Thursday, September 24, 2015

FTW To Open New Community Center for the Poor in Morocco

This is perhaps one of my most joyous stories to tell. The work of the Fix the World Organization has come to a beautiful blossom in the last couple of months and we are accomplishing what feels like a real crowning achievement from our heart space and the continued fulfillment of the mission of our organization. I am happy to share here with all of you, the story of how the Fix the World Organization came to open a community center for the poor in Morocco. 
                                                                              - Hopegirl

Why we came to Morocco
Check out the full story in our Fix the World Media Show interview here:(opens in new window)
morocco community center Fix the world (FTW) started three years ago with the mission to help people and change the world positively in any way that we could. We are a humanitarian organization made up of volunteers. A year ago we decided that we should move to Morocco to set up our headquarters. We noticed that there were laws, regulations and hindrances to starting business and doing regular transactions in the US, this is not the case in Morocco. We also wanted to be closer to areas of the world where our humanitarian work could do the most good for the most people. What better place to do this than Africa?

Morocco actually encourages foreign entrepreneurs to start businesses, and is known to many as the “gateway to Africa”. We saw many opportunities to meet new people and help those with the greatest need.

Our Friend and Translator Alice

When I first arrived here last October, I met Alice. She has a lovely villa that she rents, I stayed with her and we quickly became very close friends. Originally from Venezuela, she’s been in Morocco for a while and is quite familiar with the culture and the people. Alice speaks several languages: Spanish, English and local Darija (similar to Arabic).  She has been incredibly helpful to us, educating us on everything that we need to know about getting around and getting things accomplished in Morocco.

One day Alice and I met for some Moroccan tea, and she told me about an old converted church that she had visited where she met a group of interesting people. There were several humanitarian associations that were doing some good work inside this converted church to help people. Some of them were poor people, some of them were single mothers and some were Sub-Sahara migrants coming through Morocco and trying to enter Europe. 
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                                              Converted Church In Morocco
One family in particular had been in Morocco for some years and were trying to cross over to get into Europe but were living in horrible conditions, in the woods to be precise, and for quite a long time. The woman even gave birth to both of her children in the woods. They were fortunate for someone to have donated a shelter for them to live in, but they still had to beg in the streets for food.

Alice asked me if there was anything I could do to help this family. I said “Of course I can help this single family, but I am really interested in meeting the humanitarian associations that are running the programs  to help many families.”  And then like magic, within a few days Alice was in contact with these associations and we set up a meeting.

Association Ellas

This is when Amelia came into my life. She runs Association Ellas. She is originally from Spain and has been in Morocco for quite some time specifically helping abandoned single mothers. In Morocco abortion is illegal, and the culture does not support children born to unmarried women. In some cases when a young girl gets pregnant, she is disowned by her family and forced to live in the street with her children.  There are three different scenarios that result in this, one is where two young lovers get pregnant from a one night stand and then the guy leaves.  Another is when two young lovers get pregnant and then stay in an unmarried relationship for a while, and then the guy leaves the girl to get married off to a “more honorable lady”. And the third is rape.   All of these women and all of their children have ended up gathered in a neighborhood here in Morocco. Sadly many of them resort to prostitution and begging in order to survive. They live in small, “holes in the wall” rooms, hidden away from society. Amelia works in this neighborhood and promised to bring us there so that we can meet the people and see how they live and how we can help.

Amelia has been organizing aid to the people in this neighborhood, through clothing donations, medicines, and other help. I wanted to know what I could do to help right away, and she told us about a woman who needed a wheelchair, who is currently “crawling on the ground like a snake” because she didn’t have one. There were also two others who had leg injuries that needed crutches so they could walk. Amelia sourced the wheelchair and the crutches and FTW covered the cost. We also made plans to deliver these items in person so that we could film the experience and show others some of the work we are doing.

Amelia and I realize that there is so much more that we want to do. We share the same desire to help these people through more permanent means such as vocational training and tutoring so that they could acquire the skills necessary to graduate themselves out of poverty.
IMG_3629                                           The meeting with Alice, Amelia, Hope and Tivon
By the end of our first meeting, both Amelia and I were in tears. We had found kindred spirits in each other across the borders of our different backgrounds. Meeting Amelia really help open the whole country of Morocco to us, she was kind enough to introduce us to several people she knew and worked with. One of these bright souls is a man named Mohammed.

Manos Solidarias
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Mohammed runs Association Manos Solidarias. He is a beautiful soul with a beautiful smile. When he opened up to us, I realized that this man was involved with some really heavy humanitarian work. He helps the migrants who are coming from the sub Saharan countries trying to get into Europe through the Morocco border.  These people are escaping from war, poverty and other hardships in search of a better life in Europe. But not all of them make it across the border, and many of them have been stranded living in the woods in the cold of winter in plastic tents with no food clothing or medical help. Some of them have been there for years. A lot of them had tried to climb over the wall and have injuries on their hands and feet that they wrapped in makeshift bandages. Having no medical supplies, these wounds would stay this way for months.

Mohammed’s association did a huge drive and brought in 1,110 kilos of food, bags of clothing shoes, blankets, personal hygiene products. And 11 doctors volunteered medical consultations, treated their wounds and provided medicines.
                                                             Helping the Migrants
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The Neighborhood

On our next scheduled meeting Amelia took us right into the heart of the neighborhood where she works. We were there to meet the people and see how they lived, and also to look at a couple of spaces where we could open a community center to help them.  We needed a place where all the associations could work together in a combined space.

The neighborhood has dirt streets and big box like buildings made out of bricks and cement everywhere. There were children with no shoes running and playing in the streets. There were bread makers baking bread in holes in the walls and a few little tiny shops. The houses had open doors with curtains in front of them. Every now and then you would be able to walk by and look in to find that people were living in a construction zone. We found out that up until recently it was illegal to build there. But these people had nowhere else to go and they just kept building places to live, a few bricks at a time.
IMG_3655                                                               The neighborhood
The day’s laundry was hanging from the bare beams and bricks. Rooms had single lightbulbs hung from a single wire, and there was very little space for cooking.  There was open sewage in many areas, as shower water would drain from the rooftops onto the street.

Right outside the neighborhood is this giant canal filled with garbage. You have to walk by it in order to get into the neighborhood, the smell is awful but clears up a bit once you’ve gotten past the area.
IMG_3656                                         The new clinic in the neighborhood
We went into a lot of these homes and met these women with their children.  At this one home, a beautiful girl came running out to hug us. She has 4 children and is in her mid-20’s. She was dirt poor and living in a small pink room with paint peeling off the wall and a couple of mats on the floor where she and her 4 children lived. Her smile and her amazing bright spirit touched my heart in a way that I will never forget. Her children kept hugging me and I couldn’t stop kissing them on the cheek. They loved meeting us.
IMG_3648                                                                             Visiting inside the home
IMG_3653                                                         Neighborhood children
Amelia told us that just prior to our visit, the people wouldn’t allow anyone to take any pictures of them because they were ashamed of their living conditions. Apparently the conditions had improved enough for them to allow us to take pictures. However, these conditions still need a lot more improvement before they can be considered humane.IMG_3664We were really “in the thick” of real poverty. Seeing people living this way is heartbreaking but at the same time it feels good to be in touch with real people that really needed our help and to be there in person to smell it, to see it, feel it, and also hug the children.

Our Journey of giving begins!

We met a few days later to pick up the wheel chair and crutches from an orthopedic shop to gift to people in need. When the owner of the orthopedic shop found out that this was for a humanitarian cause, he started opening up all of his services and came up with ideas of ways he could help more including setting up clinic services to help the sick.   This seems to happen everywhere we go. When people hear what we are trying to do to help the poor, everyone wants to help too.
Journey to HelpWe delivered the wheelchair to the “mama” of a small family. She was an elderly tribal woman with marriage tattoos on her face, an old Berber tradition. Her family, in their gratitude for receiving the wheelchair served us coca cola and cookies. Which I felt was one of the most amazing gestures as they probably didn’t have the money to even feed themselves most of the time, yet they offered this gesture towards us. We also delivered the crutches to two other people who we now know can walk around easier. (Be sure to check out the video we made of this adventure in this episode of FTW Media show here)

We are also working with a third association run by a Moroccan woman named Fatima.  She is an incredible force of goodness and gets the job done to help people. She also makes an amazing couscous!  In the coming weeks we will be joining Fatima on a 4 day trip to a hospital in Morocco to help a large group of volunteer doctors perform up to 300 cataract surgeries for people in need.

The Community Center

Mohammed used to have a community center in the same neighborhood Amelia worked in.  6 months ago the funding for the center was cut and they had to shut their doors. All of the children in the neighborhood were crying on this day. Hundreds of people in this neighborhood depended on this center to enrich their lives.  These are people that have no place else to go during the day and this community center meant everything to them.

We are so happy to announce that Fix the World now joins up with Manos Solidarias and Association Ellas to re-open this community center for the poor. Fix the World will be funding it as part of our giving policy.   This is something that we can afford to do because of the support that we have received from others who follow our work.  This center will support these people, these women and children who have the most dire needs to have something in their lives.
IMG_3710                                       Mohammed, Amelia, Hope, and Tivon Join Forces!
                                                                       The Center
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The center is a large space with rooms for big gatherings, activities, tutoring, language lessons, a full computer lab, and vocational training. The center will also be used as a place to store and distribute larger donation drives of clothing, food, medicines and other items.

Mohammed already has all the computers for the computer lab and we’ve already gotten a couple of teachers to come in and hold classes on a volunteer basis to help teach the people of the community.   There will be different activities going on in the center on a daily basis and FTW will be fully involved in helping to work directly with the people and sharing our stories.

Humanitarian Technology Labs

FTW now has two humanitarian technology lab locations, one in the US and one here in Morocco. In addition to our QEG efforts we have also begun work on an assortment of other projects to help bring energy to people living in desperate situations. These include lighting, portable power generation, and water collection. This collaboration with other associations here in Morocco grants us access to the people that have the biggest need for energy.  The community center also provides us a space where we can conduct vocational training and help teach people valuable engineering skills.  Many things are still in the works, and it is a bit premature to fully announce them all here, but we will be launching some amazing new humanitarian technology projects and joint ventures with other inventors in the near future.

About FTW Giving

FTW donates 10% of all of our proceeds to people in need around the world because we understand what we call the “Alchemy of Giving”. We believe that in order to receive we HAVE TO GIVE.  We are living proof that this concept works!!!  This past year alone, FTW has funded over 50 individuals and groups through Kiva loans to help people in impoverished countries help themselves and graduate out of poverty.  We wanted to do something more, something a lot more “hands on”.  Meeting our partnering humanitarian associations in Morocco and funding these efforts was an answer to our prayers.

If you would like to help support FTW so that we can continue to do work like this, you can become a monthly member for $6.99 a month or make a onetime or recurring donation in any amount at the links below.  In the coming weeks and months we will be setting up a proper mailing address and customs guidelines information for anyone who wishes to send physical donations to help the people in need in our community in Morocco. Also in the coming months, we plan to organize visits for people who wish to come and join us and meet the beautiful people here in this amazing exotic land.

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