Ella Dutton - Care, Care & Community in Morocco
Why I decided to volunteer
Helping people is something I have always felt passionately about and I have been involved in numerous charity events here in the UK. Yet, I have always wanted to stretch myself further by experiencing the work that charities and organizations do abroad to help those in need. Volunteer programs have always appealed to me: experiencing a new country, working with other volunteers, making friends from all across the world, and making a difference are things I have wanted to do for a long time.
My first impressions of Morocco
Having spent most of my summer holidays in Cornwall, with little experience of countries outside of Europe, Morocco was a new and exciting country unlike anything I had experienced before. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I experienced the hot and humid weather. You could clearly see the different style of dress and different customs. The country was beautiful and I was very excited to see how close we were to the beach. We were dropped off at the Rabat medina, where we would be staying. This was unlike anything I had imagined, with a lively community of friendly people living in a castle like medina.
My teaching placement
Working at the placement was a tremendously rewarding experience; the staff were extremely friendly and it was nice working with the other volunteers from Projects Abroad. They had travelled a great deal across the country and their knowledge helped enhance my understanding of the country. The children I worked with were so wonderful, always ready to learn and experience new things. We taught the children games such as snap and monopoly and we did fun projects related to recycling and lots of colouring-in. On one afternoon, we had a giant water fight! I still miss the children from the day centre, even though it’s been several months.
My host family
Staying with a host family differed from my expectations. I felt right at home with the family, they were so kind and did everything in their power to make me feel at home. I felt a little homesick during the first week, but the family was the first to give me a hug and tell me it was normal. The sister, Sara, was my age, and she would take us shopping or invite us to the beach with her and her friends. As girls of similar age, we talked about our differing cultures and beliefs. She was genuinely interested in life in England. Eating with the family everyday helped me understand their culture and experience things I had never experienced before. Conversely, they were happy to make us feel at home by cooking us tomatoes and pasta and happily allowed us to eat at 7pm rather than 10pm, which is the usual time for dinner in Morocco.
Travelling around Morocco
In the evenings, all the volunteers would do activities together - this included bowling, eating in restaurants and cafes, and sightseeing. It was fun to really see Morocco and all the wonderful things the country has to offer. One of the best things about the experience was the weekend trip to Chefchaouen. It was 40 degrees, so we went to the swimming pool in the afternoon, which was lovely. In the evening we ate out at a restaurant and went to a music festival in the city, which was amazing! In many ways it was similar to music festivals in England, except from the actual music. But we had fun trying out some new dances. There was also lots of shopping opportunities and every volunteer came home with souvenirs.
I honestly was heartbroken to leave Morocco. I had made so many wonderful friends, from the other volunteers (from Canada, Germany, Scotland, Belgium, the US, and more), the staff on my program and off course my two roommates Mia and Rose. I felt a sense of sadness, yet I was equally proud of myself for what I had achieved.
To anyone considering this program, DO IT! I promise you will have an amazing time, you will make so many friends, and you will do something that will genuinely help those who need it.