Rural Health

Rural Healthcare and Culture in Morocco
May 2022

The program provides students with the opportunity to experience rural life and participate in community health development programs in the remote Zawiya Ahansal region of the Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

How to Apply:
Leigh Taggart,, 406-223-1948.
Application Deadline: December 2021


Spring – Summer Program

Dates: Online semester course, Spring 2022, followed by trip to Morocco, May 15 to June 3, 2022 (arrival and departure dates Marrakesh, Morocco). 
Credits: 3 Credits
Level(s): Graduate and Undergraduate
Prerequisites: 2.5 GPA, Instructor consent via interview process.
Cost: To be determined.
Faculty: Leigh Taggart,, 406-223-1948


International Service Learning Experience

Language: English with translators.
University Partner: University of Montana, School of Public Health and Community Health Sciences
Non Profit Partner: Atlas Cultural Foundation,

Academic Program:
The program Rural Healthcare and Culture in Morocco is a global service learning program and community development experience created specifically for the University of Montana. Its primary focus is to raise students’ awareness about health and healthcare in the culture, healthcare system and environment of rural Morocco.

The program provides students with the opportunity to experience rural life and participate in community development programs in the remote Zawiya Ahansal region of the Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The program is partnered with the Atlas Cultural Foundation (ACF); a registered US non-profit organization with the mission of collaborating with under served Moroccans in order to improve their quality of life in the fields of cultural preservation, community education, and public health. Students will engage in meaningful, community-identified work; be immersed in an intercultural living environment in which they engage in cross-cultural dialogue; observe, study, and participate in the host culture; work with faculty and professional mentors; and generally engage in a variety of formal and informal intercultural exchanges. These experiences will be reflected upon in direct and indirect methods with peers, leaders, or cultural informants.

  • Volunteer in Morocco

Educational topics may include

  • Healthcare system in rural Morocco.
  • Current challenges and successes in health and healthcare in rural Morocco.
  • Population health.
  • Water access and quality.
  • Refuse and waste management and disposal.
  • Nutrition, food sources and food production.
  • Cultural factors that impact health and healthcare, specifically, Moroccan Islamic Sufism.
  • Environmental determinants of health.
  • Traditional health practices, beliefs and medicine.
  • Moroccan community associations and international NGOs.

Community engagement and cultural activities may include:

  • Observation of the healthcare system.
  • Question and answer with ACF staff and local association board members regarding healthcare, community health, cultural and environmental factors that impact health and healthcare.
  • Developing and teaching basic health topics in workshops at the elementary school tutoring program.
  • Berber culture and traditions question and answer with the sheikh of Zawiya Ahansal and other local leaders.
  • Food preparation and cooking day with women.
  • Tour of the marabouts (saint’s shrines) and ighermin (saint’s houses and collective granaries) of Zawiya Ahansal where pilgrims ask the local saint for guidance and healing.
  • Question and answer with local midwives.
  • Planting, harvesting and maintenance of the community gardens.
  • Visit to the weekly market.
  • Community health awareness days – development and implementation.
  • Overnight trek and camp to villages only accessible by foot – interview local association members, observe remote life.
  • Participating in and observing the daily life of rural Morocco.

What to Expect:
Zawiya Ahansal is a remote and mountainous region located between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in Morocco’s Central High Atlas Mountains. It is a high desert region with temperature extremes in May ranging between 40 and 100 F. Regional equivalents are the City of Rocks in Idaho and southern Utah. Students should be prepared and comfortable with working in all weather, including rain, wind, and heat and should be physically fit and able to hike in mountainous terrain. In addition, all students will need to be physically able to work and hike at 6000 feet above sea level for extended periods of time. Students will be living with local families in registered guesthouses and should therefore be comfortable with and respectful of Muslim culture. Meals are prepared by your host family and are traditional Berber Moroccan cuisine. Sleeping rooms will be shared amongst students and are separated by gender.


Program highlights include:
Living with a local family in a registered mountain guesthouse.

Assisting the Atlas Cultural Foundation on their current rural health-related projects.
Learning about international non-profit organizations and management.

Learning about non-profit Moroccan association structure and being a part of various stages of community programs.
Trekking in the Atlas Mountains, including an overnight stay in a remote village only accessible by foot.
Touring the medieval city, or medina, of Marrakesh.
Enjoying the region’s natural surroundings during days off.

Recreational Opportunities
On your days off you will have the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of outdoor endeavors in the region of Zawiya Ahansal. You will also have time to wander through the villages to take pictures, visit the local market and sketch and journaling.


Program Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, all students will learn, do, and obtain the following:

Technical Skills

Develop technical skills in such areas as population health, community health education, rural health, and cultural preservation
Develop an understanding of traditional ways of life in the Central High Atlas Mountains
Develop interpersonal communication and collaboration skills
Develop problem solving and critical thinking skills
Gain understanding of the Moroccan health system, health and healthcare in rural MoroccoObserve models of alternative career development
Participate in and gain knowledge of sustainable community development and international non-profit management

Personal Skills
Increase self-awareness
Increase cross-cultural observational and communication skills
Enhance intercultural sensitivity and understanding
Community/Global Citizen Skills
Develop increased civic responsibility
Increase global awareness
Increase participation in and/or knowledge of global events


All meals (b,l,d) from dinner on the day of arrival in Marrakesh to breakfast on the last day of the program in Marrakesh.*

Private minibus transportation to and from Marrakech and Zawiya Ahansal.

Translator/community liaison (English-Berber-Arabic-French) available 24-7 during the program.

Bottled water and/or treated drinking water.

Lodging. (Marrakech, student double rooms and faculty single room. Zawiya Ahansal, student shared gender separated sleeping rooms and shared bathrooms and faculty single room with private bathroom. The Zawiya Ahansal guesthouses are registered with the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism.)*

A farewell feast.
*Note that the number of days and nights may be adjusted based on the number of participants.


Medical, rescue, travel, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance. All are recommended. Proof of medical insurance is required.

University fees and tuition.

Drinks other than treated water, laundry, telephone and Internet charges, and all items of personal nature.

Personal snacks (protein bars, etc.)

Gifts, souvenirs, etc.

For additional information about this program, contact:

Leigh Taggart,, 406-223-1948