So now what? Thank you all for your overwhelming responses to Sa’eedah’s story, both by email and in the comments section. I am blessed to have this little community of blog readers who take the time to really read and feel the stories. And care! It makes blogging a worthy use of my time.
A number of you out there asked how you could help. As I see it, single mothers like Sa’eeda and Nezha need both a short-term relief plan as well as a long-term life-transformative plan. The short-term plan is about survival. It’s about all the little things we take for granted. Nezha calls me about once or twice a month. Several times she’s mentioned that her feet get so cracked that she has a hard time walking. Now, I get the same problem in summer, it’s a small thing that can become very painful. I advised Nezha to rub olive oil on her feet and wear socks all the time. Her response? I’ll save up for some socks. She did not own any. You can be sure that the next time I saw her I took her three pairs of socks.
For Nezha and her kids, being poor means a diet that consists mainly of bread, olive oil and tea. My family’s morning omelets would seem an extravagant indulgence in protein to Nezha, who uses eggs as a rotation in her main meals, along with beans and the occasional bite of meat. Nezha buys food on a daily basis, just the amount needed for the day’s meals, a dirham(10 cents) of flour, 2 dirhams (20 cents) of sugar, a potato or two. Hot water is poured over used tea leaves to squeeze another pot out of them. There are no leftovers (nor any fridge to store them in).
Every now and then, donations will come in for Nezha. It is such a pleasure to deliver the treasures to her: 10 kg bags of flour and pasta. 20 cans of tuna. Yes, most American cats and dogs eat a much richer diet than this family. What would Nezha think of the cat food section at Costco? In my mind, it’s hard for me to accept that both realities exist at once. That what Nezha and her children need in a day (for everything, not just food) is the same as what an average American might spend on a latte and blueberry muffin (and maybe not even finish the whole thing). Ok, I know, it’s easy to pick on US consumer habits…so let me just look at my own life for a minute, because I’m as guilty as they come. There are enough inconsistencies and hypocrisies in my own spending habits, outings with the kids where we pay to eat, pay to play, pay for cheapy plastic stuff that I hate. Yes, it is only due to my amazing levels of cognitive dissonance that I am able to do this. (I can only hope that as I become more aware of others, I can eliminate more and more frivolous spending). It’s not about beating ourselves up for every cent we spend, but yeah, it’s about our shared responsibility on this earth.
We must never underestimate the power of giving, even if it is 10 cents, a dollar, 20 dollars. Of course there is always the debate over “aid versus trade” and does welfare make people lazy and are they going to buy drugs with it. The short answer, in the case of these single mothers, is no. As my father always says “if you err on the side of kindness and generosity, you won’t be wrong”. In fact we must see each opportunity to give as a blessing for ourselves…that is one less dollar that we might have wasted and now we’re relieved of the burden of spending it. Islamic teachings say that a good deed is rewarded tenfold, and sometimes it’s uncanny to give something away, only to receive a totally unexpected gift a few days later. Wealth does not decrease through charity. Giving away a portion of ones wealth only blesses and purifies the rest of it. Give freely, give from what you love, there is enough for us all.
More concretely, here are some of my ideas:
1-Short-term help for three single mothers (Nezha, Chaima’s mom and Sa’eeda). I believe there are a lot of people out there who would like to help with the immediate needs of these mothers. What an honor for me to be the medium that connects between you and these women. If you live in the US, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss how to make a bank transfer. I have a US account which facilitates things a lot, because I can withdraw the money from an ATM here. Even 5 dollars helps a lot. What would be great would be monthly pledges of 5, 10 or more dollars. Some amount that won’t really affect you, but WILL affect them in a huge way. If you live in Europe, I think it’s also fairly easy to transfer to a US account, but I’ll have to research this. I’d love to be able to offer something to these mothers similar to those “sponsor a child” programs, where the mother can count on a monthly contribution of 30-50 dollars for each child.
2-I will research what resources are currently available for women and girls in Marrakesh. I will be your eyes and ears on the ground and compile the information necessary to assess what is needed in terms of infrastructure.
3-For the long term, I am reaching out to all of you for your ideas, resources, connections, experience, dreams, prayers…anything that comes to you for our common vision. This is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. In this whole process, my motto is “start small, THINK BIG”. Even as we help someone survive day to day, we have to use these super-educated brains of ours to think creatively about poverty. Vision. Then planning and execution. Don’t be paralyzed by your fear of imperfection. So let our vision quest begin.
11 thoughts on “How you can help”
Wow, this is such a great idea, small scale and very personal. We become quickly overwhelmed when faced with just the thought of the volume of people in precarious situations like this one. When it’s that impersonal it seems that nothing we do will matter all that much. I love that you’re talking about something short and long-term. There’s a need for expertise and professionalism in building some kind of welfare system, but at the same time people have been immediate needs that their friends can help me. tbark’allah 3alik.
Have you checked out Solidarite Feminine in Casablanca?
Kathleen, I agree the problem is overwhelming. I’m hoping for your input on this one. I’d love to check out Solidarity Feminine in person, I’ve heard lots about them. Maybe I can come to casa and we visit them together? We can act like we’re someone important lol.
I have been following your blog for more than a year but I have never commented- today is the day. Thank you so much for these stories. I appreciate the moment to reflect on my own life and get some “perspective” as we say here in California. I spend several months of the year in Morocco, mostly in Marrakech and I have often considered finding ways to assist someone in need. I would like to contact you with some ideas I have; I will share quickly one thing I do to pay for dome friends I have in Guatemala. I save my recycling- here in califorinia each soda can is 5 cents- I have several friends that do the same. Every month we cash it in and send the money to pay for school and supplies for several kids. It’s a small thing but between a couple of us it adds up quickly. In our case we easily raise $60 a month with little effort. It’s stuff that we would throw in the garbage otherwise. Just an idea for those that live in the States and it’s a great way for kids to get involved too- my two little ones never throw away something that can be recycled now. This is for Guatemala they say. Sorry for going on- I’ll e-mail you privately to discuss other ideas I have. Thanks again for sharing!
What about some life skills? I know that these mothers are great at surviving and taking care of house and kids, but where i work, we also try to get women classes for “marketable” skills. Sewing is always a good easy one. Or some way to start a business. Its the whole teaching a (wo)man to fish idea.
I love you fi sabiliLah.
I just read the previous post after finishing this 1,
I wanna thank you for this.
EnshaAllah I shall come back with some ideas (#3)
Great idea and you have my support and anything else I can do to help. We are all one.
it’s a good idea in so many ways to do something to help these mothers. good for them, for the children and I think good for the society. I am sure many of them will be able to help both themselves and each other if they get some support. I’ll follow the blog and the initiative and support in ways possible. All the best.
What a blessing and an opportunity to give, mashAllah. I will talk to my close circle of friends and post this on my facebook to spread the word inshAllah. I have an idea as for a long-term possible solution, which I will e-mail you in a few days inshAllah, as my access to the net is extremely limited these days.
May Allah increase you and bless you for taking this initiative that will make a difference in these sisters’ lives and give us the opportunity of being involved in such a noble cause.
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