I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the Special Olympics here in Morocco – something that I’d been excited about doing since I first heard about it at the beginning of the summer. It definitely lived up to my expectations and I would go so far as to say that it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done since our arrival here in Morocco.
A bit of quick information about the event:
- 1000 athletes from all over Morocco and a few other North African countries
- 4 days of events including track and field, soccer, basketball, tennis, cycling, badminton, swimming, weightlifting, table tennis, equestrian, volleyball, and gymnastics
- 150 volunteers (30 from Peace Corps Morocco)
My job was pretty simple and involved guiding a group during the opening ceremony, helping with the running races throughout the week, providing as much cheering and support for the athletes as possible, and assisting with anything else as needed. While some of my interactions with the adult leaders and organizers of the event were less than ideal (it seemed that some of them had little experience working with special needs youth), my interactions with the athletes themselves were always positive. Nearly every athlete was beyond excited to be there and to be competing in such a huge event. We could tell that they were appreciative that we were cheering for them.
It was really encouraging for me and my fellow PCVs to see an event like this happen in Morocco. From what I’ve seen thus far, it doesn’t seem that special needs education and inclusion is a very common practice in Morocco. I’ve heard rumors (I have no idea if this is true, so don’t quote me) that families will sometimes even hide their child from their community if some special needs issue is suspected. Because of these issues it was definitely encouraging to see such a significant event put together with large scale media attention and even some royalty in attendance – all things that could help to raise awareness.
After the Special Olympics, Cori and I met up and we spent the next few weeks seeing friends, attending a wedding! (we’ll post about that soon), and getting one of my wisdom teeth pulled (much less fun than all of the other things). And now, home!