Meet El Mehdi, who is blazing the trail for a new generation of leaders in Morocco.
ElMehdi is one of MasterPeace’s club pioneers in Africa. As a founding member of both MasterPeace Morocco and the African Youth Leadership Summit (AYLS), he has been connecting and inspiring young people on a national and international scale since 2013. He reflects on his journey as a change maker in this inspiring story.
El Mehdi’s journey starts in high school, where he found that he stood out from the general crowd. At an age at which most people start to discover who they are, El Mehdi discovered that he was someone who wanted to help others, he thought differently, he wanted to contribute to the community and help to empower those who needed it. This brought a certain determination that would continue to be a driving force in his actions as he set out to “walk the talk”. He describes himself as someone who has always wanted to move forward and to connect and create while improving his skills to grow as a change maker and continuously thinking on new concepts and listening to new perspectives in his local and international work.
With this mindset, he quickly started doing work that connected people on an international level by organizing international exchange programs, he met Dr. Manu from MasterPeace India Odisha, a meeting that eventually moved El Mehdi to found a MasterPeace club in Morocco. A MasterPeace club was a perfect way for him to express his passion and vision.
This freedom suited him well, as he positively reflects on the events MasterPeace Morocco has organized. Establishing the club brought some initial challenges, like a discussion on the name ‘MasterPeace, the word ‘Master’ is not seen as something positive so that could scare people off. Eventually, all worked out luckily, and soon the club started organizing great training and events. “These events always impacted me very positively. It was great to see many young people open their minds a bit and be inspired to move others and organize their projects or join organizations”. In this regard, El Mehdi considers the whole journey of MasterPeace Morocco to be filled with highlight moments, in which he and his club have directly and indirectly impacted many different people.
There are two programs and events that he does mention for which he is extra proud of: The African Youth Leadership Summit (AYLS), and ACT! (Artists Create Together). The former was started through a collaboration between MasterPeace Morocco and MasterPeace Mauritania and “Aims to gather young people with a different background from all over Africa.” The AYLS is on its fifth edition now, and has already connected many young African leaders throughout the past years. ACT! On the other hand, is an international program in which clubs in 5 different countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Morocco, and the Netherlands) aim to create awareness and desire for change through the creation of art projects with both artist- and public participation. “We had the opportunity to grow our work, methodologies, and partnerships besides impacting and empowering thousands of youth based in marginalized communities.”
Reflecting on his journey, El Mehdi recognizes that he has learned some key lessons from working with MasterPeace. “Looking back, I have learned to be resilient, but also learned that it is always good to start something.” He has experienced that sometimes just starting something can inspire others to do the same. On a personal level, he identifies how all the activities, experiences, and contacts he made through MasterPeace have helped him develop his leadership skills and knowledge. “I already had some knowledge, but MasterPeace has given me the ownership to implement all the passion and ideas that I had. It helped me grow personally and professionally.”
But El Mehdi also recognizes that leading a club is never easy: there are always challenges that come up. The keys to solving these problems are always there, and a good mindset can help a lot in overcoming challenges. “I do not like to overthink things. If there is a challenge, that means that there is always an opportunity. There are always solutions. Good communication is often the key.” He emphasizes the importance of a good mindset: “There are always ups and downs, but there is also always an opportunity, being determined, patient, and flexible are good tactics. And the goals and vision should always be the point of focus.” Additionally, El Mehdi thinks that it is important to know that you can always ask for help when it is needed since nobody is perfect anyway.
For new, young leaders, El Mehdi has some good advice: “Focus on what you are passionate about.” Since it is a big responsibility, it is most important that you and the people you work with are driven to achieve the goal in mind. “Don’t look for money, but for something you love. Forget about what might happen, but enjoy the journey.” Eventually, it is the people that matter, and even though sometimes funding is important, that does not mean that you should do projects because they can easily be funded. Projects should be done because you have passion for them. So do not linger too much on the what if’s, but focus on the goal and why you are doing what you are doing. And if you succeed and achieve your goals, El Mehdi adds, it is important to also know your place: “Stay humble. Let your success go to your heart, not your head.”
When asked about the future, El Mehdi has some ideas which he would like to see implemented: “I believe maintaining and sustaining the amazing work which has been done all over the globe by all the different clubs is my main desire in the hope to increase the local abilities to engage more talents, and contribute to enhancing our communities.”
However, El Mehdi does state one strong desire for the future: “I hope that one day MasterPeace will be active in our neighbouring countries of Algeria and Mauritania, as the region is intense and I believe that our clubs, together with MasterPeace Tunisia, will have the power to unite people.”
Reflecting on the theme of Masterpeace’s 10-year celebrations ‘Colorful Connections’, El Mehdi sees a clear link to what MasterPeace is: “The goals pursued by MasterPeace have always been colorful. Colorful Connections means that MasterPeace clubs always share and help each other where they can. We have seen that in the last ten years: We share in both each other’s joy and sadness, in the good and the bad. We are one big community. When someone needs help, others will always be ready.”