Netherlands: Chasing Butterflies

Again the question begs to be asked: why Morocco? Why do Dutch taxpayers need to pay tens of thousands of euros in order to send kids who are supposedly Dutch to visit Morocco. Would ethnic Dutch kids also be sent to Morocco to track butterflies or is that right reserved only for immigrant kids. It might look nice and all, but isn't it another way of saying: you don't belong here?


Fourteen Moroccan youth from Rotterdam are taking part in an environmental program. After various workshops and excursions there are becoming environmentally aware.

Mohamed Hacene is an environmentalist by the Milieucentrum and sees it as his job to interest the entire population of Rotterdam in nature and the environment. Last year he went ot he African neighborhood to recruit kids for his nature project.

The kids worked on turning the yard by the community center into a butterfly yard, planting bushes and flowers. Municipality workers laid a path and planted fruit trees.

The project is called Atlanta, for the butterfly who spends the summer in the Netherlands and the winters in Morocco. The animal is constantly looking for a good habitat, just as the kids taking part in the project.

This week the Atlanta kids followed the butterflies. They're staying two weeks in the Moroccan city of Nador and building there a butterfly garden too.

Chahid Mossaoui (17) says the trip to Morocco won him over. But he also finds the butterflies interesting saying it's really special that such a small animal flies back and forth thousands of miles. Chahid is also taking an environmental course with which he can teach in community centers and schools. He might go further with it, as right now he's doing an administration course at a vocational school. At home is shuts the lamp more often to save energy.

Sarhan Hacene (22), the project leader's younger brothers, learned a lot about greenhouse gases and the global warming. he says they didn't learn much about it in secondary school and he was also not aware that the air quality in Rotterdam is so bad. He likes that kids from his neighborhood can for once be in the news for something positive. "There's a gathering prohibition in this neighborhood. There's quite a lot of misery there, but what do the youth want now? Simply kids who want to talk with their friends."

In Morocco there wasn't a lot of time to hang around. The Rotterdam youth visited local environmental club and a protected area for Berber apes. The cleaned up refuse and sailed together with dolphin friendly fishermen. They went looking for Atlanta butterflies and played soccer with local youth. The loser had to plant trees.

Since the subsidy for the project came from the Xplore program of the Ministry of development cooperation, every kids had upon his return to share his experiences with at least 150 others in order further disseminate the information. They made videos, a rap song and report and most of the kids went to school to tell about it.

Mohammed Kasmi (19): "It was a requirement in order to get these weeks for free".

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

See also: Milieucentrum (Dutch), Amsterdam: Problem youth sent on expensive trip to Morocco

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