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Fashion for a Cause: How a Charity Shop is Empowering Moroccan Youth

The picturesque town of Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast has long captured the imagination of outsiders. Today, foreign tourists flock to this old port city to experience its unique culture and visit its fortified medina, a UNESCO world heritage site. While Essaouira enjoys a booming tourism sector, problems like poverty and youth unemployment persist within the local community. Since 2012, Project 91 has been working to combat these issues by empowering Essaouira’s youth to complete their education, develop new skills and ultimately, find employment.

This dynamic non-profit started the first charity shop in Morocco to sell donated clothes and accessories from its Leave Your Wardrobe in Morocco campaign, allowing fashion conscious tourists to make a positive impact. With 10 guest houses participating, visitors to Essaouira can give back by donating clothes and other items which are sold to generate income for Project 91’s programs. Depending on the money they raise, Project 91 offers free language classes, vocational training, driving lessons, and musical training for local youth. Aicha, a 21 year-old local resident, found work in a salon thanks to a one year hairdressing course funded by Project 91.

As Essaouira’s dependence on foreign tourism grows, organizations like Project 91 are helping shape the industry to become more socially responsible. Paolo Barbieri, chairman of Project 91, believes that tourists have a duty to help local communities because “Morocco is an extremely welcoming and tolerant place, so it’s only fair to ask people to give something back.”

Visiting Essouira? You can give back by donating to the Leave Your Wardrobe in Morocco campaign or by shopping at Project 91’s two charity shops.

For more information: Check out the Project 91 website and Facebook page

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Shirin Wertime

Shirin Wertime graduated from the College of William & Mary in the US with a degree in Government and French & Francophone Studies. As a 2010 Boren Critical Languages Scholar she spent one year studying Arabic in Syria and Morocco. Her study of languages and passion for travel have taken her to over 20 countries. Shirin is particularly interested in the Middle East and North Africa given her Iranian-American background and time spent living and studying in the Arab world. She hopes to pursue an internationally focused career in the realm of development and/or sustainability. ​

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