I’ve spent the past days in Morocco in the aftermath of an earthquake that has caused such sorrow and destruction. We’ve been meeting the incredible Berber communities in the High Atlas Mountains and delivering supplies directly to people in urgent need.
The epicentre of the earthquake was near the villages surrounding the Eve Branson Foundation and Kasbah Tamadot, which are very special places for my family and so many others. We’re so thankful that all the guests and team are safe. We arrived on a flight full of supplies including sleeping bags, tents and inflatable mattresses, which were generously funded by donations from Virgin Unite and Virgin Limited Edition.
Virgin Unite is also supporting the Eve Branson Foundation Earthquake Relief Fund, which is working tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of families in the area, providing critical supplies like food, clean water, medicine, and shelter. The Humanitarian Openstreetmap Team, supported by Virgin Unite through the Audacious Project, is also doing sterling work mapping remote and uncharted areas of Morocco, so first responders and relief agencies can reach rural populations in need.
It is awe-inspiring seeing the bravery of people who have been through unthinkable horror. As we handed out goods to half a dozen villages, the people’s calm and patience was striking – everyone waited to ensure the supplies were fairly distributed. The warmth and hospitality of the Berber people is utterly unique. I was stunned to see people who have lost everything still rallying around to ensure everyone else was being greeted and treated with smiles and kindness.
So many people I met told me how thankful they are to be alive, yet they have suffered such horrific losses of their loved ones and homes. One man had lost his aunt and his cousin, who was his closest friend. I met a 13-year-old boy, an orphan who had lost his mum and dad. Another eight-year-old child had lost his home and was living on the street – we were able to provide tents and supplies. In this picture, there may look like there is nothing behind us: an entire village was there before the earthquake destroyed it. Sadly, in that area alone 18 people lost their lives.
One young man came across the valley when he was 12 to the Kasbah and wanted to learn English. He ended up working for us and his house, right opposite Kasbah Tamadot, completely collapsed – we had had tea there together the last time I was here. His dad had been injured. And yet, they were in good spirits.
The focus is, of course, upon the immediate needs of the people here. With winter only weeks away, the team want to ensure communities in the mountains have supplies to keep warm and safe, including some basics like crates to ensure their tents are not on the frozen ground.
However, thoughts must now also turn to long-term recovery. The Eve Branson Foundation Earthquake Response Fund (to whom so many of you have been supportive) will help as many families as possible. One project I visited was the school and weaving centre where my mum spent so much time helping the Berber people, which we will strive to rebuild as soon as possible.
Tourism is so important for Morocco’s people. If you already have a trip to this beautiful country booked, or were thinking of visiting in the future, I’d urge you to do so as it recovers.
As for Kasbah Tamadot, it too felt the impact of the earthquake but fortunately it was built strongly and we avoided anyone being injured. Our wonderful team have already got to work in restoring this magical place. The hundreds of Berber people who have worked at Kasbah Tamadot over the years are the most gentle, kind and thoughtful people, and we will be back better than ever. We will share further updates from the team on reopening as soon as possible.
Thanks so much for the incredible generosity of so many people. From the selfless teams on the ground including Kasbah Tamadot General Manager David Redouane; to people like Chris Hall, Evertrek's Andy Moore, Sara Blakely, Helen Littlejohn and Col at Alpkit, Jim Young and Decathlon for helping to deliver aid; to people like my sister Vanessa and nephews Noah and Louis rushing to help; to the Strive community and, in particular, James Benamor for matching so many donations. Royal Air Maroc have kindly been in touch with Virgin Atlantic, offering to help fly in more supplies. The guests who were staying at Kasbah Tamadot have responded with such grace too.
If you would like to donate to the Eve Branson Foundation Earthquake Response Fund, 100% of funds raised will go towards helping communities affected by the earthquake. Virgin Red members can also use Virgin Points to donate to Virgin Unite, which will go towards the Earthquake Response Fund. Thanks to everyone for their support, and love to everyone in the Atlas Mountains.