Jessie and I had just touched down in Marrakesh, Morocco’s 4th largest city. Our guide, Elalauvi, seemed confused when we explained our itinerary to him. “You don’t want to see the Gueliz District or El Badi Palace? You want to go to an orphanage?”
“You two looking to adopt a child?”
“No way, Jose.”
“If this is the case I know of a place, Ligue Marocaine Pour La Protection De L’Enfance, I have three children of my own and this orphanage is nearby my home. It provides good conditions for the children.”
“Should we go buy a bunch of clothes?”
“No, no, clothes they have. Clothes are easy things. What the babies really need are formula and medicine. These are precious things in North Africa and many don’t understand how much formula one baby drinks, much less dozens of hungry babies. Are we planning on procuring inoculations and formula for all of the babies, like a… stockpile is the word?… I see… we will need to make many stops. I know everybody here, pharmacist and doctors – we must get riding like the wind now. You are welcome here in Marrakesh.”
The coast of North Africa appears.
The streets of Marrakesh are chaotic. Scooters weave recklessly through the heavy traffic. We asked our guide if there were any stop lights in the city. He laughed and quipped, “I remember seeing one once when I was kid.”
Our first of three stops was a pharmacy in the North Medina near the heart of the city and the famous Djemaa el Fna Market and the Souks.
We loaded boxes of baby formula into the SUV.
Djemaa el Fna, the largest open air market in the world. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists journey to the stores in Souks every day, seeking exotic spices and sundries that range from olives to goat brains. The market pulsates with life. Acrobats soar over the crowds and you can follow the snake charmer’s flute to the cobras…
We ducked into the labyrinth of riads…
…And arrived at the next pharmacy. We bought every pacifier in the place. Just as much a gift to the nurses who take care of the infants as it was to the babies.
We bought medicine, diapers, and baby shampoo. Next stop, the orphanage.
Many orphanages don’t allow photos because they worry their conditions will be scrutinized. But there are other, more ominous concerns – Morocco is a source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking. This orphanage was well-staffed by caring individuals. The children were happy, free to explore and play. They eased up on the photo policy when they realized we wen’t here to steal any babies.
The LMPE (orphanage) houses a regional pilot program to host abandoned children with disabilities.
I asked a nurse how some of the babies came to this place. “They aren’t, like, left on your doorstep, are they?”
She responded, “Sometimes they are, and sometimes the circumstances are much worse. Some are abandoned, left in the street, or even thrown away… I will leave it at that. It is a miracle some of these babies are still here.”
I noticed very little crying in the orphanage overall. The babies were well-fed and happy. The nurses thanked us for the baby formula especially. It’s truly the lifeblood of the orphanage.
The Moroccan hospitality and culture is something I will never forget. In many ways, the Moroccan way of life is one big Random Act of Kindness. If you asked a Moroccan directions, for example, they would guide you personally to the destination, no matter how far. Morocco is a cultural melting pot, everybody wants to know your name, where you’re from, and if you still like the Beatles. No mater what your ethnicity or decent, they will always extend a hand and say, “You are welcome in Marrakesh.”
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