Peace Corps Writers
Meet M’hamed El Kadi (page 2)
M’hamed El Kadi
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What books over the years have you noticed that Volunteers read?
Peace Corps service is the best time for Volunteers to read all the books that wish they had read in college. Their list gets longer once they get in their sites as they discover new reading tastes and interests, particularly Berber culture. They naturally are eager to read more about the country. Some PCVs think in long term objectives and start thinking about life after Peace Corps (is there one?) and their graduate school projects, especially if they want to focus on international politics or the foreign service. They start preparing by reading non-fiction, sociological and anthropological studies of the region.
     Some of the high demand books here among Volunteers are classics, popular fiction and non-fiction books, and books by popular authors like Thomas Friedman, Albert Hourani, and Karen Armstrong. Most Volunteers surprise me with their fast reading abilities and continuous interest in reading materials.
In terms of Morocco, what value do you think Peace Corps Volunteers have had for your country?
The Volunteers have brought in valuable contributions to Morocco over the past years, much more than I can list here. The Peace Corps has impacted generations in Morocco. We are always coming across high government officials who were taught English by PCVs when they were young students or shared technical skills with PCVs in the past. It’s difficult to measure the development contribution of PCVs over the past decades.
     In Morocco, there are the visible and countable contributions PCVs make, like the individual small projects each PCV has left behind (e.g. income generation projects for village women, setting up women’s cooperatives and resource centers, well digging, water-pump installing, solar ovens, new crafts designs, and latrine building in addition to the environment-related health and hygiene lessons they delivered at schools, youth centers and local hospitals, and continuous training they offered to their co-workers).
     But their contribution isn’t simply limited to the community-based activities, technical know-how, knowledge transfer and skill sharing with their counterparts and communities. It goes beyond that to a most important human relationship, cross-cultural exchange and friendship they develop with their host families, communities and friends they have made in country.
     Our paranoid modern world is in a big need of mutual understanding and tolerance among different peoples. The Peace Corps is one of the very few organizations worldwide that has promoted valuable long-term relationships between the United States and the host countries.
     Volunteers help demystify the United States in the eyes of their communities and help change the unfortunately negative image of USA that now is sweeping across the world. In the same way, most Moroccans that Peace Corps Volunteers have met and lived with have given the Volunteers a different view of the Arabs and Berbers, the “1000 nights” and politics. No doubt Volunteers leave their host country changed in many ways. Each of them carries with him/her a piece of Morocco and they leave with a big void in their hearts for the people they have met and worked with. We have witnessed Volunteers part from their communities in tears, and a good number of RPCVs have come back to revisit and reconnect with their host country and the Moroccan friends they have left behind.
      Each Volunteer’s contribution is a little drop in the ocean of development and this development continues as the Friends of Morocco has organized two group visits back to the country and I understand a third trip is being planned.
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