September 24

After breakfast we visit the spring in the village where water has been flowing remarkably since the earthquake. In every village we visit, this is what people tell us: dried-up springs suddenly flow abundantly again, as if the earthquake has unleashed deep underground water sources. We say goodbye and continue to the village of Tamarout, Taguenteft. First we visit Naima, who, in addition to her grandmother, also has her aunt and niece to mourn. Their house has been destroyed and the entire village now lives in a field in tents. Her grandfather tells of the earthquake he experienced in 1960. This devastated Agadir, but also made itself felt in this region. Naima is visibly sad and defeated and we take our time, as we do everywhere, to talk to her and comfort her. A little further on, in Nadia’s village, we set up a family tent. The situation in this village is disorganized, tents are still few and there is obvious tension. We listen to Nadia’s stories and hope she will soon be able to return to Marrakech. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics last summer and hopes to pursue a master’s degree. We hope this is still possible, as she had to miss an entrance exam due to the earthquake. We reassure her. Nadia is holding strong. Next stop is Tinmal, where we visit our alumna Latifa. She works as a coordinator at a school in Ijoukak, one of the few buildings there that withstood the earthquake. Her own home in Tinmal was destroyed. Her family lives with eight people in a makeshift tent, just in front of the 12th century mosque of Tinmal, which suffered significant damage due to the earthquake. During her time as a student at Dar Moustaqbel, she developed a love for personal development. She read a lot on the subject and is convinced that her community has much to gain in this area. On several occasions since the earthquake, she has gathered children for circle discussions and games. She is happy to be able to make a difference here. We talk at length with her about how she can continue to do this important work alongside her job. 

September 23

Five team members and volunteers travel to the devastated region where the earthquake originated. We go from Asni to Ouirgane to Ijoukak to Talaat ‘n Yacoub to Gougten, where we spend the night with the families of two of our students who have lost many family members. Near Ijoukak we meet our student Amina and her family. At the top of a windy hill, tents line up like cans of sardines. No privacy, no shade, no peace and quiet. Amina was in the village when the earthquake occurred. She has a job at the court in the provincial town of Chichaoua. The situation is not sustainable, but we know that with her job Amina is able to support her family. And that is a great consolation. We speak to her courage and give her the items she asked for and more. We continued our way through the mountains to the next village. Gougten is a small village in the mountains, with a population of three families. The fqih, the imam responsible for the old mosque has lost his wife and two of his children and has left the village ever since. The families of our two students have done a great job creating a new village with tents in the middle of their fields. We offer our condolences, visit the destroyed homes and talk about the terrible events and the future. They are pleased with our arrival and express their thanks that we made the effort to visit them. The relief goods we bring, from a large family tent to powerbanks, water tanks and food are accepted in immense gratitude. The government has not yet shown itself in this village. The one who usually formed a connection with the government, the mokaddem, himself died during the earthquake. And no replacement has yet come forward. 

September 22

In the morning, the last finishing touches are made in preparation for the board meeting with the Moroccan board later in the day. We have a nice telephone consultation with Jamal Ghabri about the 7 workshops that our students will get in a week from 14 experienced Dutch coaches. One of our students will make the presentation when the coaches arrive. We talk about the lack of self-confidence and the weak ability to look ahead and plan that poverty often brings. The topics of the workshops are: how to nurture your motivation and keep it in tough times, working on self-confidence, public speaking and stress management. Jamal Ghabri is incredibly passionate and we are thrilled to have him and all the coaches coming along on this special journey. Our founder Hanneke van Hooff is making a tour of Marrakech for the necessary shopping, because tomorrow we will head back into the mountains to provide emergency relief. In the coming weeks, in addition to our emergency response and the psychological and emotional support for our students, we are putting extra energy and time into counseling for employment among graduates who do not yet have a permanent job. To that end, we are helping our students comb job sites in search of suitable opportunities. We hope that graduates hit hard by the earthquake will find a new raison d’être in the form of a job supporting their communities in rebuilding.

September 21

At Dar Moustaqbel Issil, it is a coming and going of students who have just started their studies again. It is hopeful to work on emergency relief against this background. In the team meeting, many tears are shed. Our team members have obviously stood tall to give our students the support they need. Now it is time for someone to listen to them so they can give their emotions space. The empathy of our team members is exceptional, which is part of their strength, but in this situation it is also incredibly tough. We cry and laugh and everyone shares their experiences. Our alumni Hajar, who has been pursuing a master’s degree in Rabat for a year, drops by the house. She worries about rebuilding. “From all the money available they can build a smart city, but I fear the worst.” Like other students, Hajar hopes the area she comes from will come out better, they hope this tragedy will also mean a chance for a better life for those who survived. But they see few signs yet to back that up.

September 20

A male intern is presenting himself in Marrakech. We could definitely use an extra pair of capable hands at this time. Moreover, his resume is inspiring and we think we can offer him a learning experience as well. Hanneke and Rachida leave for the the airport, packed and ready to go to Marrakech. At the airport in Marrakech, we are blocked for a long time for administrative reasons before we are allowed to pass through. Nevertheless, everyone is very helpful and we do not have to pay import tax for the hundred rechargeable lights and many powerbanks we have with us. Our team is continues their daily routine asking after the affected students and checking their needs.

September 19

We can’t wait to welcome back all the students. Since this is still not possible, we are working hard on our own educational program. In addition to the education of their choice, all of our students are required to participate in the in-house educational program at Dar Moustaqbel. This consists of language instruction in French and English as well as subject-related tutoring, and a range of cultural and sports activities.  Personal development is also of great importance. For that reason, we pay a lot of attention to personal coaching and psychological support. It is great to see that training courses and doctors are also offering themselves on a large scale to provide psychological support for those affected. We hope that this help will still be available in a while. In any case, we ask our board to set aside budget for psychological support for the most severely affected students. 

September 18

University Cadi Ayyad in Marrakech opens entirely as previously announced, and lectures start. We hoped so, but we were not quite sure. It is nice to see many students starting their studies in good spirits. The students who have not been affected by the earthquake all want to join them in Marrakech as soon as possible, but we ask the students whose studies have not yet started to be patient for a while. We can’t wait for our house in the medina to reopen. Radio station FunX calls for an interview, more and more funds are coming in with somewhat larger amounts. We contact Oxfam Novib and the Red Cross about possible help. It all turns out to be very complicated and slow. The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, announces that the government will help the affected families who lost their homes with an amount of about 14 thousand euros. For partially collapsed houses there is an amount of 8 thousand euros available. Problem is that people have no idea how it will all work out. For now, many families are being told that they will have to repair the damage themselves, while they have no guarantee that money will actually be paid out. We hope there will be clarity as soon as possible so that we can better assist the village communities. Mo Achahboun, who is helping us provide emergency assistance, has pneumonia. He needs to take a break, but cannot sit still. We take care of procuring as many wanted goods as possible for our students and their families and village communities.

September 17

Breathing exercises and yoga exercises help our students at Dar Moustaqbel Issil start the day constructively. In one of the exercises, all the students are holding each other. They look peaceful. Yoga retreat company Nosade will be stopping by more often than usual in the near future for some much-needed relaxation. In Amsterdam today, the Rotary Westertoren is holding a fundraiser at the Sloterplas. We have had a good relationship with this special Rotary club since our founding and are extremely happy that they are thinking of us again. Our board members Alou van de Roemer, Robert Jan Wefers Bettink, founder Hanneke van Hooff and ambassador Naima Azough tell Moustaqbel’s story at the Sloterplas in the hope of donations. It’s a convivial affair, to which the beautiful puppets of the Monster Alliance also contribute. In between, we are adrift finding family tents suitable for winter temperatures. They are not cheap. Sunday night, just before bedtime, the report arrives from the research firm. It is hopeful, but some of the research must wait.

September 16

We start the day with foldable water bags and jerry cans and portable solar panels and power banks. We gather information from specialists and take stock of the need for aid (goods) with our students and volunteers. A few days ago, one of our students accompanied her mother to the psychiatric hospital in Marrakech. Her mother already had mental problems, but the earthquake has left her completely confused. Our student then returned to her hard-hit village to be with her sister. There they now live together in a makeshift tent, near their parents’ house which, if it hasn’t already collapsed – is on the verge of collapse. On an unstable cliff. We ask them to come together to Dar Moustaqbel Issil in Marrakech to offer them peace and protection, close to their mother. They thank us for the offer, but for the time being they feel they are needed on the ground. Through an intermediary, we contact the attending physician at the hospital where her mother is staying.

September 15

The emergency response team spent the night in Talaat ‘n Yacoub and left early in the morning for Aghbar, a cluster of seventeen villages. There, the situation is serious. Almost everything has collapsed. We bring everything that is desperately needed, from generators to baby milk and insulin, and from tent canvas and poles to chargers and powerbanks. We see many makeshift tents made of tree trunks and cloth, wrapped with construction plastic. It already gets pretty cold here at night. Despite the tragedy, you see resilience all around you. Rachida Azough is on Time for Max late this afternoon to share the latest news from our students. Our student Fatima is reunited with her niece in Aghbar.

September 14

Early in the morning, the emergency response team with students Saida, Soukaina and Fatima, along with contractor Mo Achahboun and his wife Marlies and our regular handyman Brahim, left for Tahanaout, Moulay Brahim, Asni, Ouirgane, Azzaden and Talaat ‘n Yacoub. As on every day since the earthquake, our team (both in Morocco and the Netherlands) has extensive contact in the morning, after we were in conversation late last night. So much is happening and we have to make sure we stand our ground. We thank all our team members for their tireless efforts and commitment and advice everyone to get enough sleep and eat well. In times of great stress, it is important to pay attention to that. The same goes for our students. We cannot be weakened, our families need us badly, also in the long term. Our severely affected students who are in the area are waiting for the arrival our emergency response team. Everyone is worried about the rain that is forecast. We must, with pain in our hearts, adjust the death toll to 45.

September 13

We begin the day at Dar Moustaqbel Issil with trauma therapy led by coach and activist Najia Zirari. The students gather in a circle and discuss their emotions in the past few days. Our longtime partner, Yoga Retreat company Nosade, contacts us to offer our students yoga and breathing exercises to evacuate the trauma as soon as possible. Yoga has always been useful for our students, but now even more so. The team leading the emergency support action for Moustaqbel gathers in Dar Moustaqbel Issil. Besides Mo Achaboun and his wife, our handyman Brahim and our supervisor Najat Outgardi and colleague Zohra Fattachi, many of our students are involved. We continue shopping all goods necessary before Mo and the rest of the team leave for Talaat ‘n Yacoub. Our Moroccan board member Mr Khalid el Mustapha arrives in Dar Moustaqbel Issil in the evening to discuss our situation and to assist us in anything we need. We are grateful for his continuous support and involvement. Naima, a fresh alumni who just received her bachelor in sociology this summer, finally sends audio messages. Her phone went dead and her mothers’ too. We are saddened by her news that she lost three family members. The tally now stands at 40.

September 12

RTL News makes an item about our students in Dar Moustaqbel Issil that is broadcast that same evening. Many alumni stop by the student house before heading to their villages of origin. There is no electricity left in the affected villages. More and more affected students and alumni finally manage to charge their phones via via and report to us. They are living on the streets and have lost many family members. One of our students is forced to take her mother to Marrakech psychiatric hospital. Her already unstable mother is completely confused by the earthquake. We try to help her and a doctor friend contacts the hospital so he can keep our student informed of her mother’s situation. The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies mentions us prominently in their newsletter.

September 11

It’s Monday, the week begins, and actually it’s still far too quiet. The emergency response really seems to be coming on now. On this Monday morning, we hear for the first time that there are many helicopters in the region. Finally, the inspection of the student house in the medina can take place. Our coordinator accompanies the structural engineer to Dar Moustaqbel Medina. Rachida Azough is interviewed by NRC. The board in the Netherlands meets and discusses emergency relief with the Moroccan Dutch members of our emergency relief team in Morocco. Our founder and board member Hanneke Ouwehand van Hooff is on the evening prime time TV program Khalid and Sophie, where she shares the latest news from Morocco and images are shown of our students and the situation in Talaat ‘n Yacoub. Many people are calling and sending messages. Everyone wants to help. The support is heartwarming.

September 10

On Sunday, we draft a document where all the students from the hardest-hit area are coolly listed among themselves, with the horrific reality in the column next to them. Many students lost family members, some as many as 12. In all, we count 37 deaths among close relatives. In addition, for about 80 percent of the students from the affected area, the parental home (mostly) collapsed. It is a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Our students are exchanging information and sharing the situation on the ground. Help is pouring in from our side with the most necessary items such as phone credit, blankets, water and food. Some alumni about whom we were concerned are justified. We hear nothing about others, except that investigations have revealed that their homes have collapsed. Whether anyone is buried under it is unknown. The first 48 hours are over, while rescue work has barely begun.

September 9

After spending the night on the streets, students are resting and continue trying to contact family members and loved ones. Many students are from the hardest hit areas. Everybody holds their hearts. Aicha is inconsolable and leaves to the disaster area. She has lost a total of 15 family members. Our hearts break. The first sounds of family members who did not survive the disaster are coming in. The grief is enormous. Zahra’s parents lie under the rubble. Aicha’s sister and children, as well as many other family members, have died. We try to get a view of the situation, while comforting the students. We speak to a structural engineer in the morning who will inspect our home in the medina. In the evening Rachida Azough shares the plight of our students and their families on TV-programme Op1.

September 8

Shortly after the earthquake, at eleven after eleven in the evening, our students fled from their student homes and sought refuge on Jemaa el Fna (the students from Dar Moustaqbel medina) and in a nearby square (the students in Dar Moustaqbel Issil). They spent much of the night on the streets and eventually the students from the medina joined their fellow students in the house in Issil that withstood the earthquake well. Everyone tries to get in touch with family members, many of whom they cannot reach. The panic and fear is abundant.