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RCHS student lends a hand in Morocco


Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) junior Emily Wilding explored the small Moroccan village Zaouia Ahansal, enjoyed Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco and volunteered on a construction site in Zaouia Ahansal during a Moroccan service trip through Rustic Pathways.

By Sarah Bermingham; photos courtesy of Emily Wilding

While many students travel abroad over the summer break, few spend their vacation on a service trip like Castle Pines resident Emily Wilding. Wilding, a Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) junior, went to Morocco on a Rustic Pathways service scholarship. The scholarship for more than $2,000 paid for half of her travel program. On this trip, Wilding spent six days helping the people of Zaouia Ahansal, a small Moroccan village. Wilding exclaimed, “I loved the culture there and the history, and everything about it.”

During her time in Zaouia Ahansal, Wilding worked with the Atlas Cultural Foundation to preserve the unique culture and improve the quality of life among the village people. “They restore some of the original buildings from when the village was first constructed, help build community centers, or bus stops, or whatever it is the village needs at that time,” said Wilding. During her trip, the group worked on constructing a community center in a neighboring village. “One of the biggest surprises to me was that I thought that we would be using a lot of westernized techniques to build the community center,” said Wilding, “but actually we used the same techniques they’ve used for hundreds of years.” The builders mixed mud paste and spread it between rocks to build walls, all without a single power tool.

Along with construction, Wilding helped in the community garden by pulling weeds, planting zucchini, and working on irrigation. One of her favorite jobs was tutoring the village children. Wilding explained, “Their schooling system is quite different than ours; they have school about the same months that we do, but they only are taught math, science, Arabic, French, and basic geography.” Children learn things like English, art, and music in the local community centers year-round. “I taught them photography with little point and shoot cameras and I helped them with painting rocks,” said Wilding.

Part of why Wilding chose this program was her love of the French language. “Morocco is the only French speaking country Rustic Pathways has programs in, and I am very passionate about French, so it was definitely one of the biggest reasons why I chose Morocco,” Wilding explained. Her language skills helped her communicate with the villagers, which made the experience even better.

The group also spent time touring Morocco. “We took a cooking class, learned some Arabic calligraphy, and got henna tattoos,” Wilding explained. They went sightseeing in many amazing cities, including Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco. “It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been,” she said.

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