Read an excerpt from Eve’s latest newsletter, following her tracks across Morocco’s Atlas Mountain foothills to discover ancient Berber weaving techniques. Morocco, October 2016
The Berbers of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco have a deep-rooted sense of community and traditions endure through their rich history. The Eve Branson Foundation’s ethos is to work hand in hand with these unique communities to help them thrive, preserving Berber traditions and culture and developing opportunities for educational enrichment and enterprise. There is a strong focus on empowerment and skills-building.
Since its beginnings, the Foundation has been dedicated to enhancing living standards in some of the most impoverished rural communities in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Very often, villages here lack even the most basic amenities, illiteracy can be as high as 98% and girls leave school at 13. The mission of the Eve Branson Foundation is to improve the lives of young people living in the region through access to business, education and health care initiatives.
The Foundation provides training, work spaces, materials and tools so that young people can generate sources of income that will help to support themselves and their families. Our mission is to continue to enhance the lives of more young people in the region. You can read more about our latest projects here.
Spearheaded by Eve Branson and steered by a board of volunteer community members, we work closely with our partners at Virgin Unite and Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s Moroccan retreat, to grow the Foundation’s work. We rely on individual donations, grants and proceeds from annual fundraising events, to support our initiatives in the High Atlas Mountains. Kasbah Tamadot kindly arranges guest visits to our projects where a selection of handmade items can be purchased.
Thanks to the support of our partners at Virgin Unite and Kasbah Tamadot, we are able to cover some of our overheads and administrative costs so that donations go directly to the frontline projects.
Today, families in these communities often live in very remote and impoverished rural villages where drought prevails during the dry summer months and winters can be harsh and isolating. Dependent on the resources of the land, families carry out their daily duties, passing skills and knowledge down through generations.
It is in this region where the Eve Branson Foundation established its first project in one of the oldest villages of the region, Tansghart. Eve Branson crossed the river with some wool and knitting needles and met Fatima Imni, a 25-year old young woman who invited Eve into her house for a mint tea. Eve started to teach Fatima how to knit and other local girls soon joined in. Ten years on, the Foundation’s work remains very much about creating and developing ideas in harmony with the Berber people to celebrate the richness of their culture and provide the resources, training and tools necessary to encourage young people to learn.
The Eve Branson Foundation now runs three artisan craft centres in rural mountain villages focussed on tailoring, woodworking and weaving. Here, young people can attend programmes which recognise and celebrate ancient traditional crafts, preserving skills such as carpet and fabric weaving on looms and hand embroidery. Providing resources for 50-100 participants to become more economically self-sufficient also benefits their families and the wider community.
What we’ve achieved so far
The Eve Branson Foundation operates a dedicated crafthouse in the village of Tansghart and more recently, we have constructed a new weaving centre in nearby Tamgounssi. Both centres employ full-time teachers, providing 75 girls with skills in embroidery, tailoring, weaving, stitching and carpet-making and basic conversational English.
Handmade items are sold in the newly created Berber Boutique, located next to Kasbah Tamadot, generating a direct income for those enrolled in the programmes. The Foundation has also established a traditional wood-fired bread-making kitchen at Kasbah Tamadot which is run by two local women.
In 2016, we launched a new carpentry training programme for teenage boys who can learn woodworking skills in the new workshop at Tansghart. This enables those boys who have dropped out of school or lack the vocational skills to find work locally and to begin carving a future for themselves.
Other Foundation initiatives have included:
- Continuation of the tailoring programme with 15 new teenage girls enrolled.
- The successful construction of two water wells in the villages of Imskar and Imi Oughlad, providing a valuable water source for more than 100 households.
- Partnership with the Pack for a Purpose scheme, delivering over 1,000 kilos of supplies to five local projects including a crèche and nursery school.
- Working in partnership with the Dental Mavericks to set up a temporary walk-in surgery, providing pain-free treatment to more than 500 children each year.
- Creation of the first Eve Branson Foundation pop-up shop at the Berber Boutique, on the road adjacent to Kasbah Tamadot promoting locally made products to hotel guests.
- Work placements in various departments of Kasbah Tamadot developing a more visible employment path for local young women.
- Renovation of a new crèche in Asni, providing a safe place for children to develop, play and learn.
- Supply of 50 bunk beds to a local boarding house in Asni to enable 100 more girls to remain in secondary school and complete their studies.
- Investment into a saffron farm enterprise in partnership with Kasbah Tamadot. Three kilos have been harvested and sold since the saffron flower bulbs were planted three years ago.
- Supporting a local salt mine, packaging and selling natural salt crystals in the crafthouse boutiques.
We have seen an increase in confidence and self-esteem alongside strengthened communication and business skills amongst those attending our programmes.
Today, the Eve Branson Foundation has a small core of local staff employed locally by the Foundation.
We rely on the support of individuals to further our work, if you would like to get involved or make a donation, please click here.
Our thanks to Jack Brockway, Charlie Dailey, @Mushmina and David Bult for photography featured.