Get ready for somewhat of a sappy post
Many people know the story of the starfish. A boy walks along a beach as the tide is going out. As the water moves further out to sea it leaves behind starfish that are then stranded in the sand. The boy begins picking them up one by one and throwing them back into the ocean. A man walking by asks the boy “what are you doing? There are hundreds of starfish here, you can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy looks up at the man and throws another starfish into the water replying “well, I made a difference for that one.”
Sometimes it can be hard to see the impact I am making in my community. Azrou isn’t a small village and overall it is well developed with a variety of schools, community buildings, and associations. I know that when I return home in a few months everything will continue as if I was never there. Azrou doesn’t ‘need’ me. I have worked within youth centers, educational facilities, and with a handful of associations. When I go home they will all move on. It’s the little things that I have to pay attention too. It’s the relationships I have built. The people I have talked to. The family gatherings I have attended. The traditions that I have been included in. The lessons I have taught and the lessons that I have learned.
For the last year or so I have worked closely with one association in particular called Tofola Chaabia. They have adopted me as one of their own, treating me as a friend who is both admired and respected. I can honestly say that they have been a large contributor to the success of my service. With them I have hosted youth camps and organized a number of community events and projects. They are a very tight knit group of hard working, intelligent, and talented people. Now, almost daily, they remind me that I am leaving soon and that they will be very sad when I am gone. Although they will miss me and I will miss the bond that we have formed I know that they will continuing doing amazing things in Azrou. Tofola Chaabia doesn’t ‘need’ me. The point is that even with language barriers, varying religious views, and cultural differences we have still been able to create a working partnership and lasting friendships.
The past week myself, Ron (another PC volunteer), and Tofola Chaabia hosted a camp at the Dar Chabab. The camp featured English classes and American culture lessons, art activities, a leadership workshop, fitness classes, a CPR and First Aid lesson, music, dancing, soccer and basketball, and a final talent show. Together we all worked really hard and although I was exhausted by the end of the week I was proud of what we put together. However, there was one thing that was particularly touching to me. A young man named Saaid had shown up at the Dar Chabab about a week before wanting to work on his English. He was very shy and didn’t seem to know any of the other youth. He was asked to come to the camp as he was eager to get more English practice. Throughout the week it was clear that he wasn’t outgoing and, even though he knew more than everyone else in the English classes, he would sit in the back. During the down times the youth would showcase their talents through singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Saaid always standing to the side. One of the days he shared a poem that he wrote with Ron and I, translating a bit of it in English. We both said that his writing was very good and that he should share it in the final talent show. He said he would think about it. On the day of the talent show he had gotten up the nerve to read his poetry aloud. The show went on as planned but as they were setting up for the final performance I realized that Saaid had not read his poem yet. I turned to him and asked if he still wanted to go on stage. He shyly replied “I think they just forgot, it’s okay, I don’t need to read it.” “But you have to” I said “we have seen dancing and singing all evening, you are the only person with a poem!” I got up and went to the side of the stage where the MC was standing. “You forgot Saaid’s poem” I whispered, “bring him up here! He can go before the final act”. A microphone was set up and Saaid read his poem to the room, full of silent listeners. From there the last group played their songs, pictures were taken, cookies were eaten, and we all began to clean up. Later, Saaid came over to me and said “I want you to know that I am really happy. Thank you so much for your support, it meant a lot to me. Two weeks ago I would have never gone in front of people like what I did today, but you have given me the confidence that I needed. I am really happy that I came to this camp!”
I worked with plenty of youth during the camp; teaching English, leading art activities, helping with fitness classes, and organizing with the rest of the association. These youth all had their set interests, friend groups, and talents that they were ready to share. Putting everything together took a lot of time and was a lot of work, however, in the end it would be hard to measure the difference that was made. But then there was Saaid. No matter how small of a difference it may have been, attending the camp was still an impact on his life. Saaid was our starfish.