How Eve Branson changed my perspectives
I have been with The Eve Branson Foundation (EBF) since Eve developed her first project in Morocco in 2005.
Since then the foundation has been creating opportunities for Amazigh (Berber) women and men through skills training. Our ambition is to help local people to help themselves - boosting economic self-sufficiency and building confidence. Once fully trained, the artisans earn enough to put some savings aside, which they simply couldn’t before.
Eve is indelibly etched into the Asni Valley, through the red clay of the houses and along the winding roads until you reach the ancient Berber village of Imskar. She was a strong lady full of energy and inspiration.
I am very proud of helping to preserve Berber craft traditions through our training programmes. We teach techniques in Moroccan weaving, woodworking, and embroidery and celebrate culinary traditions including artisanal bread-making. These are skills that are at risk of fading away.
Eve always looked for a different and creative way for the craft centres to generate an income and to one day become sustainable and I can still hear Eve’s voice singing when I drive along the main road from Marrakech to the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains.
One of my most cherished memories with Eve is when she insisted on visiting a remote programme in the pouring rain. It is not often we have rainfall in Morocco and roads can quickly flood. I tried hard to persuade Eve to postpone the visit to which she replied: “This trip will teach you the difference between a normal life and the life that you strive for." It was a new philosophy that I couldn't quite take in at that moment.
We set off and the car soon became stuck in the mud. Eve jumped out and took a photo. She told me that one day, I would look back and remember how much I enjoyed this experience.
Fortunately, we did eventually make it to the programmes (with a bit of help from some locals). Eve was full of joy to eventually arrive in the village and spend precious time with a group of girls who were starting out on a craft programme. I saw how happy it made her. I think back to this day and it reminds me to pursue that path to happiness.
Other pieces of advice that Eve gave me and that I still hold dear to this day, include "If you really want to do something, start today" and “Always use a pen and a notebook - write it down and you will remember to make it happen.” We sadly lost Eve last year, but her words continue to motivate me to do a good job every day.
Eve always looked for a different and creative way for the craft centres to generate an income
When I first started here, very few people had the opportunity to learn new languages and I am proud to have helped teach English to the local people – many of whom have become employees at Kasbah Tamadot, a beautiful property that Eve convinced Richard to take on.
No day at EBF is the same and visitors come to support our programmes from all over the world. Although the mission itself is serious, we always have time to laugh together and share stories. Once of my favourite stories is when I met a family who asked me if I had ever met Sir Richard Branson. I showed them a photo from Richard’s last trip and they immediately hugged me and then asked if they could keep my shirt as a souvenir, since it was the same shirt I was wearing in the picture with him! Across cultures, laughter truly is the best bond and helps us embrace our common humanity.
This year EBF is putting a greater focus on tackling education and environmental issues. These issues are at the very heart of our mission as they are vital is we are to help local communities to become more resilient. There are days when I wish I could do more and it is in those moments that I remember Eve’s wise words: “Do what you can, with what you have.” Eve’s legacy lives on.
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