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  • Writer's pictureBarb Mackraz

Access Language Center: A Vital Community Resource

We're excited to be partnering with the innovative new Access Language Center in Biougra, Morocco, in support of English programs and literacy for all.

by Barb Mackraz

Since the beginning of Morocco Library Project (MLP), we've been working with public high schools in rural regions all over the country, especially east and south of the High Atlas Mountains. It's a real joy to boost high school programs, but we've also thought, wouldn't it be nice to start a public library and reach a broader population? Well, it's finally happening.

It may seem like a small thing, but it's exciting to see this public library card!

Our partner Ali Amhal is not only a high school English teacher but also a community activist in his town of Biougra, and with a nonprofit association he just launched the Access Language Center. It's already evolving into an innovative language and cultural resource for everyone, with English and French classes, plans for teaching practical skills such as digital literacy, and activities to promote cultural awareness and acceptance. One of their goals is to provide free reading classes to adult women, as the illiteracy rate for rural women in the area approaches 100%. As a start, we're helping with the English library, which will be open to all the schools in the area and the broader community. We generally work in places where there are no libraries of any kind, and this is such an extraordinary development focusing on rural poor communities. You can't imagine how rare this center is — and how vital.

A few years ago, we helped Ali establish a library for English learners at his high school. To start the Access Center's library, he moved those books here from the school. Meanwhile, in California we're putting together a great collection of books and other materials right now to round out the library, and we plan to ship everything in January. As with all of our library projects, we put a lot of effort into curating a collection that is relevant and of interest to the local population, and we buy everything new. So it takes time.

The library is just getting started, and children are already using it.

As far as we know, this is the first public English library in rural Morocco. The library also has French books provided by another organization.

Just imagine... In October, this building was a featureless gray structure made of cinder blocks, but with the addition of plaster, paint, elbow grease, and that famous Moroccan creativity with color, the Access Center is becoming a thing of beauty. It's astounding how quickly this space was transformed in less than 8 weeks and how it's already turning into a beehive of activity. It's an honor to be partnering on this extraordinary initiative.

The building was totally transformed in less than 8 weeks.

We'll have much more to tell you soon! For now, we'd like to shout out a thank-you to The Global Uplift Project, who are helping fund the books we're sending this month, and to our partnering bookstore Books Inc Palo Alto.

The countryside around Biougra. This is the region where the indigenous argan trees grow.
Biougra is not far from Agadir and Taroudant, in the Souss-Massa region of Morocco.

About the Author

Barb Mackraz is founder and executive director of Oliveseed and Morocco Library Project; and cofounder and director of Oliveseed Kenya Trust.


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