By Catherine Turvey
We spent our last couple of days in Morocco in the city of Tetuoan. Karima Ouald and Amhed spoke with us about their NGO, the Asociación Marroquí para la Integración de los Inmigrantes, located in Diza, the poorest neighborhood in the city. Migrants constantly flow in and out of the neighborhood with just a backpack or bag by their side. According to our hosts, Diza has many challenges to face, including waterway pollution, female illiteracy, and poverty. We saw how the city struggles with flooded streets after rain storms. At the association, Karima and Amhed explained the many services their organization provides and shared their own migration stories with us.
I especially appreciated how they allow the community to identify which needs should be addressed. In Diza, for instance, community members requested opportunities for woman to both socialize and learn new skills. Additionally, they provide language classes for children, which is especially important because the town lacks resources like a library. Though Spain has a better educational system, Moroccan children seem to excel at learning languages. Perhaps it is because learning English and Spanish are linked with social and economic mobility. Other important services the NGO provides are family planning and drug prevention workshops.
After meeting with Amhed and Karima, we had some free time to explore and reflect. I took the time to write an email to home.
So I like the backpack that we picked out together but I wanted to reach out to you because there is a little problem. There is never a backpack big enough. You know me. I’m not a diva. I’d be willing to leave some clothes at home and make room for you and Dad in the inner pocket. John and Georgia like adventure, so they could just hang on to the outer bungee cords. But still, I find there is never a backpack big enough. What happens when I come home and try to squeeze in new friends, Moroccan tea, the gorgeous countryside, the tiled floors? Too many things I’d have to leave and people I’d have to say goodbye to. And I know you. You like to sprawl out and wiggle your toes. Nope. Its decided. There is never a backpack big enough. But I really wish there were.
In the midst of our last days in Morocco, I wondered what this letter would look like if a migrant from Diza were writing home. Who would they wish they could squeeze in their bags? What would they miss from Morocco? What would they wish they could bring back to share? I imagine for them, there is never a backpack big enough.