Abel Yosef | Nashville, TN — Economics and Medicine, Health and Society, 2018
Abel Yosef is from Nashville, Tennessee. Abel is a sophomore double majoring in Economics and Medicine, Health, and Society. This summer, Abel will be serving communities in Rabat, Morocco through Vanderbilt’s Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS) Summer Service Program. In Morocco, the service projects will address issues ranging from education for the disadvantaged to human rights.
Blog Post One:
I arrived at Morocco’s Aéroport international de Rabat- Salé on the night of June 19th. The week that has followed that night has already granted me opportunities to understand the Moroccan way through experiences that have come about living with my homestay family, serving with Association Sante Pour Tous, a non-governmental organization based in Rabat:, and navigating myself around medina of Rabat.
My homestay family has eased my transition from Nashville to Rabat by providing me a space where I could feel at home and learn about the Moroccan way. My host mom, Mama Zhara, and my host brother, Mohamed have accepted me and my two fellow Dores participating in the service trip, Jason Thorne and Robert Schutt, into their home. It is in this home that I have picked up Dariji (Moroccan Arabic) phrases that I have been able to utilize throughout my week here in Rabat. Mama Zhara has taught me phrases such as Shukran (Thank you), Muh (Water), Sufi (Enough), as well as several others that helped me feel a little bit less like the foreigner that I am. My daily routine has consisted of joining Mama Zhara, Mohamed, Robert, and Jason in front of the home’s T.V. where a table sits in the middle of the main room. In this room, our homestay family breaks their fast for Iftar. Here in Rabat, families such as mine turn their tv’s to a program that broadcasts the call for the evening prayer right before the fast is broken. I have felt honored to be able to share such a special time of each day during Ramadan with my host family.
At Iftar and our meal that follows at midnight, I have been fortunate enough to learn about Moroccan cuisine and etiquitte firsthand through the amazing cooking of Mama Zhara. Every night, the dining table is covered with several traditional Moroccan food items such as hard boiled eggs, Chebakia, Harira, Dates, Stuffed Msemen with Onion filling, and more. The meal that follows has always been meat dishes such as: tagine with chicken, fish, and beef. These meals have been incredible. I truly believe that my host mom cooks some of the best dishes in Rabat! These meals have helped me understand how instrumental food is in bringing families together for a meal where everyone is encouraged to eat as much as they can. Mama Zhara accepting me, Robert, and Jason into her home and including us at Iftar truly speaks to the hospitableness and kindness of the people in Morocco. I cannot wait to see how my experiences with my host family and my service site, Association Sante Pour Tous shape my time abroad in Rabat, Morocco!
Blog Post Two:
Looking back on my experience, I cannot help but feel very fortunate to be helped by so many individuals both before and during my Morocco trip. Mr. and Mrs. Nichols, I would like thank the both of you and your family for what the Nichols Humanitarian Fund made possible for me and the other recipients of the award. Your fund helped make me desire to go to Morocco become my reality and enabled me to walk away from my experience with an appreciation of how service can serve as a bridge between cultures and communities. For me, my experience serving with Association Sante Pour Tous, living in a homestay family, and being able to learning something new about Morocco every day caused me to miss the country I called home for 6 weeks immensely.
On a Thursday night, July 28th to be exact, my plane touched down in Nashville International Airport. That night marked the end of my 6 week Global service experience in Morocco. As much as I looked forward to returning home to Nashville, where I would be able to see my friends, family, and sleep in the comforts of my own home, I immediately felt nostalgic when I began to reflect on the memories formed/made and experiences I took part of. In Morocco, I visited a beach for the first time in my life, learned what it felt like to immerse myself in a country whose culture is completely unfamiliar to me, and challenged myself to become a person who is flexible and able to adapt to the unexpected. There were quite a few times where I felt out of my comfort zone in Morocco, like when I got lost in Rabat’s medina during my first week commuting to and from my work site, or during taxi rides where I had difficulties communicating to taxi drivers who only spoke Dariji. What I learned from those experiences is that the best way to learn how to navigate through a new city, communicate to taxi drivers, and handle any other obstacles thrown your way is to not be discouraged by making mistakes. Instead, they can be thought of as teachable moments. I can proudly say that after finding new ways to get lost each of those first few days in Morocco, I eventually found my way. Communicating in Dariji to taxi drivers proved to be challenging throughout the whole trip but I did not let that stop me from being inventive and crafty enough to find other ways to ensure I got where I needed to go!
I mentioned Association Sante Pour Tous once in this article, so here is some background information about the organization that I had the honor of working with in Morocco. The name of the organization translates to Health for All Association and it is a Non-Governmental Organization that primarily functions as a health clinic for Moroccans living within the city of Rabat. In addition to offering a variety of services at the clinic, this NGO plans and organizes health campaigns targeting those living in rural areas of Morocco who have difficulties with accessing health care due to the lack of health facilities and organizations located in rural areas. I worked on administrative tasks with this organization such as the development of their Facebook page, website, and a database of international organizations that Sante Pour Tous could connect with.
Serving with Association Sante Pour Tous and living in Morocco are experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. With my junior year at Vanderbilt about to begin, I cannot wait to use these experiences to better serve the Vanderbilt and Nashville community.