STUDENTS at Coventry University will help preserve a thousand years of history as part of a project to protect one of Morocco’s oldest towns.
Projects including turning trash into art, supporting traditional artisan trades and creating the community’s first history museum will all take place in the forgotten town of Sefrou.
The Changing Lives programme returns to the once bustling trade hub this week – which was once home to ruler Moulay Idris II.
However the town has been left to fall to poverty and ruin as young people leave for nearby cities.
In response to the downfall, 11 students from Coventry University have been chosen to continue a partnership between the town and the university with the aim of supporting some of the poorest families adapt to the changing world.
During ten days of regeneration work, the group will meet traditional craftsmen and artisans to help explore how they can benefit from tourism and a global online market.
They will also learn about the mixed and unique religious heritage of the town where Berber, Arab and Jewish families have lived side by side for more than 1,000 years.
Students will also promote sustainability where litter and waste is a major problem.
Working with Moroccan non-profit arts organisation Culture Vultures, they will use recycled waste cleared from the streets to make artwork for the town’s hospital and create Sefrou’s first museum to document its important history.
Brendan St John, manager of the Changing Lives Programme, said: “We have worked in Sefrou for the past 12 months and the impact our students have made is visible in so many ways.
“Sefrou is a unique place – it pre-dates the imperial Moroccan cities that we know today, yet so many of its historical monuments have already disappeared due to neglect and its rich heritage is crumbling into dust.
“One of the greatest challenges we face is to preserve the town while adapting to new realities.
“Young people don’t want to live in the old city, they want to live in modern apartments with running water and space to park their cars.
“Many of those left are there because they have no choice, they are the poorest and most marginalized in the community.
“This programme is about sharing cultures and ideas to bring people together to try and change that, and what that then ends up giving back to our students is incredible.”