Ellie Mason - General Care Projects in Morocco
My education always suggested I would need an official qualification awarded to me after years of supervised study at an ordered establishment in order to undertake anything serious in life. University was to prepare you for the real world and the real world was not intended as a means of education. When I listened to individuals speak of working or volunteering overseas I was always impressed, wishing I could say I had done the same but contenting myself with the idea that they must be in some way more qualified than me to attempt such an endeavor.
After spending a year working full time in the real world, I understood that degrees were just pieces of paper and people were just people. I could complete tasks, acquire skills, overcome challenges, learn and change with just as much ease as someone sitting in a government building. Experience rather than exams served to improve your chances of success and of starting a meaningful life. My goal therefore, became to put myself in situations that I could learn from and that were significant; to just do the things I wished I could say that I had done.
So at the age of 22, a student of music and languages with a distrust of most meals that did not feature chips and an irrational fear of camels I organised to head to Morocco to complete a month of volunteering on a Care project and to study Arabic through Projects Abroad.
My Care Project
Although I'd not had much experience with children and childcare had not really been my thing back in Australia, my placement had me working with 5–18 year olds and was one of the most satisfying, inspiring, heart-warming and eye-opening experiences of my life.
There really is something inherently motivating about seeing an organisation that is effective. My supervisor El Aidi had a handle on everything; from 5-year-old Hamza's precarious home life to 17-year-old Mohammed's apprenticeship details. My project, Amesip, had the absolute trust and support of their local community and I found the children there took the opportunities that they were provided with (and often desperately needed) in a way I had not seen anywhere in Australia.
Moroccans, on the whole, I found were far more aware of those things that were good and worth celebrating in life. Little was taken for granted and priorities were refreshing. Although I’m not usually the diary keeping type, I found myself filling journals with all that I saw; not wanting to forget a single story. I did not meet a single person I did not wish to bring home with me.
So, I have decided to list below the highlights of my one month trip to Morocco:
- Arriving at the airport as perhaps the most conservatively dressed person in Rabat and completing my induction in a whirlwind of different languages
- Finding my own way through an ever changing Rabat Medina
- Watching my host sister cooking dinner and dancing to ‘Gangnam Style’ as the fourth prayer call of the day starts up
- Decrypting an Arabic recipe with my host mother over mint tea
- Travelling to the Sahara and returning to Rabat with the feeling of coming home after my first weekend away
- Conversing with groups of Moroccans who had never been to school but were comfortable across upwards of four languages
- Sitting on a train from Fes attempting to complete my Arabic homework independently (but being corrected by onlookers if ever I made a mistake)
- Thinking I was boss enough to climb Jebel El Kelaa in a morning
- Being escorted to the last grand taxi of my trip by half of Amesip
- Being approached by three kids in Chefchaouen because I 'looked funny' and finding I was able to converse with them in Darija
And finally I would like to give a big thank you to Projects Abroad and every person at my project at Amesip - I hope to be back very soon!
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.