Morocco: Volunteering

Today was my second day of volunteering here in Rabat, and I’ve gotta say, volunteering here in Morocco is an experience vastly different from volunteering back home. First of all, the concept of orientation doesn’t really exist here. When we first arrived in Morocco, all of us kids indicated to Ouafaa, our program assistant/getstuffdone lady, that we were interested in community service, so she began looking around for places we might help out. She eventually found one that accepted students only here for a semester, a place called Muntada Alghad, aka Forum for Tomorrow (rough translation). We sent in resumes and got placed doing various jobs- Chessy, Lesley, and Nina are teaching French to tiny children about 5 or 6 years old on Wednesdays; Brynn and John teach an English class to kids about that same age on the same day; Gabby and I have an intermediate English class on Tuesdays with folks as young as 15 and as old as 35 so far; and Uchenna, Viviana, and I play games and stuff with kids from about 8-12 on Wednesdays (or at least, that’s all we did today!); Darby, putting her doctoral skills to use, is going to be shadowing a doctor at a local clinic and working at a nursing home, I think, but she was sick today, so send good thoughts her way. Anyway, I arrived yesterday with Gabby for our first day of English class really unsure of just what was going on. We were ushered into an empty classroom and just kind of sat around until 3 students were ushered in. Gabby and I looked at each other puzzled, then looked at the students, then looked back at each other, then we both realized we were gonna have to just jump in head first. Other students came in periodically as we went over introductions, daily routines, describing hobbies, favorite tv shows and movies, and what we want to be in the future. In the end, we had 6 students, but the president assured us that more people would start coming since that was only the first day of the class. It’s mind-blowing to me, and quite daunting, that the edification of these people is essentially 100% mine and Gabby’s responsibility. I can’t wait to send out a bunch of Moroccans speaking with Southern accents!
Today was our first day playing with the kids, and it was a blast! It was so much different than yesterday- whereas yesterday I had to be responsible and teach, today was as much about learning for me as it was teaching. The kids with whom we played knew extremely limited French, no English, and Darija. We had a guy named Ayoob who speaks English with us most of the time to translate anything we couldn’t communicate ourselves, but he wasn’t always there, and I (and I KNOW Viviana) wanted to put our Darija into practice. So of course, the first game we played was Ninja. Let me give you what I imagine our instructions sounded like to these kids:
“Ok, the goal is hit other people’s hands. Uh, you can only move when it’s your turn or if someone tries to hit your hand. Uh, If someone hits your hand, ___ it behind your back; you don’t have it. Uh, you can only move in one motion. Uh, when someone hits your second hand, you lose. Uh, we start in a circle, and 1, 2, 3 (jump backwards and strike a pose). Uh, ok, I’m first, she’s second, he’s third. Yullah!”
And I would say that’s pretty generous, and also doesn’t reflect pronunciation difficulties. However, after a short demonstration, the kids got it and we played a couple of times. Since Ninja went over so well, we decided the next we should do is play Human Knot. That was hilarious. Viviana and I pretty much just shouted one or two word phrases trying to get these kids untangled. “From the above to the below!” “Over his hand!” “Step (noun, not verb) over them!” Uchenna was speaking French the whole time, so I don’t know how successful his communication was, but eventually we were able to untangle ourselves not once, but twice! Then we played musical chairs, then a French game sort of like London Bridge, and another French game sort of like Duck Duck Goose (so much French!). After a while, all the kids who had been in English and French class came out and all hell pretty much broke loose. There were probably 30 kids running around this space, which I would estimate is about 400-450 square feet, with the 8 of us and some other older folks mixed in. Eventually some kids from AmidEast showed up to do volunteer work of another sort, and we were relieved of our duty. It was a great way to spend two hours, and I’m hoping that the rest of our time there is just as fun and fulfilling.
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