By Nora P. Goodman
By Nora P. Goodman
Morocco World New
Portland, Oregon, July 14, 2012
In June of 2008 I visited the lovely country of Morocco. To my surprise, although the country itself was beautiful, I wasn’t prepared for the obvious injustice I saw towards children.
While I was in Rabat making a money exchange at a local bank; there I saw a young boy sitting on the ground in front of the bank begging. It was obvious he had been severely burned on his face and was in shock and needed immediate medical attention. His face looked like melted flesh. My immediate response was to rescue him. I began yelling to my friend Saeed “Oh My God, how can the government allow this to happen?” Saeed told me to calm down and not make a scene and pulled me away with my tears. However, I felt a strong pull inside of me to do something. During my two-week visit in Morocco I saw many children begging on the streets. It was obvious this sort of tragic display was very common in Morocco and other developing countries, where people use children for their financial gain for survival and out of desperation.
That night I had difficulty sleeping. I finally dozed off from crying myself to sleep while praying and asking God to intervene. I was haunted by the boy’s face. The next day I had to go back to the USA. I begged my friend to check on the boy, but somehow I knew he wouldn’t. He was too casual about the situation as if he was immune to it.
I boarded Air France Airlines and sat by the window. I began writing in my journal about my sorrow, and the boy’s face remained in my mind. The thought of going back to the USA without doing anything to help him was pure agony. A few moments passed and a local Moroccan woman sat next to me. She asked very politely how my stay in Morocco was. I shared with tears in my eyes about how lovely the country was but…then I told her the story about the boy. She smiled and said, “You have sat next to right person.” She laughed at my response. I must have grabbed her arm with relief. She said she was part of an organization that helped to rescue street kids and work with the families to educate them. God had sent an angel that day. Although we exchanged personal information, we lost contact. I never knew if the boy was rescued. But I was relieved to know there were people trying to help the street kids.
In April of 2009, I decided to go back to Morocco and help a village government school in Terema, I knew one of the teachers that worked there and I had compassion for his dedication to the children and their families. Mohammed worked long hours with low pay and little supplies in a school where we Americans would consider neglect and non-compliant to our Government rules and regulations.
I was a director of a private school in Milwaukie, Oregon, with many middle class families, so when the families heard about my desire to help the children in the village they began to donate clothing and money for the school supplies. In just a few months, I gathered many children’s clothes, candy, toys and some supplies, and I planned to purchase the rest of the supplies after I arrived in Morocco since the required school supplies were different than in the USA.
The day finally came when I arrived back in my favorite country Morocco. I rested a day from my flight and the time change. I couldn’t wait to begin my journey to the school. I purchased the school supplies from local shops. The shop owners laughed and were surprised when I wanted to purchase ninety notebooks at 20 cents apiece, but soon showed me respect when my translator told them what they were for. My friend Mohammad, one of the teachers at the school made arrangements for me to visit the school on a beautiful April morning. He picked me up and drove me down the dusty dirt roads that many of the students walked for miles to get to the school. I watched students hop on the back of farm trucks to catch a ride. We drove past many farms and several shacks and cottages along the four mile dusty road. After several minutes of traveling the dirt road from the main highway we finally made it to the Temera Government School.
When I arrived, Mohammad took me to a little room where there was a table prepared for my welcoming. It was nicely decorated with pastries and the famous Moroccan mint tea. I was very honored as the teachers served me and shared their stories and feelings about what they called “The Forgotten School.” They shared that often time’s three brothers shared one pencil to do their homework and there was not enough school supplies or materials to accurately teach their students. As I looked around I saw holes in the walls that were made for electricity but the job was never finished. I saw no running water and many windows were broken. I later gave these teachers the title “Hero’s”
Mohammad took me to the first class of a combined kindergarten and 1st graders. As I entered into the class the students stood up from their desk to greet me. I was humbled and honored and tears came instantly in my eyes. Mohammad introduced me while Saeed passed out the supplies. I stood back to take pictures and watch the expressions on the children’s faces. They looked rather puzzled as if they were wondering who this ladies was.
As I went to each class the children continued to stand up as I entered and I continued to be humbled by this respectful way of welcoming a foreigner to their school. In the USA this would only be done after a speech or an award.
The parents were very grateful for all the clothes and asked the teachers to thank me. They expressed their drastic need and asked me for more help.
As I was leaving the school, many children came up to me with big smiles and big brown eyes wanting their picture taken with me.
As I drove down the dirt rode many ran after the car waving good bye. This was a very humbling experience, an experience that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
During the last few days before I went back to the USA, I decided to get some souvenirs from an outdoor plaza called the “Old Medina”. It was located in the heart of the city of Rabat. I saw a crippled boy in a wheel chair sitting in the hot sun by the entrance. He appeared to be by himself begging. It was obvious someone had left him there.
This time I asked Saeed to translate while I investigated. I found out his name was Mustafa. His leg was green and looked as if it had been chopped off and was swollen with gangrene. It had a bad odor and it was obvious he needed medical attention. While we were talking to him, a Moroccan woman approached us with a friendly smile. I questioned her with the help of Saeed and she explained that she had already tried to get him medical attention, but the doctors had done all they could to help him. I wasn’t convinced.
This time I was not willing to give up so easily since I had a few days left before going home. I ask Saeed to speak to our friend Driss who worked for a local hospital and the next day Driss came to examine the boy. We found out the woman wasn’t Mustafa’s mother, but she had been using Mustafa to travel from city to city to beg for money. Medical attention was given to Mustafa and the woman was questioned by social services for further investigation.
I learned a lot about the desperation of Morocco from visiting the Temera village school to intervening with the two boys being used for begging. I learned that there are people that care, they just need someone to bring it to their attention. It appeared to me that these people were accustomed to seeing this kind of things on a daily basis that they didn’t seem to be affected by it. I, on the other hand, was not accustomed and needed to intervene.
I went back to Morocco in 2010, only this time I brought my son with me. This time we visited Essouria and did not witness any begging where crippled children were being used abused. We did interact with many street kids and fed them whenever they ask for food. We can’t help all of them but we can help one child at a time.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy