Self-isolation and social distancing are saving lives all over the world, but have plunged many families into poverty. Communities all over Morocco are keeping hope alive in these dark times.
In the US, UK, and Australia, Moroccan cafes and restaurants are feeding the homeless and health care workers. Moroccan doctors and nurses are risking their lives to help patients all over the globe, and at home in Morocco, the effort to feed the hungry continues throughout the country.
Across Morocco, locals and foreign nationals are collaborating to help the most vulnerable members of society as the COVID-19 lockdown robs many informal sector workers of their livelihoods.
From Ksar El Kebir, to Marrakech, to Fez, Moroccan communities are showing the true meaning of national spirit.
A small community of Moroccans and expats in the coastal city of Essaouira are just one of the groups across the country demonstrating selflessness and generosity in this time of crisis.
Charity begins online
A few days before the government’s March 19 announcement of a national state of emergency and lockdown measures to protect the population from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Essaouira residents Jeannette Clopton, Moucine Camel, Redouane Chebani, and Hamida Novakovich started to chat online about the impacts the lockdown would have on residents of Essaouira’s more at-risk neighborhoods.
With the help of Grace Savannah Jones in the UK and Sarah Gate, a resident of Akermoud near Essaouira, the group began to call for donations of food and funds to support their community.
“We posted the first call for donations on the Sunday [March 22] and delivered the first food packages on the Tuesday [March 25],” Jeannette told Morocco World News via video chat.
She explained that all the logistics and administration for the food drive took place online. “Everything we have done is totally compliant with the lockdown measures,” she added.
Jeannette’s enthusiasm is infectious and her commitment to Essaouira and to the local community is tangible. “This community is my home,” she said.
Since the start of the lockdown, the group has managed to support over 40 families each week with basic supplies.
“They are so grateful,” Jeannette told MWN. “Many of them have lost their income. They are informal workers, they grill sardines at the port, or rely on the tourist industry.”
The food drive came from the heart of the community in Essaouira’s medina. Chebani, a local hanout (grocery store) owner has used his contacts to order the dry goods for delivery to avoid breaking self-isolation measures, while Camel, organizer of the town’s famous street school, has used his local contacts to identify and reach out to at-risk families.
News of the initiative spread both online and by word of mouth in the medina, and numerous families have contacted Jeannette and the team for help.
Much of the fundraising takes place online, Jeannette explained. The food drive team used their social network connections to publicize the initiative and received donations from people all over the world.
“Many of them have strong connections with Essaouira,” she told MWN. The team has received financial support and solidarity from as far away as the US, from both Moroccans and foreigners.
“Some people are Essaouira residents who have been here a long time, others have just been on holiday,” Jeannette said, adding that every person who has donated has a strong affection for the town and its community.
Lockdown does not have to shut down kindness
Jeannette admitted that she was worried in the beginning and that the team had to overcome some obstacles to be able to get the food parcels to the city’s most needy people. The team’s efforts were more than worth it as the support is keeping the community afloat.
The team is operating on a tight budget, MAD 150 ($15) per family per week, but manages to provide each household with staples including oil, flour, milk, vegetables, tea, cheese, lentils, pasta, and tinned sardines.
Families receiving the food parcels collect the stock from Jeannette’s home in the medina and the food drive team communicate clearly with recipients to ensure there is no overlap in collection times.
Jeannette emphasized that the initiative is a collaborative effort involving far more members of the Essaouira community than just the immediate team who coordinate logistics.
The efforts of the Essaouira food drive team and others like them all over Morocco are bringing hope to the most vulnerable people in these uncertain times, and every small contribution is changing lives as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the Moroccan economy.
What is more, the Essaouira community drive, echoed in cities across the country, is a testament to the strength of Moroccan solidarity and Moroccan communities, including foreign residents, who have not let COVID-19 infect their sense of generosity.