Formula E’s diverse and global calendar not only makes for spectacular racing, it also affords the opportunity to discover the amazing cities, regions and cultures behind each venue.
In February, Envision Virgin Racing travelled to Marrakesh in North Africa for the Formula E race. With some rare downtime before the main event, the Envision Virgin Racing team took drivers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns on a short trip to the foot of the Atlas Mountains to discover some very special change makers who are helping to make a difference to both people’s lives and the climate around them.
Our journey begins back in 1998 when a certain Sir Richard Branson, and his family, were in Morocco as part of the Virgin founder’s round-the-world hot air ballooning adventurers. Known for her ‘restlessness’, Sir Richard’s mum Eve went exploring and heard about a property for sale – Kasbah Tamadot – located in the picturesque Atlas Mountains. Charmed by the people and the place, Eve convinced Sir Richard to buy the property. The next day she started work on helping those communities who had days earlier, made her fall in love with the region.
A few years later in 2005, she established the Eve Branson Foundation, whilst Kasbah Tamadot itself has gone on to become a luxury resort providing stable employment for more than 150 people from neighbouring villages. The foundation now provides free access to education, skills and development, dental care and, most importantly, access to clean drinking water.
“Our mission is to help the community,” says Abderrazzak Zoubair, the Eve Branson Foundation Project Manager who joined the programme many years ago helping to teach English. “We want young people to have the opportunity to earn a living and build a secure, healthy and enriched future, as well as to acquire new skills.”
In total, the foundation has four projects working in parallel with a craft house, weaving centre, woodwork centre and teaching English at a state boarding house – providing work, sanctitude and income for people and their families.
The Envision Virgin Racing, as part of its Race Against Climate Change (RACC) sustainability programme, was able to learn more about this inspirational story, but also see for itself how even small communities are feeling the effects of climate change and the reason the team goes racing.
“The whole area is greatly affected by climate change,” continues Zoubair. “The surrounding lands are very dry due to a lack of rain which has a big impact on the local villages and communities. Having the additional skills we help teach means people are more prepared to adapt and survive during these difficult times.”
During the struggles of the global pandemic, there has been a rapid decline in tourism to the area which has hugely impacted the artisans, the programmes and the Berber communities. Having built resilience at a grassroots level, all involved can better face the challenges ahead and will be waiting to warmly welcome supporters and visitors for when travel to the area is safe again.