This genesis of Feeding Walid is not like the origin story of a superhero. There was never a single moment when it “all changed,” a singular origin story. This project, like many decisions in life, came about as a result of several watershed moments that culminated in the idea for Feeding Walid. Feeding Walid doesn’t have a singular beginning, it has three; the reasoning and eventual decision for me to go to Morocco, meeting Walid, and then the decision to actually help him. Detailing these moments proved to be rather lengthy so I decided to split these moments into three separate posts.
I actually knew shortly after I started tutoring Walid that I felt I needed to do more for him. As the first blog post seems to imply, it would be logical that I could see Walid as “my chance” to make a difference, but it was only after I decided I was going to do more for Walid then just tutor him when I realized that this was what I had been looking for all along. I still haven’t decided if this was simply serendipitous or an unconscious effort on my part to find a way to “make a difference.”
The first thing I did for Walid was to enroll him in an actual English class. Other students participating in the ELAP program were working at other “placements,” and one of these placements was solely teaching English through the Meknes RADEP center. Curtis also volunteered there, and one day I decided to sit in on his class. The classroom environment was incredibly different from that at the Center. The students in Curtis’s high beginner’s class were mainly college students who were excited and eager to learn English. It was a stark contrast to the enthusiastic chaos of what I had just experienced earlier that day.
As soon as the class was over, I decided this is what Walid needed, a place to facilitate and foster his desire to learn English with other students that felt the same way he did. It took a few days, but eventually it was worked out that Walid could begin to come to Curtis’s class in the second week of the program. I would bring him to class, and ensure that he got back to the Center safely. While he was in class, I would also tutor beginner-level students in English (with the amazing help of my friend Yasmine as a translator).
What ended up happening is that Walid would leave with Curtis, Ian, and I from the Center at five and hang out with us until seven when classes began. When the class was over, we would go grab some food or a soda and talk a bit until the bus came to take him back to the Center. It was during these times that Walid and I went from student and teacher to friends and eventually brothers, and somewhere along the way I just knew that I could not leave him behind in Morocco. I could not live with myself not knowing what happened to him, or, even worse, knowing that he was struggling to stay in school, to find a place to live, or even just to stay alive.
This was all before I truly came to know Walid. For those first few weeks of classes he remained enigmatic and reserved, but by the final week of class I long since decided I was going to have to do something. Walid knew this, and had been slowly opening up. But, by this final week of classes, I came to learn the basics of Walid’s story (which will be the subject of my next post). After learning the struggle and hardship he had to deal with his whole life, a struggle that left him with literally no one to turn to, or fall back on, I knew that I was going to do something about for him.
After the class was over, and Walid and I continued to hang out on a near daily basis (essentially anytime I was in Meknes I had Walid with me) this seed of an idea slowly germinated into something concrete. I came up with the basis of a plan to see Walid educated and well off (the subject of yet another subsequent post) until, by the last week of our program, I decided that one of the first things I needed to was to start this blog, as I means of raising awareness of the project I am undertaking, and how it is that I plan to achieve the goals of this project.
I apologize for the disjointed nature of these past three posts. I want this blog to be filled with honesty, and I would feel that I would being doing neither Walid, nor this project, proper service if I did not detail the full inception of this project. I went to Morocco simply looking to make a difference. I originally thought that I would learn what it meant to perform volunteer work in a foreign country, and that that I could bring this back to start volunteering in the United States. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would meet someone like Walid. And never did I think that I would take on such a monumental undertaking as Feeding Walid. Life is full of surprises though. I am fortunate that I have been blessed with the opportunity to have found a brother in Morocco, and I am grateful for the opportunity to provide him the means he needs to elevate himself above the negativity and abuse he has experienced his entire life, to help him reach his full potential.