Zoubair Abderrazzak is a project manager at the Eve Branson Foundation and below he shares how Eve changed his outlook and his life.
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 vocational training. Our ambition is to help local people help themselves – by building economic self-sufficiency and building trust. Once fully trained, artisans earn enough to set aside savings they simply couldn’t do before.
Eve is indelibly etched in the Asni Valley, through the red clay of houses and along winding roads to the ancient Berber village of Imskar. She was a strong woman, full of energy and inspiration.
I am very proud to help preserve Berber craft traditions through our training programs. We teach Moroccan weaving, woodworking and embroidery techniques and celebrate culinary traditions including artisan bread making. These are skills that are in danger of disappearing.
Eve has always looked for a different and creative way for craft centers to generate income and become one day sustainable and I 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 fondest memories with Eve is when she insisted on visiting a remote program in the pouring rain. It’s not often that it rains in Morocco and the roads can get flooded quickly. I tried 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 you aspire to.” It was a new philosophy that I couldn’t assimilate at the time.
We left and the car quickly got stuck in the mud. Eve jumped up and took a picture. She told me that one day I would look back and remember how much I enjoyed that experience.
Luckily, we eventually managed to get into the programs (with a little help from some locals). Eve was overjoyed to finally arrive in the village and spend some precious time with a group of girls who were starting a crafts program. I saw how happy it made her. I think back to that day and it reminds me to continue this path to happiness.
Other tips Eve gave me that still hold dear to me to this day include “If you really want to do something, start today” and “Always use a pen and 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 great work every day.
Eve has always sought a different and creative way for craft centers to generate income
When I started here very few people had the opportunity to learn new languages and I am proud to have helped teach English to locals – many of whom have become employees of Kasbah Tamadot, a beautiful property that Eve convinced Richard to take over. .
No two days at EBF are the same and visitors come to support our programs from all over the world. Although the mission itself is serious, we always have time to laugh together and share stories. One of my favorite 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 asked if they could keep my shirt as a souvenir since it was the same shirt I was wearing in the photo with him ! Across cultures, laughter truly is the best bond and helps us embrace our common humanity.
This year, EBF is putting more emphasis on solving education and environmental issues. These issues are at the heart of our mission because they are vital in helping local communities become more resilient. There are days when I wish I could do more and it is in those times that I remember Eve’s wise words: “Do what you can, with what you have. Eve’s legacy lives on.
Convert Virgin Red points for handicrafts made by EBF artisans. Check out the Virgin Red app.