Volunteer Report

Eugénie Rooke’s time with 14km in Berlin – an internship report

"As I was looking for an internship in the field of intercultural cooperation last year, I saw the call for applications at the office of 14km e.V. in Berlin. I was directly interested in the projects of this young NGO and decided to apply. After my application in Berlin was accepted, Anja Gebel, the PR & Program manager, proposed me to apply for another internship in one of the partner organisations in the MENA region, since I had time for it. After this amazing experience in Lebanon, I started my internship at 14km in Berlin in the middle of April. Of course it was an asset for me to have been in Lebanon before starting my internship with 14km, as one of my first tasks in Berlin was to search for new partner organisations in Lebanon. It is easier to work in cooperation with the MENA region when you already have been there and acquired certain knowledge of the social and political situation. Since the beginning of my internship in Berlin, I was agreeably surprised to see that I could help in many different areas. I didn't expect to be involved in so many different and interesting projects and events. Indeed, I helped in the organisation of the first 14km network party, the Arabic film evening about Lebanon, the event on “The State of the media in Egypt”, the organisation of a study trip of young Libyans to Berlin and at last the symposium about migration and development. I was glad to see that I could help in different ways: I searched for experts for the migration symposium; I looked for, chose and contacted new potential partner organisations for the volunteer program; I wrote a report on the networking party; I translated some articles for the website; I updated the program for the study trip of the Libyans; I searched for hostels and conference rooms; I sent our call for interns to French universities; I created invitations for the event “The state of the media in Egypt”; I sent invitations to our contacts for two different events; and of course I helped during the events 14km held when I was there. During this internship, I learnt a lot in terms of public relations, communication, and editing content. I really appreciated the diversity of my tasks (research, translation, PR, update of the website, etc). In doing an internship with a small NGO, I wanted to learn more about the way it works and develops projects, the way to manage such a structure, how it functions. I could say that I discovered all those things during my internship. Since I really appreciated my time in Lebanon and wished I could have stayed there longer, it was also an opportunity for me to “stay in touch” with this country and with the MENA region and to continue the cooperation. As for my relation with the staff, I could say that the team of 14km is young, dynamic and professional. As the team is growing fast, we also spoke with Anja about the way 14km could (re)organise itself in the future, which was also relevant for me. The volunteers helping 14km are very motivated, committed and have a lot of good ideas for future projects. In conclusion, I really enjoyed my internship at 14km for a lot of reasons: I could assist to interesting events, develop my skills in a lot of fields, know the German actors of the Europe-MENA relations and cooperation, which made my internship at 14km a successful experience. As I already completed an internship in a bigger public structure, I could say that I appreciated more the work in a small NGO: we feel more useful, we have more responsibilities, we have the opportunity to carry out more tasks. One thing is certain: I will keep a very positive impression of my time by 14km, regarding all I learnt and did. I really want to thank Anja Gebel, who is doing an amazing work, for her patience, her trust and for all the opportunities she gave me. She took the time for each project to explain me the whole background and that she assigned me a lot of diverse tasks. I wish I could continue to help 14km in one way or another because this NGO really deserves all the best for all the work the team accomplishes!"   The published reports by interns/volunteers on their internships facilitated by 14km e.V. do not necessarily reflect the opinion of 14km e.V. or its partners.   Photo credits: Berlin_Björn Giesenbauer_flickr_cc-by-nc-sa-2.0

“I wish I could have stayed more than one month” – Eugénie Rooke reports on her internship in Lebanon

"As I was interested in doing an internship in the MENA-Region, 14km proposed me at the beginning of January 2014 to work with MARCH in Beirut, an NGO which fights against censorship and encourages freedom of expression in Lebanon. I directly went to their website to see their activities and the team: they are young, dynamic, have a lot of cultural and political projects. The work seemed very interesting and, even if I was a little bit afraid of the political situation in this region (civil war in Syria, Hezbollah bomb attacks, affronts in Tripoli, etc.), I agreed to go there. After I spoke with Stephanie, the very kind Youth and Artists Networker at MARCH, about the details I booked my flight tickets.    Picture on the left: The team Then I arrived in Lebanon and I spent more than one month in Beirut. MARCH has one office near the city-centre of Beirut, in a very pretty old traditional neighbourhood, just next to Saint-Joseph University. I was surprised to see that the office is a new, clean and big place. MARCH is sharing this big space with another organisation, but it doesn't represent any inconvenience.  Picture on the right: The office When I spoke to Stephanie on Skype before going to Lebanon, she told me that I would be integrated in a project which aims to create a theatre play with members and representatives of different religious communities. In fact, this project was not yet launching as I was in Beirut, so I worked on another main project of MARCH, the virtual museum of censorship. This untypical museum is actually a website which registers all that has been censored in Lebanon since the 1940's. This can be books, movies and TV-shows as well as music, theatre plays, press articles, radio shows, events or works of art. I was charged to reorganize and to update the data on the website. I looked for artists, theatre pieces, CD, movies, etc. which are or have been censored in Lebanon but which were not on the website and then I added them to the data base. To fulfil those updating und reorganization tasks I also wrote biographies, add information about some data for the website, corrected mistakes, called and interviewed directors of bookstores, interviewed persons in charge of movies' and music's command in Virgin, read reports on censorship and press articles about cultural life in Lebanon. My main task was to research whether the information on the website was still true, i.e. if that book or that movie is still censored or not anymore, and why, by whom, etc. I found this research task sometimes too repetitive, but at the end I realized that I learnt quite a lot about the censorship mechanisms and the political system in Lebanon. It helped me to better understand the geo-political situation in this area and the relationships between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, the situation of the refugees, the religious conflicts, etc. I also discovered new books, movies or music that I didn't know before and finally it allowed me to discover the work in a small Lebanese association. I only worked with Lebanese people, who were speaking English, French and Arabic, often in the same sentence. I mostly worked with Linda, a volunteer at MARCH since one year, and Stephanie, the youth and artists networker. I was sometimes alone in the office because the two girls are still studying at the university. We didn't do things together out of the office but they were very nice with me. With MARCH, I also took part in a demonstration against the violence against women on March 8, 2014, the women's day. They created a campaign for this demonstration which was referring to the scandal of Jackie Chamoun, a Lebanese skier who posed naked for a calendar. The motto of MARCH campaign on this occasion was: “What shocks you more?” and was a real success. Pictures on the right: The demonstration on March 8th, 2014 and a BBC press article on the MARCH campaign Two weeks after that demonstration, we shot a video for an association that fights for women's rights. We were asked to represent MARCH as an NGO that fights for the freedom of expression, which includes the freedom of women. Picture on the left: MARCH team during the shooting of the campaign video (Sarah from Marcalea, Linda, Stephanie and me) Linda from MARCH found me an accommodation. I found it expensive for what I got (I didn't have neither hot water nor internet every day), but the accommodations in Beirut are expensive anyway. However, it was a good location (Sodeco Square), near Saint-Joseph University, the French embassy and especially near MARCH office. Picture on the right: A street in Beirut, Achrafieh We can often read in tour guides that Lebanese people are hospitable and very kind; I must say that it is true. As I said above, they often speak Arabic, English and French - especially in the Christian communities. It is not hard to meet and speak with Lebanese people even if we don't speak Arabic. However, it is more convenient to speak at least a few words of Arabic for the everyday life. It is possible to take Arabic courses in Beirut, a lot of organisations or institutes are offering classes. Picture on the left: Raouché, la grotte aux Pigeons, Beirut  Picture on the right: Beit Mery, Lebanon I only have one regret: I wish I could have stayed more than one month because Lebanon is such a fascinating country. It is really worth visiting it. Since it is a small country, it is possible to travel in buses, in service (a van or a taxi shared with other people) or in taxi. Public transports don't really exist. To travel in Lebanon is not expensive but could be difficult, because everything is spontaneous, nothing is clearly defined. But this also means that everything is possible. I also went to Jordan, which is also worth it, it's very easy to go there and it is not very expensive. Unfortunately, it might be the only neighbouring country we could visit when we are in Lebanon: of course we can't really go to Syria and it is forbidden to re-enter the Lebanese territory if we have been in Israel... Picture on the left: Wadi Rum, Jordan The political situation in Lebanon is still very tense (there are for example 1 million Syrian refugees in April 2014, which represents 25% of the population) and there are some places where it is difficult to go alone as a European tourist, and furthermore as a European female tourist, such as Baalbeck, the boarder with Syria or the Beqaa valley, but it is still safer in the touristic places and in the other parts of the country. Picture on the right: A building destroyed during the Civil War (on the former “Green Line”, demarcation line separating the Christian and the Muslim factions)   Picture in the middle: Rafic Hariri mosque, Beirut Lebanon has a lot of Roman and Phoenician ruins and monuments but they are not very well preserved and just a few policies of conservation of the patrimony exist, so I think we have to enjoy the present time to go to Lebanon before the cultural heritage is replaced by modern constructions or worse, before the war bursts again. We can still see some scraps of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) on some monuments, neither the population nor the government have the money to restore those buildings. Near those falling houses, brand new buildings are built, mostly for rich business men from the Gulf States. Picture on the right: Sea Castle, Sidon, Lebanon                       Picture on the left: Byblos Castle (12th century), Byblos   Lebanon is the country of great contrasts and Beirut is a city which is evolving every day. Those are also the reasons why I really loved my experience in Lebanon and why I warmly thank 14km to have given me the opportunity to go there."   The published reports by interns/volunteers on their internships facilitated by 14km e.V. do not necessarily reflect the opinion of 14km e.V. or its partners.

Marie Wehner: Four Weeks Internship at the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco

"For three weeks I have been staying in the Village Amsouzarte located in the Tifnoute Valley in the High Atlas Mountains. HAF is working in various projects to confront the economic, environmental and social challenges there. I wanted to see their work in the field and was especially interested in the role of handicraft since I have been working with women in the Community of the Oasis Siwa in Egypt. I was keen to see the differences and similarities between two Berber communities thousands of kilometers apart from each other. After two days in the HAF Office in Marrakesh where I could familiarize myself with the circumstances of the Tifnoute valley and the projects that HAF is realizing there, I was ready to travel to discover the situation myself. When I arrived in Amsouzarte I was stunned by the beautiful landscape. In the distance you can see the snow covered heights of the Mountains, a little closer the rocky slopes with sparse bushes are wandered by goats and their light-footed herders. And when you look deeper, lush green terraces spread out, full of trees with white and pink blossoms and Iris blooming at their edges. Between the terraces, the villages cling to the mountains, consisting of large clay houses, with a labyrinth of stairs and corridors inside to harbor the large families. On the ground of the valley, the river is paving its way through stones and fields of grass, which is cut by the women with sickles every morning to feed the animals. I received a warm welcome by the women of Mahjoub’s family, in whose house I was staying. Although we had little ground to communicate, they showed their hospitality through enormous amounts of delicious food and a very open attitude from the very beginning. Especially Khadiga was taking care of me and introducing me to other girls and women from the neighborhood. The local community planning facilitator Fatima stayed with me in the guest room of Mahjoubs family in Amsouzarte. She is coordinating the projects in the region and the contact person for all the participants in Tifnoute valley. I was accompanying Fatima on her various trips to the villages in the region. During my time in the Tifnoute valley, Fatima was busy talking to women in seven different villages about building a greenhouse for medicinal and aromatic plants. To achieve this goal they have to found a cooperative and work together to run the greenhouse which will be located between their villages. To introduce the women to the details of the initiative and hear their opinions we traveled to the small villages which are scattered on the slopes of the Tifnoute valley. Most of the time Fatima and I were walking because the local transport does not often find its way over the narrow earth roads towards the remote villages. Thus I had the opportunity to see a lot of the surrounding nature. Once we arrived in the villages, the women had to be gathered. This is usually not very difficult because the villages are small and visitors attract attention. But it can be complicated if women are in the fields cutting grass for the animals or busy with their varied chores in the household. When the women are assembled, Fatima explains the project and the requirements to found a cooperative and to get the support of the government. Questions can be asked and concerns be voiced. In the end the names of all the women who wish to participate are written down. These meetings with the women were very animated, gathering women of all ages who seemed to enjoy the change in their daily routine and brimming over with invitations to come in for a tea. I also had the possibility to attend two meetings in the Commune in Imlil (3 km from Amsouzarte). The first one was one of the weekly meetings the farmers have to pursue their goal of producing organic walnuts, almonds and different fruits. Like the women they are in the process of forming cooperatives to be able to generate income, which their present organization in associations does not allow for. It is planned that they will work together with cooperatives from other regions to be able to sell their products on the international market. Through the organic certification of their products they will generate an added value. These additional profits will be partly used to implement other projects that are benefitting the whole community. In the meeting the farmers were informed about the legal requirements or their work as a cooperative and about the concept of organic agriculture. The men were very interested and when the Arabic legal text was introduced, there were a lot of questions that were answered by the local facilitator Omar. After spirited discussions in Tashelhit the names of those who wanted to take part in the cooperatives were taken and after a break with tea and nuts a film was shown that explained organic agriculture. The second meeting that I could attend was about the possibilities to profit from the touristic potential of the region. It was a mixed meeting, assembling men as well as women. In the beginning a documentary about a Tamazight film festival in Tiznit was shown. This event has brought famous stars to the region and was well received by the media, making the region more attractive for tourists and better known to the public. To bring more tourists to the Tifnoute region the idea of organizing a festival of local artisanry and handicraft has been brought up. In this meeting as well there were lively discussions that I was not able to follow since they were in Tashelhit, but one of the ideas was the selling of locally produced jams. Fatima presented the initiative that the High Atlas Foundation had facilitated in which the women of Amsouzarte were taught to dye their wool with natural colors like henna, onion peels and walnut shells. All but one woman were rather quiet at this meeting, not being used to speak up in front of foreign men, but Fatima assured me that they were strongly supporting the idea and having a lot of ideas about reviving the old artisanal techniques that are unique to their culture. The fact that I am not able to speak Tashelhit or the Moroccan Arabic called Darija did limit my possibilities to communicate with the people. Therefore my role at the meetings was mostly an observing one, trying to catch the atmosphere and taking pictures for Fatima. Nevertheless all the women were happy to talk to me through a few words of Tashelhit that I learned and a mix of languages such as French, English and High Standard Arabic. I learned the most about the culture and the life in the High Atlas through living with the family and several visits of Fatima’s relatives which are spread all over the region. The inclusion in the daily life of the family; from observing the bread-baking on the open fire in the morning, to sharing meals every day, playing with the kids and going to the village hammam, was helping to connect with the women on a personal level and learning about the rhythm of their life’s. Attending special occasions like the henna night and the farewell reception of the bride before she leaves her family gave me an insight into the cultural and musical traditions of the region. To connect with the many lovely children in the house and neighborhood was even easier. Without many words you can interact with the youngest ones and the older ones are very keen to try their knowledge of French and High Standard Arabic if you are willing to listen. Concerning the handicraft, I discovered that the situation was quite different to the one I had experienced in Egypt. The women are much more active in the public sphere, going out to cut grass for the animals and taking part in the agricultural life. Therefore they rely much less on income through handicraft which is not an easy way to make money. The one technique that is still actively practiced is the weaving of beautiful big carpets, adorned with traditional Berber motives. The wool is being cleaned, carded and spun by hand, which is an artful craft that demands a lot of experience to create an even thread. As Fatima told me these carpets are usually not sold but used for the own homes or as part of the dowry for the bride. But the situation may change with an increasing tourism and a foreign interest in the old techniques. According to Fatima there are a lot of ancient traditions to be rediscovered in the Tifnoute valley. I am very grateful to HAF for rendering this experience possible but especially to all the lovely people who welcomed me and treated me as one of them. I had a wonderful stay, learning a lot about the people and the culture of Tifnoute valley and about how they work together to confront the challenges that their community is meeting." The published reports by interns/volunteers on their internships facilitated by 14km e.V. do not necessarily reflect the opinion of 14km e.V. or its partners.

Josephine Witt: Six Weeks Internship at the Munathara Initiative in Tunis

Unfortunately, this report is available only in German.  

Fionn Herold about his internship at the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco

"In September 2013 I conducted an internship at the High Atlas Foundation, one of the organizations in the 14km volunteer programme. 14km had facilitated the contact and position according to my preferences and the environment-related degree I study in Austria. After two days working and volunteering in the office of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakech I got the opportunity to spend three weeks in Amsouzerte which is located in the Tifnout Valley of the High Atlas Mountains, close to Mount Toubkal and Lake Ifni. At my arrival it was dark and I could not see   where I was. So I had to wait until the next morning to see the picturesque valley with a river paving its way through, passing vegetated terraces, trees ready for the harvest and the clay made houses of the region - all of it surrounded by rocky mountains. But not only that; I also realized that I am going to stay here in this beautiful area for the next three weeks speaking no word of Tashelhyt, Arabic or French. This could only become an exciting cross-cultural stay, which is what I asked for! On the first day El Mahjoub, the head of the family I was living with, showed me around the village. He introduced me to a dozen people and after came the same amount of invitations for tea. Fatima then showed up; she is HAF's community planning facilitator and supports the organic agricultural project. She was the one who watched out for me. At the moment she is responsible for 48 villages in the area and very busy with the certification of walnut and almond trees. The first week Fatima tried to give me a few insights into her work. Every morning after breakfast Fatima also gave me some lessons in Tashelhyt, before we went to visit some villages, project sites or people to meet. So, I was quite well prepared for my stay. This was the time when communication became interesting; especially with the older men, it took me a while until we were able to interact with eachother, not only sitting there in silence. Out of these difficulties some made up stories arose, spreading very fast around the whole village. One was that I am the son of Yossef, the President of the Foundation who had spent some time in the area in the 1990s as a Peace Corps Volunteer. With the younger generation it was quite easy to talk. They had patience, curiosity, were not afraid of ridiculous situations and were happy teachers too. Mohammed was one of them. He drives a very old French Berliet truck and is employed by El Mahjoub. During the second week he was so kind to take me with him to his work. We started early in the morning, driving in the river bed. We had to get soil, hidden between many different sized stones onto the truck. Then it was time to get back onto the truck, heading on narrow dirt roads into the mountains, where the terrain drops down steeply, to deliver the load. That was the time when I slowly got a bit of an insight into people's daily life. It consists of a lot of physical work and the roles are strictly allocated whereupon you don't exactly know whose part the harder one is. While the women are busy with cooking, caring for the kids and the households, the men are dealing with cutting wood, construction work and other labor, often assisted by mules or donkeys. Mohammed was also the one who introduced me in the secret of preparing the well known mint tea, also called Moroccan Whisky, consisting of one-third of sugar, which can be a real spectacle/show. In the evening I met with the guys to play football, or went up the mountains to witness the sunsetting, throwing a nice light onto the valley and its villages, where Amsouzerte is the nicest one of all, having the most beautiful landscape with a lot of green vegetation. When the HAF's Vice President arrived, we examined tree nurseries, had a look at some other sites were HAF is working and talk to people who are responsible for monitoring the quality of the trees. Even with little language skills, it was very interesting for me to get a better understanding of the Foundation's approach. And suddenly the last days of this wonderful stay came. But it was not the end yet. Fatima had some impressive moments to share, when we helped the women collecting walnuts and when she took me to a remote village where she showed me the lives of a very old couple that had to live separated, due to illness. Finally I had to leave this place where everyone is welcome and where everybody takes care of you without knowing you and your background, your attitude and work, and without a common language; a place where you don't know what would happen in the next minute or what the next day would bring." The published reports by interns/volunteers on their internships facilitated by 14km e.V. do not necessarily reflect the opinion of 14km e.V. or its partners.