearls, these women pool contributions from their small earnings to buy ingredients, then periodically cook and serve meals at an institution for the destitute in Marrakech. They no longer see themselves as victims or as helpless, marginalized women. They see themselves as overcomers who are now in a position to help others. Nora aptly refers to them as Amal’s Champions.

We invite you to help support these champions.

To donate to Morocco, click here.

VIDEOS:

Apr 2022: A deaf family gives thanks for a Ramadan food basket

Jul 2020: Food relief during Covid pandemic

Dec 2019: Amal trainees express their hearts at graduation

NEWS:

Nov 2017: Marrakech[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]