There is a little boy at the SOS Orphanage named Hicham. Most of the day he rides around on a blue and yellow tricycle looking as content as can be. Other children in the orphanage happily help take care of Hicham and push him around on the tricycle. When Hicham was born his mother had tuberculosis. Sadly she passed it on to her son while she was pregnant and then died shortly after. When Hicham was brought to the SOS Village at the age of 6 months, he began having terrible fevers every month. The workers at the village took him to the local clinic, yet each time doctors were unable to figure out what was wrong with him. He was eventually taken to a clinic in Casablanca and doctors diagnosed him as having TB. Because of his TB, his brain had been surrounded by water causing hypoxia (or lack of oxygen) to his brain. Hicham was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Luckily, he was taken in by the SOS Village where he receives constant attention and works with a therapist to improve his body movements. Hicham is now 4 years old and hopefully, will begin to walk in a few months, though most likely will have to use crutches for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, not all children who have cerebral palsy will learn to walk. Many of them will continue to improve their motor control throughout their life but depending on the amount of damage done to the brain during pregnancy; some children will never be able to regain the lost range of motion. Lucky for Hicham, the sooner a child has therapy to rehabilitate, the better chances he or she has of healthy development.
This evening I was feeling restless just sitting around my apartment where I’m staying at the SOS Village. I knew that Hicham would be down near the entrance of the village just rolling around on his tricycle so I decided to go down and play with him for a bit. He doesn’t know my name yet, and I’m not sure that he ever will, but seeing how happy he gets when someone comes to play with him makes me not really care. To Hicham, I am just another person coming to play and when I leave the Village at the end of August, he probably won’t even notice I’m gone. But to me, Hicham is a reminder of what I came here to do.
For those of you wondering, no, I did not come here to work with physically disabled children. But I did come to help the youth of Morocco, in whatever way that may take place. Here at the SOS Village, (which, just in case you are confused, is an orphanage) I’ve been working with children of all ages, teaching English and computer classes. And let me tell you, these kids are naughty! They don’t listen, they mock my Darija, they talk constantly through my classes, and they complain any time I want them to do anything. You would think that orphans would be a little more respectful to people trying to teach them, especially considering the circumstances, but apparently not these kids. SOS Village is actually an international non-profit, so this isn’t just any orphanage. Each “family” has a flat screen television, there is a computer lab with perfectly functioning computers and hi-speed internet, there is a beautiful art room chock-full of every art supply imaginable, and the kids actually learn yoga. Not exactly what I imagined before I had arrived. It’s crazy but these kids actually seem more privileged than most Moroccan children I’ve met. Which would explain the entitled attitudes most of them seem to possess.
Yesterday, I was so angry with one girl who blatantly disregarded my instructions in computer class that I kicked her out of my class. She proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes banging on the door so she could be let back in but I had neither the energy to deal with her, nor did I really want her back in my class. The other volunteers and I have had a lot of problems with this particular girl and sadly, she hasn’t been responding to positive affirmations so the only thing left to do seems to be punishment. Despite the fact that she drives me nuts, and I honest to God hate having her in my class, I felt bad kicking her out. I felt like I’d failed her and given up without trying other techniques to deal with her. I know that when the kids are misbehaving with their mothers, they get hit, but I can’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a little spanking, but these aren’t my kids and I just can’t do it. Maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself, especially considering that I’m not a trained teacher and that I’m often working alone with a large group of kids. But nevertheless, I feel guilty. And not only guilty, but frustrated that I haven’t tried harder to reach out to some of the kids.
And that’s where Hicham comes in. Playing with him reminds me to be patient. It reminds me that children (no matter how naughty they might be) are, for the most part, innocent. They might be doing bad things, but maybe that isn’t their intention. Or maybe it is their intention but they do it because they want your attention. Whatever the reason, I can’t say that I fully understand children or the way their minds work, but I do know that I’m going to have to work a bit harder if I want to help the youth of Morocco in some way. And I’m going to have to be more patient with myself. And more forgiving. I’m not perfect and I definitely make mistakes—especially when it comes to my impatience. But I owe it to them to work a bit harder and give them a second chance.