Morocco Week 4: Settling In

Once I was able to get into a routine with my host family, I was able to shift from focusing on things like eating correctly to exploring my community. As part of our training program, my community-based training (CBT) group went for a community walk to assess our local resources and possible concerns. We scoped out the local government buildings, schools, and popular “hangout” spots. We also visited the dar chebab (youth center) where we would be working for the next couple of months.

One unique challenge to my CBT site is that the dar chebab was closed prior to my group getting here. We got the keys and opened it up to find everything coved in a layer of dust an inch thick. No one had been there since Spring and it showed. We assessed what we could use, pulling out a guitar, drum, chess boards, a pack of paper, and a projector from the locked storage room.

After that, we rolled up our sleeves.

We wiped down all the tables and chairs, rearranging them in a classroom setting for two of the rooms and a large circle for the third room. We swept and mopped all the rooms we had access to and set up a little reading corner in the main foyer. Outside, we picked up glass and other hazards from the play area. In two-days’ time, the space was physically ready for students.

Our next step was to determine what activities we wanted to host in the dar chebab. We noticed many kids had a lot of energy, energy they enjoyed channeling into football (soccer). Boys and girls both clearly enjoyed being active and playing sports. They also had an interest in music. We made it a priority to listen to our community – our host families, local teachers, and kids that talked to us in the streets – to learn how we could best serve their needs. The resounding answer was a need for English classes. All the kids we had interacted with all expressed excitement to learn and practice English, seeing it as a way to get a better job in the future.

Many of the Moroccans I have talked to were exposed to English from an early age through songs, and especially through Hollywood movies. It made me stop and think about Hollywood’s influence on what other people think of Americans and what English they learn. Unfortunately, many of the ideas and words they pick up don’t reflect the best that the U.S. has to offer.

It also put into perspective how lucky I am to have so many options of types of media I can consume. I sometimes catch myself complaining about how there’s too much content for me to watch between Netflix, Hulu, Apple+, etc. and I can’t keep up. If I wanted to (and some Americans do), I could go my entire life without watching a movie or tv show produced in another country/in another language. Meanwhile, many of the popular movies/shows here in Morocco are Turkish, which are then dubbed in Darija (Moroccan Arabic).

Taking all this information, we laid out a rough schedule of what we wanted our time at the dar chebab to look like, trying to address as many needs and interests as possible. We also had to keep time constraints in mind. As part of CBT, we’re in class until 4:00 p.m. We also have to work around the fact that our dar chebab doesn’t have electricity at the moment (but we’ve been in touch with the local government and hopefully that will be resolved soon). It starts to get dark about 6:30, so we decided our best option was to have our hours be 4:30-6:30 p.m.

We had our opening day on Thursday and welcomed about 70 kids.

We did a meet and greet where kids could get a feel for the space and what we would be doing there. We had a variety of activities, sprinkling in English here and there. We also welcomed parents to come in and see how their kids would be spending their time with us. Based on the turnout and overall energy/enthusiasm in the dar chebab, we concluded it was a great success.