As part of the recent 'Rally Des Gazelles' in Morocco, Giti Tire and the Giti Gazelles off-road team sponsored a charity project to support an under-represented school in Talataste, providing a computer, improved building renovations, and school supplies. Driver Helen Tait Wright shares her thoughts and images this holiday season from the memorable and heart-warming experience.
Introduction About the Region and Program
"The school in Talataste was introduced to me by a fellow Gazelle and member of the British Moroccan Society, Benedicte, in 2019.
My inspiration to support an education project was thanks to the daughter of our dear friends in Marrakech. Fatima Essarah was then a bright three year old learning Arabic and French at school but also English thanks to an online site. I could see that her mind was so open and enquiring and that it needed stimulating. We are personally helping her get the best education possible, but I relaised that particularly in rural Morocco there were many many children who did not have that opportunity.
Situated in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Talataste is accessed by a rough track that winds up from the valley floor, clinging to the edge of the mountain, and is typical of many of the Berber villages in the region. The people live in simple traditional dwellings often constructed from the red local earth, with none of the modern conveniences we take for granted. The menfolk make pottery tagines to sell to traders. The womenfolk mostly work the land and the children are free to roam the dirt alleys that criss cross the village and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
They speak a local dialect of Darija, the Moroccan form of Arabic and have relatively little contact with the outside world. Transport for the villagers is either on foot or by donkey.
The school was started in the village in 2011 by the British Moroccan Society in collaboration with Association Assafou and provides pre school education in the mornings as well as help for older students in the afternoons. It is entirely funded by donations, the base of which cover the salaries of the two permanant staff members and the building costs.
Three students who started at the school when it first opened have got places at the University in Marrakech which is a source of great pride to the village and the villagers are keen to get a basic education for their children.
I held a tea party to raise funds for the school in the summer of 2019 and was able to send over 900 euros via the British Moroccan Society.
I visited in October 2019 with my sister, and we were moved by the dedication of Halima, the pre school teacher, and the children. We took packets of coloured pencils but we might as well have taken gold bars judging by the reaction of the children.
A Heartwarming Return Visit
When I decided to participate in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles for the second time, with Sue, there was no doubt what our team cause would be.
In the run up to the rally we held several fundraising events, most of which had to be online due to covid restrictions and were able to raise money for the school to cover the redecoration of the classroom, providing a backpck for each student with the basic supplies they need for the school year, general teaching supplies for the school and a computer system with internet access.
Sue and I are so grateful to our partners, Giti Tire and their Moroccan distributors Pneurama for joining with us in the funding effort so that all these objectives are possible.
After the rally in October 2021, I returned to the school with Sue to distribute the childrens packs and see the progress.
On arriving in Talataste we walked through the dirt alleys to arrive at the school building which had been given a makeover on the outside too.
The classroom looked magnificent with blocks of pretty colour on the walls and we immediately got to work checking the back packs for the children before distributing them.
Each back pack contained a pencil case with a pencil, sharpener and rubber, pens, coloured pencils, a ruler, child friendly scissors, glue, plastic sticks used for counting, a personal blackboard, with chalk and board rubber, an exercise book and protective cover.
In addition we took general classroom supplies of work books, drawing paper, plain paper, paint, felt tip pens, crayons and labels.
The children were a little overawed by receiving their backpacks. Some just hugged them, others couldn’t wait to open them and discover the contents.
It was a joy to see, and quite emotional.
Emotions From the Visit
After a group photo outside the school, the children used their new colouring pens for the first time to create some artworks for us to give to pupils at our local schools in France, who had sent their pictures for the Talataste children.
One simple thing that really sticks in my mind is that the children had not seen felt tip pens before and did not know that in order to use them you have to remove the lid.
A simple thing that highlights how different their life is.
I do think however that their life is exceptionally rich in other ways with a real connection and understanding of the countryside in which they live, the strong bond evident in most Moroccan families and communities and the freedom from worry.
The villagers are very proud that they have a school and it was pleasing to see a young mother arrive at the school with her family papers to ask if it was too late to enrol her children.
Of course it wasn't!
The computer equipment that is envisaged for the school hadn’t arrived when we visited, but we are expecting it to be delivered and installed soon. This will enable the school to access educational material online and aid the older children with their studies.
Visiting the school is such an inspirational and humbling experience for me.
We are just a part of the school story; there are so many people who care about this community and are committed to ensuring the longevity of the school and providing the children with the opportunities and choices to take their own path in life and not be held back through a lack of education.
‹ Back to List