Association Amnougar is based in Ouarzazate. The association trains disabled men and women in making jewellery and furniture, growing food, as well as looking after farm animals with a view to helping them make a living.
The association was founded in 1999, construction work on the buildings of the centre began in 2003 and the first apprentices were able to begin their training in 2005. The centre has now expanded to include two dormitories, a refectory with modern kitchen, an administration building and even an eco-tourism house for visitors. Two additional annexes were added in 2006 to provide an adequate environment for training in jewellery and carpentry.
Having started modestly with seven trainees, Amnougar now has the pleasure of welcoming thirty-five trainees and a new sewing apprenticeship began in 2018.
The BMS has been supporting Association Amnougar through an annual donation and has also been able to visit the centre through BMS Trustees Hans Patel and Benedicte Clarkson, who made visits in 2016 and 2019.
Our administrator Ella interviewed Yannic, Association Amnougar’s Treasurer, about the work of the Association and how they are transforming the lives of disabled adults from their Ouarzazate training centre.
First of all, what inspired the foundation of Association Amnougar?
The inspiration for the foundation of the Association Amnougar came from the shared vision of two individuals: a Franciscan nun, and a retired Swiss man. These two founders wanted to give hope and a future to young disabled adults through providing apprenticeships and helping with social integration.
Can you tell me a little more about the training opportunities offered at the centre?
Disabled adults who arrive at the training centres are offered four different apprenticeships, in agriculture, jewellery, sewing or carpentry. At the end of a selection process, which is based on each person’s wishes and disability in discussion with professionals, the apprentice commits to the assigned programme. The full training lasts two years.
Do your apprentices live with you the whole duration of their training?
Apart from a handful of apprentices who live nearby (we have a daily transport service), most apprentices come from far away (up to 300km, sometimes even more). Therefore, they have to stay in our boarding facilities, which are provided free of charge for them.
Without the Association, what other work opportunities are there for disabled adults are there in the region, or what would the lives of your apprentices look like if they weren’t offered a place on one of your training schemes?
Unfortunately, many disabled young adults in our rural region still live a very secluded life with little opportunities. There are many potential reasons for this, but I would say that two main ones are that most of them haven’t had the opportunity to attend school because of their disability (whether physical or mental), and secondly, that there is still a strong social stigma around disability in our part of the country (thankfully, this is changing, but there is still much work to do).
Do many apprentices integrate into the workforce after leaving Association Amnougar?
Yes, there are many very encouraging stories. For example, Najib joined one of the first jewellery cohorts as a young physically disabled man (in a wheelchair with no lower limbs) back in 2005. After his apprenticeship with Amnougar, he went to Agadir and found various jobs where he was able to increase his professional knowledge. Over the years, he became so good at his craft that we asked him a few years ago if he would accept to come back to Amnougar as the teacher for jewellery apprentices! On top of being amazingly good as a jeweller, we soon discovered that he is a wonderful teacher.
How has your work been impacted by Covid-19?
Just like in many other parts of the world, Amnougar had to close its doors from March to September 2020. We were then allowed to start again at a 50% capacity, and then 75% capacity from January 2021.
Additionally, Amnougar has suffered greatly financially. Around a third of our budget is usually covered by subsidies from the Moroccan state and neighbouring towns and villages. A quarter is covered by purchases from tourists (products from the jewellery, sewing and carpentry workshops) as well as money coming from tourists who eat and sleep for a few days on the association’s premises. The rest of the budget is covered by generous donors, most of them residents in Europe.
Because of Covid, part of the subsidies haven’t been given. Furthermore, all the revenue from tourists has vanished. This has left Amnougar in a very precarious situation, living from one month to the next. Thankfully, some friends of the association have been very generous, which has allowed us to continue our work to this day. However, the coming months until tourists can come back in a normal way will be very difficult for us.
Do you have any plans or projects for the future?
Well, first of all, being in the immediate short term, we just hope that we can remain open in the coming months. If we can get through this Covid time and find partners for a new project, our goal would be to renovate around two thirds of our buildings: the farm, workshops and administrative building. These are lovely traditional Moroccan buildings, which means that their outside needs to be renovated every 15 years or so. The cost will be around 35,000 euros, quite a project! Here’s a picture from last year, when we renovated the dormitories.
If you are in Morocco and would like to visit the centre, Association Amnougar has five rooms with A/C and ensuite bathrooms, in an incredibly peaceful setting, and their wonderful kitchen team are ready to cook all meals for guests. BMS members can contact [email protected] for more details and booking.
Pictures of visit by Benedicte Clarkson, BMS Trustee, to Association Amnougar in October 2019.
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