Alexandra Ho-Tai - General Care Projects in Morocco
Although I was originally going to go straight to university from high school, another thought was lingering in my mind. I had an unexplainable desire to have an entirely new experience before starting my post-secondary school education. And so, after much pondering, I decided to honour this desire and take a year off. But what would I do? The world is so large and filled with endless possibilities; I had to narrow it down.
I knew that I wanted to do volunteer work in a foreign country that spoke French. After searching online, I read about Morocco and I just knew that I had to go there. Although I looked at many organisations, Projects Abroad seemed to be the perfect fit with an excellent reputation.
I spent the first half of my year off working, saving up for this big trip, as well as preparing mentally. Although it felt like I had been preparing and planning for this trip for a long time, before I knew it, I was packing my bags, boarding the plane, and heading off to exotic African lands.
Arriving in Morocco
Flying all the way from Toronto to Casablanca was a little bit daunting - especially since it was my first time flying alone! However, I also felt very confident and ready for this new adventure. I had been communicating with the Projects Abroad team for a few months prior to leaving. Their thorough and caring responses ensured me that I was in good hands - and I was.
Upon arriving to Casablanca at the early hour of 5am, I was greeted by Adil - a Projects Abroad Morocco coordinator - who provided me with information about my placement as we drove to Rabat to meet my host family. Despite the early hour, I was greeted warmly by my host mother, who led me to my cosy bedroom and provided me with delicious mint tea (my first of many!) as I dozed off.
My first few days in Morocco were spent getting a feel of the area - what I would call “home” for three months. I arrived on a Saturday, so I had a few days to myself before I would start the placement. I spent these days getting to know my lovely host family better, as well as the area. I walked around lots, learning to manoeuvre the medina, as well as the surrounding city. Although it was incredibly different from my hometown, I felt very comfortable and excited to be surrounded by such beautiful landscapes and warm people.
My Care Placement
During my time in Morocco, I had the opportunity to work with dozens of children at both a local school and a disabilities centre. Although there were challenges that derived from language barriers, I learned so much from the experience - and had lots of fun alongside. Even though these children were brought up in a completely different environment than children I’m familiar with at home, I realised that there is universality in all children of the world: they are innately curious, enthusiastic, and giggly.
My tasks varied day-to-day: for instance, I would prepare work sheets, help with lessons, paint murals, or even plan an activity on my own. Although some days were very exhausting, it was always worth it. The kids were so cute and always said good bye with a precious “bisous” (kiss on the cheek).
Leisure Time in Morocco
After my placement ended each day, I would have a few hours in the evening to simply enjoy Rabat. Evenings were spent doing various activities, often with other volunteers. On Wednesdays, Projects Abroad organised a meet-up for all the volunteers; this was great way to meet other people, exchange stories, and make plans.
Aside from Wednesdays, I would often meet up with other volunteers for some impromptu nights of our own: for instance, on Mondays, my roommate and I would indulge in Moroccan pastries and watch some films; on Tuesdays, we would all eat delicious ice cream and walk around the city; and on Thursdays, we would dance to live Reggae music. Of course, some nights we would switch it up and go on adventures, such as swimming in the ocean at night, or having a barbecue on the beach. I was so grateful to have such wonderful, passionate, and fun friends in my new home!
Although I absolutely loved being in Rabat (it really did become a home!), I would always look forward to the weekends. Some weekends, the volunteers and I would stay in Rabat and enjoy the city - for instance, we would kayak, surf, or visit local attractions.
However, most weekends, we would explore the beautiful country more. The amazing thing about Morocco is its diversity; although it is a relatively small country, there is so much to see in this small space - from cities, to villages, to mountains, to waters, to deserts.
During my time in Morocco, I managed to visit over a dozen different places with other volunteers! I saw so many beautiful places, went on so many fun adventures, and simply made so many special memories.
When I replay these experiences in my mind, they are so magical and unreal: for instance, I watched the sunset over a sea of palm trees at the border of Algeria, saw three shooting stars while sleeping outside in the Sahara, and biked up a mountain to see majestic painted rocks. These are just a few of many amazing memories.
When I left Morocco, I felt confident that I had made the most of my experience. I’m not sure what I expected prior to my trip, but I definitely left with more than I could have wished for. Morocco has become a part of me; my experience there holds such a special place in my heart. It’s the place where I learnt so much, met such amazing people, and just fell more in love with the world.
Shukran (thank you), Projects Abroad!