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Helping children in Morocco

In April, my friend Elena Procopiu is going on a trek through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, to raise money for a charity called the Moroccan Children’s Trust. Elena writes about MCT’s activities,and her fundraising activity for it, here.

There are hundreds of children on the streets of Taroudant suffering daily harassment, humiliation, physical abuse and exploitation as they try to earn a living off the streets. …

… and MCT is trying to do something about that.

Elena’s many friends have started chipping in. I will shortly be doing likewise. I have already learned some geography, by googling Taroudant.

I am looking forward to hearing about this expedition when Elena returns to London. Just as interesting as her report of the trek in the mountains will be what else she will then be able to tell us all about the work of MCT. After the trekking is done, the trekkers will spend a further few days meeting some of the local Moroccans involved, and some of the children and parents they are trying to help. If anyone reading this is inclined to donate also, Elena assures us that this is the sort of thing that all their donations will be spent on. The trekkers are all paying their own travelling expenses.

It makes a difference to me that Elena is personally acquainted with the people who run MCT, which as of now seems to be quite a small operation, with no big London HQ or any such nonsense. The boss of the enterprise is a British doctor. I’m guessing that MCT began when he was doctoring in Morocco, but then realised that many of his patients, or potential patients, had other problems besides medical problems.

I say “or potential patients”, because it is a sad sign of the times we live in that an important part of MCT’s work is helping people fill in forms, so that they can then visit doctors, attend schools, and so on. Sadly, being a bureaucratic un-person can be a slow sentence of death to someone already on the poverty line, in a country like Morocco.

Really helping total strangers can be very difficult. Time and again, people who are trying to help, or who say they are, only end up making matters worse (for coincidental evidence of which you need only note the immediately previous post here this very morning). Which is why, for me, having a personal friend involved in a particular charitable effort makes the difference – all the difference, actually – between me saying no and me saying yes, to a request for a donation. That way I will get the lowdown on how the money is really being spent, and whether it is reasonable to go on hoping that it is doing some actual good. Meanwhile I am genuinely doing a favour for a friend, who I already know I really will be helping.

I hope to be reporting further about this, perhaps with photos that Elena says she will be taking on her travels.

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10 comments to Helping children in Morocco

  • Roger Clague

    This is poverty porn. Having a holiday and pretending you are doing it help children. That you know the person makes it worse. You should tell her the truth.

  • Elena

    Depends what you’re into Roger. You clearly have not done your research properly, as I am covering all the costs myself. Every penny I raise goes to the charity in question that is run in an extremely intelligent and efficient manner. I know the ‘truth’ Roger, as I am intimately acquainted with the workings of this charity. No one is paying for me, I am paying for me. Not a single penny I raise goes to me. These sort of offensive, vile, ill-researched comments make a mockery of my efforts and the many years the doctors running it have dedicated to it. I know you’re quite proud of your ‘poverty porn’ comment, but it’s not clever.

  • YogSothoth

    Sheesh, Roger – it’s right there in Brian’s original text:

    The trekkers are all paying their own travelling expenses.

    What a fucking douchebag you are.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    The best way to raise self-esteem would be to hand out copies of Atlas Shrugged. When they realise how important the Atlas Mountains are, that will boost their egoes!

  • I usually delete comments like YogSothoth’s… but not this time as it is just a statement of the truth.

  • The fact that this particular project is privately financed is very important, but I don’t see how it is relevant to the point Roger Clague is trying to make (assuming for a second that is what he’s trying to do, as opposed to just trolling). The question I have for the likes of Roger is: and even if it was true, why is it wrong for a person to enjoy themselves – for example, by visiting an interesting country like Morocco – while trying to help those in need of help? Is help only worthwhile when accompanied by the helper’s suffering? The reason I bring this up and dignify Roger with a comment, is that I think that you’d be surprised how many seemingly good and non-stupid people would answer ‘yes’ to that question.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Not for the first time here by any means, Alisa takes the words right out of my mouth, in a way that is almost spookily exact.

    What matters is not the motives of would-be helpers. It is whether they are actually helping. I am not yet 100 per cent convinced about that in this case. Like I said, helping people is hard, and it can go wrong. But meanwhile a friend is giving it a go, and her friends are happy to assist. One thing’s for sure. She, and the rest of us, will learn a great deal, about Morocco and about MCT’s efforts to make Morocco better.

  • Thank you, Brian. BTW, I forgot to mention the obvious, and that is that even through the simple act of tourism, a perfectly selfish tourist is helping at least several people in the country of his destination by doing business with them – such as eating in their restaurants, buying stuff in their shops and markets, riding their taxis, using the services of tour guides, and even giving out candy and small pocket change to the ever-present groups of kids. A win-win, I think.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Alisa: indeed.

    I suppose the point of the “you’re just enjoying yourself” argument is that you are neglecting to think about whether you are really helping. You are causing harm, and you do not really care about the poor people at all! Well, you may be causing uncaring harmc, but that’s a distinct argument. The uncaring bit certainly does not apply to Elena, and I doubt MCT is causing much in the way of harm.

    For me, the fact that Elena will get a fun (I hope) and interesting foreign trip out of all this is a feature, not a bug. Given that she is also taking a first hand look at what MCT is doing in Morocco (for me an even bigger feature), it would be silly of her not to take the chance of also exploring the place a bit more, if she has the time. This would be true even if the trek had not already been set up as a fund raising operation by MCT.

    I believe this to be yet another example of the fixed quantity of wealth fallacy rearing its ugly head, or in this case of happiness. Happiness cannot be created, only transferred. If the poor are being made happier, someone rich has to get less happy. They can’t all get happy at once.

    Yes it can. No they don’t. Yes they can.

  • JohnB

    The first commenter is evidently writing with an unkind spirit, and as such, is already in error. As said by other commenters, any benefit that derives, whatever the motive or intention, is benefit and thus to be desired. And the kindness of these participants is to be admired.
    He is pointing to an issue, though, and that is the patronising attitude of western, one might almost call it neo-colonialism, that provide a cover for, and that eventually leads to the great deceptions and covert political agendas that go about the world and cause havoc.
    I have seen functioning societies torn apart and massive amounts of suffering and death caused as a result of those masquerading, covert, political agendas.
    The aid workers will have a lot to learn from those children they go to help, and I am sure they will. Just be careful and look well to your own safety!
    And learn from those with a healthy emotional directness, but retain the vast wealth of the benefit western cultural norms.
    And sure, nobody is perfect.
    Enjoy and be kind. All success to you!