My name is Tom Hannam and I am a Peace Corps Volunteer based in Azrou, Morocco. My primary work is at a school for kids with special needs. I work there 4 days a week, Monday through Thursday. I teach English to two classes of kids for about 1 to 1.5 hours in the mornings from 10:30am to 11:30 or 12:00pm. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s I have my large beginners level class where much of the time is spent coloring pictures and working on worksheets I printed off from the internet. We first went over the Alphabet, spent time going over each letter including making the sounds they make and also learning how to write each letter, in both upper and lower cases. Many of the kids need practice with simple motor skills so the letters and also numbers are a great source of practice for them. I walk around the room and assist them when needed. Later subjects included shapes, colors, and animals.
The beginners level class size varies but on average is about 8-10 kids. My other class, the intermediate level, I have only two students and they are able to fully read and write. One student has a hearing impaired situation while the other may be somewhat of a neurological issue. With these two students I have used the Peace Corps Dareja textbook and just taught it backwards. We began with greetings and have since moved on to family members, locations around town, simple past and present tense verbs and now days of the week.
The center is open nearly the same time as the general schools with having 2 months or more off during the summer. During this large break, the center invites a team of Spanish medical volunteer students to perform a physical therapy clinic for 6-8 weeks every year. I volunteered my time and assisted in simple tasks with the Spanish volunteers. I helped out with most of the non-medical treatments such as helping the kids play simple games with a ball or playing matching games and other puzzle work.
Last month I was invited and took part in a Teaching of Teachers (ToT) program in Mrirt about hearing impaired and deaf communities of Mirirt and across Morocco. We learned simple words and phrases in both Moroccan and French sign. The kids and parents seemed very grateful at our attempts to educate ourselves on the issue and to teach others in the future. It was a great experience to be apart of. In May, I plan to participate in the Moroccan Special Olympics that are being held in Ifrane. I look forward to that adventure as well. I have learned a lot from these kids and hope to continue working with them for the rest of my service.
Noa Harris PCV-Tinjedad
Where and when does your activity/project take place? My activity takes place in my site, Tinjedad. I hold a class of seven mother’s and their children, four boys and three girls. The children all have a range of different mental disabilities. They are ages 4-9. My class takes place in the dar taqafa (cultural center) every Wednesday from 9:30-10:30.
How long has your activity been going on? I started the weekly class at the end of November.
Was the project in collaboration with another association or organization? No, I work solely with the women and their children.
How many participants? Seven children, 7 mothers, and myself.
What is the goal of your activity? The goal is that since there is no official educational facility for children with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, the children were often kept inside at home all of the time. I wanted to offer a safe space for both the mother’s and the children. My class became both a support group for the mother’s and place to exchange information like one mother was unaware that she could receive aid from the government for her child. Additionally, it became a place for mothers to have a positive experience with their kids and learn to play with them and a place for the kids to have respect in a safe and structured environment. Since kids with mental disabilities need a very clear routine and structure so they know what to expect every class, we do the same structure every class. We start with some small exercises where we all sit in a circle and the children do exercises and activities with their moms face to face. Then we do an art activity or learn math. We have been learning numbers. When we learned the number one, the kids and mothers were asked to pick up one of many things (sticks, stones, flowers) from outside. When we learned the number two I gave them a picture of two elephants and we drew pictures of them. The most important thing is to allow the children to use all of their motor skills—audio, visual, and sensation learning. Another activity I did was I brought different pieces of wood. We used the pieces to build a tower of three, exemplifying the number three. We then built a big tower and we glued different pieces of wood together. After math we play games. Once we did ring around the rosy, once I brought recycled bottles and we filled it up with sand and we did bowling, another time we did head shoulders knees and toes, and we always finish by doing a cheer all together. It is very important to keep a routine of the setting and repeat things week after week.
When it all came about and I proposed the idea to the mudira (director) of the dar taqafa she said I could open the facility for them on Sunday’s. The mudira made it seem as though she didn’t want the activity to be in conjunction with any other activity with children without disabilities. She wanted my class to be hidden from the community. However, this did not work with my Peace Corps schedule because Monday is our weekend so we made a compromise. We agreed to do the class early in the morning on Wednesday’s. This way, we would not have any scheduling problems, but the children and their mothers could still be given an equal opportunity to use the space.