Ep #007: Liz Fanning, Morocco 1993-95

Liz Fanning served in Morocco from 1993 to 1995 as Parks, Wildlife and Environmental Education volunteer. Twenty years after serving, she founded CorpsAfrica, which offers the same transformative experience as the Peace Corps to emerging leaders in Africa – giving them the chance to be a part of the solution for their own countries.

On this Episode:

  • I interview Liz Fanning about her time in Morocco as a Peace Corps Volunteer
  • We discuss some of the short comings of international development
  • Liz explains the mission behind CorpsAfrica, and outlines her vision for the future growth and success of the organization she founded

Photos from Liz’s Story

Liz’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

Morocco, 1993-95 – PWEE sector (Parks, Wildlife and Environmental Education). My title was “Rural Socio-Economic Planner” but, really, my role was to listen to the people living in a small village along the edge of Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. We were supposed to help park managers understand how the people lived and how dependent they were on park resources (for firewood and to graze their animals) and to teach local people about the environmental crisis. It was a vague mission, but fascinating. At the time, I didn’t understand what I was doing there. As an outsider who could barely speak the language, how was I supposed to help these people? My site mate, Yossef Ben-Meir, did some amazing projects (which he later turned into the High Atlas Foundation) and he let me tag along. I was grateful and had an amazing and transformative experience, but I actually consider CorpsAfrica to be my Peace Corps project. It took 20 years to percolate, but better late than never.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

Doing magic tricks for the kids soon after I arrived at my site – it was the first time we laughed together.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

In the Peace Corps, the highs are really high and the lows are really low. I remember falling in the river once during a long hike to the summer project. It was such a tough day – setting out before dawn and hiking up, up, up for what seemed like forever. When we finally got to the top, there was a creek to jump over – my legs were so tired that I fell right in. That was a very low moment. But I picked myself up, changed into dry clothes behind a bush, and it was all downhill from there.

What do you miss about the Peace Corps?

I miss that feeling of being at home in such a foreign land. And making people feel respected by being an American living among them and speaking their local language. That’s such an easy way to have a powerful impact.

What is something you learned in Peace Corps that has stayed with you?

I was struck at the time that young Moroccans wanted to serve their own country. I’d tell them about what I was doing as a PCV and they’d say something like, “It’s so great what you’re doing for my country. I’m Moroccan – I want to help my country, too. Can I be a PCV?” I had to say no and that question dogged me for 20 years. There are so many educated young people who deserve the chance to help their country, just like I was doing. It’s a big reason I started CorpsAfrica – seemed like the logical next step for the Peace Corps.

For More About Liz and CorpsAfrica:

CorpsAfrica is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by a former Peace Corps Volunteer seeking to recognize and build on Peace Corps’s enormous success by offering the same transformative experience to emerging leaders in Africa – giving them the chance to be a part of the solution for their own countries. CorpsAfrica applies some of the best approaches to international development, including empowering local communities, promoting collaboration among NGOs and our development partners, monitoring and impact evaluation.

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