Monday, May 7, 2012

A Saturday at Dar l'Kebira Orphanage

Throughout the semester, a common request we receive at the study abroad organization is to help students pursue volunteering in the Moroccan community, more specifically with the interest in doing work that would allow them to interact with Moroccan children. Together, a group of motivated students and I planned a cultural exchange/volunteering day at Dar l'Kebira that we called, "American Day". Dar l'Kebira is an orphanage/street children's association located in Kenitra, a mere 20 minute train ride from Rabat. It currently has about 40 children that live there, ranging anywhere from 6 to 16 years old.

We started the day with a tour of the facilities:

The lobby area. Behind the glass window is the arts and crafts room. During our visit, were told by staff members that usually the walls are filled with the children's art, however a lot of the artwork that students created was shipped to London for fundraising to benefit an international children's organization. 

An example of one of the girls' dormitory rooms. There are 8 children to each room.

The garden and sports field that we spent most of our day on.

The door leading into the kitchen and dining rooms.

After our tour, it was time to meet the children! We started by making name tags for everyone, helping the children write their names in English and Arabic script (and sometimes helping us!)...

...Others were more hesitant.

After name tags, it was playtime outside! We did a few games as a big group, some in darija and some in English. I was surprised by how many games had a Moroccan equivalent - duck duck goose, red light green light, monkey in the middle, and amoeba tag to name a few.

The games were not only a great way for the children to practice their English, but it was a fantastic opportunity for the students (myself included) to practice our darija! When a game requires you to recognize when your number in Arabic is selected, you better make sure you're staying attentive!

Time for dessert! We prepared an easy yet beloved dessert: dirt cups (chocolate pudding, cookie crumbles, and a few gummy worms), and the staff at Dar l'Kebira provided a lovely spread of cookies, chips, and chocolate. After having our sweet snack, the Moroccan children sang a few nursery rhymes to us and we reciprocated.

Despite the fact that we began the day with completely dfferent cultural and linguistic backgrounds, we spent the day laughing, running around, and enjoying one another's company. I was amazed just how strong of a connection everyone was able to make despite the language barriers. At the end of the day, nobody wanted to leave.

Special thanks to Aoife, our official "photo historian" of our day at Dar l'Kebira for capturing these moments on film!