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  1. Once in a while an opportunity presents itself that you would have to be a fool not to take advantage of. This was the case with Microloan Foundation’s ingenious London Underground Poster Campaign, giving 200 female small business owners in the UK the chance to buy an advertising spot on the London Underground at an affordable price and have their very own poster designed by top agency DLKWLowe.

    The £100 that each company paid for their poster will be used to help fellow female entrepreneurs in Malawi and Zambia, giving them a chance to start their own small, sustainable business and lift themselves out of poverty.

    Luckily for myself and The Wise House, we managed to secure a spot at one of these (as yet) mystery locations on the tube network. I wait patiently for someone to find the poster whilst on their travels around London!

    the wise house-page-001

    In becoming part of this campaign I started to read up on the Microloan Foundation and find out more about the work they do. What I love about this charity is its clear and concise vision ‘we believe in giving hope, not handouts’ and the incredibly practical way it goes about helping women to set up their businesses (as a ‘doer’ this appeals to me hugely).

    It all starts with finding women in isolated rural areas who express a desire to start their own business and raise money for their families; for food, clothing, medicine and education. The women form working groups and are given business training on areas like managing money, market research, and business planning. They are given a small loan to set up their business; with businesses typically ranges from market stalls and bakeries to small holdings and second hand clothes shops. Training and mentoring continues to help them along the way.

    As their businesses start to grow the women pay back the loan, and the money is then used to make more loans (an impressive 99% of loans are repaid). There is a real focus on ongoing teamwork, partnership and the community. There is so much that businesses in the UK could learn from how these wonderful women are mentored and about how they all support each other.

    'The group sessions are a joyous occasion, starting and ending with singing and dancing’

    The many individual Success Stories shown on the website are a joy to read and the women obviously love what they do and are thrilled that in many cases they can now afford to send their children to school. This success story is about Joyce, who has set up a small business in the village selling tea and bread. Joyce and her husband are saving money so that they can build a larger house to fit their family more comfortably.

    Joyce's Story

    Joyce

    I feel a real affinity with these women. We're not so different, after all. Many of us are not in it to get rich quick (or at all) but want to be able to be there for our families, do something we enjoy and contribute to the family pot.

    Microloan’s research found that when a woman generates her own income, she is likely to re-invest 90% of it into her family and community. What a powerful and thought-provoking statistic. Microloan’s simple, insightful approach helps people to improve their own lives and those of the people around them and I think it's an approach which could be applied within communities across the world.

    https://www.microloanfoundation.org.uk/

    We're running a competition to see who is the first to spot our poster (as seen above). The first person to spot, identify station and share a pic wins a Parisienne basket!

     

  2. After reading our Guest Blog (below), Marrakech has now moved closer to the top of my travel destination ‘wish list’. With my 40th birthday just around the corner I’m hoping it will move to the ‘places visited’ list very soon (hint to husband, someone tell him to read this blog)! I have heard such wonderful things about it - words such as exotic, bustling, chaotic, colourful, spices all setting the scene for an inspiring and interesting place.

    All of the baskets that we stock at The Wise House, as well as some beautiful leather slippers we will soon be stocking, are made in Morocco. It would be fantastic to get a feel for the place in which these products are made and meet some of the people whose craftsmanship goes into making them.

    Until very recently I had assumed that Morocco was rather too far-flung for a short trip and not entirely suitable for a family holiday. How wrong I was (geography never was my strong point). Fellow Hampton mum and friend, Emma Macfarlane, has just returned from a 4-day City Break staying in the Fellah Hotel, Marrakech with family in tow. They had the ‘best time ever’ (in the words of her children). Upon further questioning it turns out it is entirely doable for a short break and a wonderful place to take a family.

    Emma is also owner and director of Sapphire Luxury Marketing Ltd, and has just published a fantastic blog post all about her stay in Marrakesh and the Fellah Hotel. I thought I would share it with you, so here it is, our first ever Guest Blog…

    Family at the Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

     

    After a late arrival at Marrakesh airport with two tired children, the short 30 minute journey following by a swift check in were a Godsend. Our first taste of mint tea and a couple of Moroccan pastries later and were were soon tucked up in our enormous beds in our even more enormous bedroom in the tranquil surroundings of the hotel.  Fellah translates as 'farm' in Arabic and several animals are evidence of this heritage as well as signs indicating the various plants, many of which are used in the kitchens at the hotel. As well as the animals, the spacious gardens house 10 villas each housing suites, Wat Po (the spa), the library, artists accommodation, Fellah Kids and the heart of the hotel (reception and the restaurant). The rooms are categorised depending on their size and whether or not they have a terrace but all are enormous. We had a junior suite for all four of us which allowed us plenty of space.  The rooms are all unique encompassing traditional Moroccan artwork, furnishings and colours - much of the artwork in the rooms and around the hotel is by local artists and those that have been part of at Dar al-Ma'mun, the cultural centre attached the the hotel.

     Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.25.12

    The Fellah is ideally located for those wanting to take in the heady bustle of Marrakesh then retreat to tranquil, traditionally Moroccan surroundings with plenty to keep them busy if they feel inclined. The Fellah extends the definition of luxury in the sense that guests want for nothing here but without a gold tap in sight.  Carefully chosen "flea market" furniture compliments the friendly, attentive service and the space this property offers is idyllic. There is no shortage of things to do too - box with a champion, take in a yoga course, drink tea with Tauco and learn to cook a traditional tahini, have a go at Pétanque, volleyball or table tennis then relax by the pool while the children are having the time of their lives at Fellah Kids.

    Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.24.48 

    Fellah Kids is a kids club with a difference - children immerse themselves in Moroccan culture whilst having fun and making friends at the same time.  DJ courses, singing with a local musician, chocolate truffle making with the pastry chef, story telling with locals from conception to production and feeding the animals are just a taste of what's on offer. The activities change every day and friendships are formed almost immediately. Then there's the pool and movie nights whilst parents are finishing their bottle of wine after dinner in peace.  The Fellah is a paradise for kids and a haven for adults - happy children, happy parents! Our children were in heaven and our daughter cried when she left to come home saying it was the best holiday ever! 

    As morning translates into afternoon and afternoon into evening, the mood naturally adjusts at the Fellah. An extensive buffet breakfast with a la carte eggs sets up you for the day. There is then plenty to do, or not to do, before lunch around the pool.  A drink as the sun descends  and then dinner which is a buffet or a la carte and is all delicious and excellently executed.
     
    Whilst the pull of the hotel is great, there is no forgetting the fascination of the country and a trip into Marrakesh is a must. We ventured into town twice and enjoyed some delicious local food including dinner at one of the food stalls in the Djemma Al Fna. We bypassed the sheeps brains and went for traditional sausages, kebabs and Moroccan pastille, a traditional pigeon and filo pastry "pie" which is to die for.  We also indulged in a whole box of Moroccan pastries from a fabulous local bakery, most almond based, but all so moreish so they did not last long! There is no need to spend unnecessarily here as many of the budget restaurants serve excellent food in clean surroundings and give you a taste of true Moroccan flavour and ambience. The square is great to explore and effortlessly involves you in everything going on. It's a complete feast for the senses and our children were fascinated by everything they saw - the water sellers, snake charmers and those playing a local form of bingo to dried fruit and orange juice sellers and performing monkeys. The musicians too crank up the beat as the light fades and the square really comes to life. Behind the square, the myriad of souks are great to explore and where you can have a go at a spot of haggling.
    Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.24.20 

    On our second trip into the city we decided to visit the beautiful MajorelleGardens, in the Palmerie, before heading back into town for a local lunch.  The gardens were designed by French orientalist painter Jacques Majorelle and fell into disrepair following his death in 1962.  In 1980 it was saved from development by Yves Saint Laurent and a memorial to the visionary designer takes its place in the gardens. As well as an artists studio the gardens house a museum dedicated to Berber culture and the gardens themselves are tranquil and serene. 

    Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.25.54 

    We could not stay away from the Fellah for long. Whilst we were there we also enjoyed treatments - the Thai massage did the trick - the gym, the library, the enormous and gorgeous pool and the general chilled atmosphere of the hotel.  We only had four nights at the Fellah but a longer stay would easily be filled - the Atlas Mountains are another 60 minutes south and Essaouira on the coast is only 2 hours in the car.  Horse riding, a balloon ride over the mountains, trekking - the possibilities are endless. 

    The Fellah has give Marrakesh a cultural spot for families to enjoy a fascinating destination, and only a 3 hour flight away.  It offers a true sense of place and immerses guests into Moroccan culture in a five star environment whatever their age.  It's a real gem and not to be missed. Call Workham Hotels for more information: 020 7736 8287, www.workham.com.