There are few times in life that we have the chance to make our dreams come true. I have always wanted to have a career that would allow me to help people the most in need. In the 1990’s, as I was growing up, the AIDS epidemic was destroying Africa. I can remember telling my mom “When I’m old enough I just want to go to Africa and hug those babies.” I was 12. The years rolled on and as my peers were making class presentations on football stars and fashion trends I talked about female genital mutilation and the Ben Barka Affair. A totally normal 15 year old right? I guess you could say my heart was always somewhere else.
Then life happened.
At 18 my life changed forever and suffice to say my dreams of Africa went out the window – I had my own baby to hug. I had so much support and a lot of determination to finish university no matter what. Many options were presented but only one was right for me. As hard as it was I had to keep that little person. In doing so, I gave up on all hope I had ever had to make my Africa dream come true. Resigning that dream was soul-crushing.
But Allah (God) had other plans.
I met the other half of my heart, he picked me up, loved me, and brought a new world for me to love. I feel in love with Morocco, the people, the food, the colors and smells but no matter where you are or how wonderful a place seems, lurking under the covers is the dirtier side. It’s not as shiny – frankly it’s pretty ugly.
The first time I saw a woman on the streets with a baby I wanted to give her all that I had. But, there were so many. Then it was like I had walked into a wall. This would have been me. If I wouldn’t have been born where I was – I would be that mother. I walked away on the brink of tears when all I really wanted to do was give her a hug. In all my struggle, I thought I had really done something. But, this mom, she chose her child even if it meant an existence that was dependent on begging.
Over the years these moms and babies have stayed very close in my heart and mind. As the years have gone by my appreciation for the safety net that exists in the United States has only grown greater. I want to give Moroccan women that. I have a dream to open a home in Marrakech for women and their children. It will be a safe place where moms can go to school as well as learning a trade or profession to support themselves. Housing will be provided and cooperative childcare and meals will be standard. When they are ready and able, support will be given to find housing and start them out on a positive note. This dream remains in my heart.
I know that it will take years for me to launch such a program however as we prepared for our last trip this fall I was determined to do something positive. I launched Mobiles for Morocco to bring baby mobiles, clothes, and toys to an orphanage in Marrakech. And, you all responded more than I ever imagined. Within a day of putting up information there were monetary and physical donation pledges made. It kept coming in the days and weeks that followed. As we left I had one large suitcase full of 50 pounds of clothing, mobiles and toys. Nearly $400 came in and many parcels of mobiles and clothes – some from as far away as Ireland! – came. As each new package came I was overflowing with emotion. I had hoped to bring just a few items with but thanks to you I brought A LOT of things!
When the day came I met Nora from Life in Marrakech and her mom to go to the orphanage. We were also joined by her lovely kids as well as MarocBaba. When we arrived I took a deep breathe and in we went. First the baby room where a dozen-or-so little babies lined the walls in their cribs. I was happy they all had names and I wanted to hold them all. One tiny two month old just called out to me. As soon as I picked him up and held him, the tears started.
“I know your mama is missing you tonight,” escaped my mouth.
I kept sucking in air and trying not to cry.
The next two rooms had babies a little older. Nora’s kids helped distribute toys and choose where to place the mobiles. The smiles of these little ones was so contagious. It was harder to hold the older ones because they just wanted to stay in our arms, putting them down was heartbreaking and met with small cries of protest. I remember my own boys at that age squirmed to get out of my arms, these toddlers laid on our shoulders and stayed still. More than one stole my heart.
This orphanage is privately run and most of the children who were there when we were are waiting for paperwork to finish processing before they can go to their forever families. There are a handful of orphanages in Morocco that will adopt orphans to the United States. If you have a Moroccan spouse or are living in Morocco the situation may be different. This specific orphanage does not adopt orphans to the US. Donations however, are always welcome. In addition to caring for these children, the second floor of the building has several guest rooms. Just a short walk from the orphanage is a children’s hospital and the rooms are for parents who have children needing long-term treatment at the hospital.
It wasn’t until my mom pointed out a profound fact about this trip that I realized just how full circle my life had come. She told me that my dream had come true. I wasn’t sure what she meant. She then reminded me of my childhood dreams. The ones I had give up when my life was turned upside down. I followed my heart and did what I thought was right.
And – I did make it to Africa to help orphaned babies.
This will not be the end of my journey or this project. If you would like to get involved or have fundraising ideas for this orphanage please contact me. When these little ones move on, there will be more waiting to take their places.