By Arshia, NSLI-Y Morocco, Summer 2015
Students granted the NSLI-Y scholarship all around the world participate in many educational and community engagements as part of the immersive experience. The AMIDEAST NSLI-Y Summer Program 2015 in Rabat, Morocco participated in a community service project at a local orphanage. This was a chance for students to interact with young locals, practice colloquial Arabic, known as Darija, and engage with the local community. Students were given a stipend of the equivalent of $5 U.S. to purchase gifts to take to the orphanage.
Arriving at the orphanage, books, toys, coloring supplies, and snacks in hand felt sad initially, but quickly transitioned, as everyone was overwhelmed with the infectious joy and upbeat spirit of the residents. Students were also unaware that the orphanage was all boys until arrival which made for an interesting dynamic, since half of the toys were targeted to girls! This did not stop the boys from fun with the toys and books anyway. The boys at the orphanage appreciated the thoughtful gifts bought buy the students, and began to open up to the “new Americans.” The large orphanage with many spaces to play and learn is home to around 30 boys and is currently expanding in order to accommodate more in the future. The range of age in the orphanage is 7-16.
Shortly after arriving at the orphanage, the students were given a talk on how the orphanage works. The orphanage provides schooling and work experience for children and is a permanent home for many boys. Students were also told about the orphanage’s plan to expand in its mission to provide an education and services similar to what they currently have, as there is a greater need than the current capacity.
The current facility includes fully-functioning classrooms with desks, a chalkboard, and many computers. The residential areas are made up of large community bedrooms where each boy is given a bed and a cabinet for their things and the opportunity to decorate their personal area in whatever way they want. There is also a very nice prayer room, which has copies of the Quran and pictures of the king. The outdoor area is an open terrace where the boys enjoy playing soccer and tag. Finally, there are two specialty work areas including a leather workshop and a carpentry workshop where boys 16-18 can specialize in these areas of work. Upon turning 18, they are given a certificate showing their specialization, and people who work at the orphanage help them find a job in this specialty so they are able to stay on their own.
The students thoroughly enjoyed having time to play with the boys. Between colored pencils and paper, toy cars, rubber balls, and coloring books, the day was packed with games and fun, and the students were sad to leave. Interacting with the boys was difficult due to the language barrier, as students spend their day studying both modern standard Arabic and Darija, but are more familiar with modern standard Arabic, while the boys primarily spoke Moroccan colloquial. Even with the slight barrier, all of the students enjoyed their day, proving that fun has no barriers.
At the end of the summer program for AMIDEAST students, the students decided to collect all the extra Dirhams, (the local currency), that they did not exchange back and gave it as a parting class gift to the orphanage, (approximately $100 US dollars).
The rewarding volunteer day at the orphanage with the kind, responsible, and friendly Moroccan boys was a thoughtful and enriching opportunity to engage with the community that the students with AMIDEAST’s Rabat program remember fondly.