Community Based Partnership for Employment

We are proud to announce the Community Based Partnership for Employment (CPE), a dual exchange program to be implemented in Tiznit, Morocco and Somerville, MA.  The CPE is the second phase of the Somerville - Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership established by UME in 2009 and with 45  participants traveling between the two cities within two weeks, one of our most ambitious programs to date. UME hopes that the close proximity of these two programs will result in the intensive environment needed to bond the citizens of these two cities together in a special and lasting cross cultural and professional relationship that will endure long into the future. 

Program Description: 

In mid-April 2011, 45 citizens from the cities of Somerville, MA and Tiznit, Morocco, including educators, healthcare professionals, artists, social workers, non-profit professionals, city planners, and government officials, will travel to each other’s cities. Through this exchange, the University of the Middle East Project (UME) hopes to promote youth development and employment in the 21st century through a multi-tiered approach that emphasizes cross-cultural and cross-sector collaboration. The CPE will take place on the following dates and locations:

Part One: Somerville travels to Tiznit
Dates: April 15 - April 22, 2011
Location: Tiznit, Morocco
Somerville Participants: 12 educators + 8 professionals from various fields including MA State Representative, Denise Provost of the 27th  Middlesex District

Part Two: Tiznit travels to Somerville
Dates: April 28 - May 4, 2011
Location: Somerville, MA
Tiznit Participants: 10 educators + 15 professionals from various fields including President of the Tiznit City Council, Abdellatif Ouammou

During the first phase of the CPE, approximately 20 Somerville residents and employees will travel to Tiznit, Morocco to meet and collaborate with their professional counterparts.  Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, of the 27th Middlesex District, will also attend this program to further facilitate the official governmental links with the appropriate officials of Tiznit.

American and Moroccan participants will offer professional development sessions in order to teach and learn from colleagues, as well as benefit teachers and ultimately their youth with knowledge about 21st century employment skills. This “Professional Symposium” will be facilitated by UME faculty and will be followed by academic and networking sessions, as well as site visits to help participants explore the assets and limitations of both communities while solidifying partnership formation. This Tiznit phase of the CPE will conclude with a “youth day” that will include over 50 secondary school students who will benefit directly from the CPE participants.  Prior to the start of the program, all participants will engage in online dialogue via a UME-facilitated online group.

The second phase of the CPE will begin one week after the conclusion of the Tiznit program.  From April 28- May 4, approximately 25 Tiznitis will travel to Somerville and continue to build upon the gains of these workshops.  The Moroccan participants will continue to work with their Somerville partners and will also have the opportunity to undergo a parallel experience of working sessions, site visits, and cultural events with their Somerville counterparts.  Tiznit participants will also have the opportunity to visit Someville Open Studios, New England’s largest art show that typically includes 350 artists and attracts thousands of people during April 30-May 1, 2011. 



Sister Cities Report: Photos and video links from Tiznit!

The University of the Middle East Project is proud to announce the successful implementation of the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership in coordination with UME's Association of Moroccan Alumni (AMA).


What began as a conversation between UME's Moroccan alumni in 2008 blossomed into an incredible week of professional development and cultural exchange that UME hopes will continue to grow for many years to come.  UME would like to thank Samira Idelcadi, Brahim El Morabit, and Omar Habbaz for initiating this wonderful linkage and all AMA members under the leadership of Ahmed Atlagh for making this program such a success.

Sister Cities participants at the El Mers Cultural Center


The Sister Cities Partnership included over 100 American and Moroccan participants from the education, government, arts, music, and health sectors and culminated in the official signing of a Sister Cities relationship between Mayor Joseph Curtatone and City Council President Abdellatif Ouammou.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone and President Abdellatif Ouammou with signed Sister Cities Memorandum of Understanding


The Sister Cities Partnership brought together numerous noteworthy guests including Mr. Driss Benaddou, Governor of the Tiznit Province, Mr. Brahim Hafidi, President of the Regional Council of Souss Massa Daraa, Ms. Elizabeth Gracon, Public Affairs Officer from the American Consulate in Casablanca, and the President of the Moroccan Association of Sister Cities International, Mr. Boubker Mazoz.

Signing Ceremony at the Province (State House) of Tiznit


This program received widespread press coverage including the Edition Principale on SNRT, the Moroccan national radio and television station.

Click here to view the story on YouTube.

Radio Plus, Journaux du Maroc, Wana, and the Boston Globe also covered the program.

UME President Hala Taweel being interviewed for SNRT

Activities during the five-day program included multi-sector dialogue sessions designed for Somerville and Tiznit participants to create joint projects to benefit both communities.  These sessions were facilitated by Elizabeth Gruenfeld, longtime UME faculty member, Rebecca Davis and Melissa Gang from American University.

Community Building Activity for Sister Cities Participants

Joint project visualization activity between Somerville and Tiznit participants

Participants also attended site visits in Tiznit specifically tailored to each sector.

Lahcen Benoiri VP of the Tiznit City Council, Governor Driss Bennadou, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Vincent McKay, Assistant Superintendent for the Somerville Public School District, as well as Paul Bockelman, member of the Somerville School Committee, at the Ecole Primaire 18 Novembre

Karen Krolak and Ruth Faris at an argan oil workshop at the Amoudou Association

Somerville artists David Colombo, Pauline Lim, and Cynthia Maurice with Tiznit artists and students from the Al Massira School

The Uariachi Hoop Camp, sponsored by the U.S. embassy at the Al Massira Elementary School

UME and the American participants were treated to the wonderful hospitality of the people of Tiznit at a gala celebration that featured Gnawa and Ahwach dancing and music as well as the signing of MOU's between institutions in Somerville and Tiznit.

Welcoming procession at the Sister Cities Gala Celebration

Gnawa musicians outside the Gala Hall

UME staff and alumna: Fatima Kaliyati, Robina Bhasin, Hala Taweel, Galia Shokry, and Elizabeth Gruenfeld at the Gala Celebration

Gala Celebration Hall

To see youtube videos of these events click on the links below:

gala celebration

outside gala celebration

MOU's were signed between the Somerville and Tiznit school systems, two schools were "twinned", and the Brickbottom Artists Association and the Amoudou Cultural Association also partnered.

MOU between Brickbottom Artists Association and the Amoudou Cultural Association

MOU between the Somerville and Tiznit School Systems

Many thanks to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the City of Somerville, the City of Tiznit, the Regional Council of Souss Massa Draa and the Moroccan American Cultural Center for their sponsorships.

Special thanks to the American Embassy in Rabat, the American Consulate in Casablanca, Sister Cities International, and the Moroccan Association of Sister Cities International for their guidance and support.

Your donation to help UME continue its work in the Middle East and North Africa is sincerely appreciated.

Please click here to donate securely online.


Ray Matsumiya

Executive Director




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