Rural Health

Rural Healthcare and Culture in Morocco
May 7 to 28, 2018

An International Service Learning Experience

MSUB LogoThe 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.

Language: English with translators.
University Partner: Montana State University Billings (MSUB)
Non Profit Partner: Atlas Cultural Foundation,
How to Apply
1. Download the  Application Packet.
2. Email application to Abby Cook.
MSUB Office of International Studies.
Abby Cook,, 406-657-1761.
3. For more information contact Abby Cook or MSUB Faculty
Leigh Taggart,, 406-223-1948.

Spring – Summer Program
Dates: Online semester course, Spring 2018, followed by trip to Morocco, May 7 – 28, 2018. 
Credits: HADM 494, 3 credits
Level(s): Graduate and Undergraduate
Prerequisites: 2.5 GPA, Instructor consent via interview process.
Cost: $4250 approximate cost (includes international airfare, room, board, and transportation costs in Morocco, and tuition for students taking 12+ credits Spring Semester 2018)
Faculty: Leigh Taggart, MSUB adjunct Faculty,, 406-599-4848

Academic Program:
The program Rural Healthcare and Culture in Morocco is a global service learning program and community development experience created specifically for MSU Billings. 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.

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img_1200Educational 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.
  • Nutrition, food sources and food production.
  • Refuse and waste management and disposal.
  • Environmental determinants of health.
  • Cultural factors that impact health and healthcare, specifically, Moroccan Islamic Sufism.
  • Traditional health practices, beliefs and medicine.
  • Moroccan community associations and international NGOs.

img_1265Community 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.
  • Visit to the weekly market.
  • Planting, harvesting and maintenance of the community gardens.
  • 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:
20130516_EricksonK_Morocco_2051Zawiya 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.

women-and-teschaProgram 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 Marrakech.
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.

IMG_3726Tentative Itinerary
In Morocco there is a saying that “nothing goes as planned but everything works out.” Schedules are especially prone to this. Please be aware of this.

May 7 Depart for Morocco

May 8 Arrive Marrakech, Morocco

May 9 Tours in Marrakech

  • Breakfast at Hotel Assia.
  • Tour of Marrakech hospital (tentative) and Marrakech’s historic landmarks including Djemaa El-Fna, Jardin Majorelle, Ali Ben Yusuf Medersa, Marrakech Museum, and the medina (medieval marketplace).
  • Group dinner.
  • Stay at Hotel Assia.

May 10 Marrakech to Zawiya Ahansal

  • Breakfast at Hotel Assia.
  • Travel overland through the plains of Marrakech and foothills of the Atlas Mountains to Zawiya Ahansal. (5 to 6 hours of driving)
  • Welcome tea at sheikh’s house in Zawiya Ahansal.
  • Village orientation – Health, safety and cultural awareness.
  • Tour of village and market.
  • Traditional dinner.

May 11 – 15 – Healthcare/Community Engagement/Cultural Activities

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner served at guesthouse.
  • Daily class time/learning activities and community healthcare projects.

May 16-18 Trek and camp in the Atlas Mountains

  • Trek and overnight camping led by a licensed Moroccan mountain guide.
  • Observe life in the remote villages of Zawiya Ahansal. Villages accessible only by foot.
  • Questions and answer with local associations – challenges of health in remote villages.
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided. Two-person tent accommodation.

May 19 – 23 Healthcare/Community Engagement/Cultural Activities

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner served at guesthouse. Traditional feast and closing activities on last night.
  • Daily class time/learning activities and community healthcare projects

Saturday, May 24 Travel from Zawiya Ahansal to Coastal Town Essaouira

  • Depart Zawiya Ahansal after breakfast.
  • Arrive Essaouira late afternoon.

May 25 and 26 Essaouira

  • Historic tour of old town.
  • Souvenir shopping, camel riding, beach activities.
  • Depart afternoon of the 28 for Marrakech.

May 27 Depart Marrakech

May 28 Arrive Billings

img_1272Program 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 Morocco
Observe 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 Marrakech to breakfast on the last day of the program in Marrakech.*
  • Private minibus transportation to and from Marrakech and Zawiya Ahansal, and Essaouira.
  • 2 translators/community liaisons (English-Berber-Arabic-French) available 24-7 during the program.
  • Bottled water and/or treated drinking water.
  • Lodging for 20 nights. (3 nights Marrakech, student double rooms and faculty single room. 13 – 14 nights in Zawiya Ahansal, student shared gender separated sleeping rooms and shared bathrooms and faculty single room with private bathroom. 1 – 2 nights on the trek, two person tents. 2 nights in Essaouira, student double rooms, faculty single room. The Zawiya Ahansal guesthouses are registered with the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism.)*
  • A farewell feast with local music.
    *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.
  • MSUB OIS student/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:

• MSUB Office of International Studies
Abby Cook,, 406-657-1761
• MSUB Faculty
Leigh Taggart,, 406-223-1948

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