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Eckerd Students and Faculty Organize Morocco Earthquake Relief GoFundme

Just eight months after a group of Eckerd students went abroad to Morocco for Winter Term 2023, a devastating earthquake has changed the country they came to know and love. “We met so many amazing people,” said Magdalena Castellanos, now a senior anthropology major. “There was really a connection made over there, and the fact that all of this is happening over there is honestly heartbreaking.” On Sept. 8, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the High Atlas mountain region killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring more than 5,600, according to Reuters news agency. Many of the areas damaged are remote villages and help has come slowly.  

With lives at risk, the Eckerd student and faculty wanted to help. Last week, Virginie Khare, associate professor of international business and marketing, organized aGoFundMe campaign on behalf of the students and faculty leaders. Their goal is to raise $2,000 and, as of Sunday night, the account had reached $1,060. The campaign will remain open until Sept. 30. “We visited many places impacted by the recent earthquake, including Ouarzazate and the area in the High Atlas mountains, and we are devastated to hear the news of death and destruction linked to the recent earthquake,” Khare wrote on the GoFundMe appeal.

For people who haven’t been to Morocco, they might know some of the places affected by the earthquake from movies and TV. Scenes from “The Mummy” and the TV series “Game of Thrones” were filmed in Ouarzazate and the area around it, according toMiddle East Eye, which covers news from the Mideast and North Africa. The Eckerd group also visited Marrakech, whose ancient city was heavily damaged. Khare said that the personal connections made during the three-week Winter Term paved a way for Eckerd to get help for the villages affected. 

“It really grew organically,” Khare said. Arabic instructor Qays Majeed, one of the other faculty leaders, said that meeting people from Marrakech, Casablanca and other areas of the country made the impact of the earthquake more personal to him. “I went there and saw the human side of Morocco,” Majeed said. “And then and I hear there’s this earthquake that impacted the country—it’s so sad.”

Another student on the study abroad trip, Olivia Stacey, sophomore environmental studies and animal studies major, said she is concerned for the isolated Atlas mountain region, where much of the damage occurred. “There’s no restaurants, no stores, they make everything,” Stacey said. “Just knowing those people were affected—I think that’s the part that hit me most.” Even before the earthquake, there was no Morocco program being offered for Winter Term 2024 but an Arabic language study abroad is still on for next summer. Eckerd is offering the program through the Council on International Educational Exchange, at least for now.