March 6, 2004 - The DeKalb Evening Star: Peace Corps service in Morocco breaks Danielle Bash's comfort zones

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: March 6, 2004 - The DeKalb Evening Star: Peace Corps service in Morocco breaks Danielle Bash's comfort zones

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Peace Corps service in Morocco breaks Danielle Bash's comfort zones

Peace Corps service in Morocco breaks Danielle Bash's comfort zones

Peace Corps breaks woman’s comfort zones


Caption: Danielle Bash of Auburn meets a snake in Marrakesh, Morocco, during her Peace Corps experience in the African nation. Photo contributed

AUBURN — Danielle Bash of Auburn remembers watching a television commercial about the Peace Corps when she was a DeKalb High School student,

“I got very excited about it,” she recalled.

Peace Corps volunteers generally are required to have college degrees. So Bash filed away the idea in her mind.

The idea was re-ignited for Bash after she graduated from Tri State University in 1998 and then worked as a quality engineer for four years.

“The company I was working for announced they were moving to China and Mexico,” she said. “That was the opportunity for me to pursue the Peace Corps.”

Bash served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, in northwestern Africa, from August 2002 to April 2003. She was a small business volunteer in Fez, a city of a million people. She taught basic business practices to help the artisan community make more informed economic decisions.

This week, March 1-6, has marked Peace Corps Week 2004. Bash and 1998-2000 Peace Corps volunteer Jenny Sargent have assembled a display of artifacts and photographs at the Garrett Public Library. Their exhibits will be on display until the end of this month and the public is encouraged to view them. Sargent, who served in Kyrgyzstan, also will present a program at the library from 2-3:30 p.m. today.

Typically, Peace Corps volunteer placements are for 27 months, but Bash’s assignment was cut short due to the war in Iraq, she explained.

Bash worked with artisans including rug-weavers, potters, leatherworkers, woodworkers, painters metalworkers and embroiderers.

“The primary goal was to get them to understand basic business concepts,” said Bash. For example, she said, one

of the artisans carved vast amounts of wooden camels, but was not selling very many. Bash showed him a picture of a wooden candlestick in a magazine and suggested that he try to produce something similar. He could sell it for significantly more than he was receiving for the camels and make a better profit, she explained.

The artisan followed the advice and his new product became very much in demand, Bash said.

Bash also advised the artisans how to export their goods to the United States.

She said the artisans were enthusiastic about receiving her advice. “They were very excited to hear a Westerner’s perception of quality,” she added.

As well as sharing her business expertise, Bash was eager to teach Moroccans about the American culture and learn about the Moroccan way of life.

She said the experience “totally broke down stereotypes,” both for her and for the people she met.

“I think it made me a stronger individual. My comfort zones were kind of broken down. I met tons of people who are just fantastic,” Bash said.

While in Morocco, Bash learned the native spoken language — a “Moroccan dialect of Arabic,” she said.

“It was immersion style of learning. You learn very quickly how to get your point across,” she added.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, Bash received housing expenses and a modest stipend for general living costs.

While in Fez, Bash had relatively decent accommodations with electricity and running water.

“I had friends who were health and environmental (Peace Corps) volunteers that lived in the countryside. They had a very different Peace Corps experience!” she said with a smile.

One colleague had to walk an 1 1/2 hours one way just to reach a taxi stand so she could leave her town. She had no electricity and had to collect her water in a bucket, Bash said.

Bash’s experience also gave her an appreciation for the hard-working lifestyles of those she met.

While working at a rug-weaving cooperative, Bash came to know three girls, ages 13, 14 and 15.

“When I was first learning to tie the knots, one of the girls took her hand and put mine next to it. Already, she had huge knots and calluses on her fingers.

“It was just heartbreaking and gave me a whole new level of appreciation for what people go through to earn money to support their families,” she said.

Since coming home, Bash has returned to her profession and works as a quality engineer for Nishikawa Standard Co. in Topeka.

She is eager to share her Peace Corps experience and the Moroccan culture with others. She invites local groups and organizations to contact her at

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Story Source: The DeKalb Evening Star

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco



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