Part of our History, Ben Smim, Morocco

Paule-Raymonde writes:

We have lived in Ben Smim since September 2006, moving here from Azrou. It is a Berber village of 1,400 inhabitants, situated 10 km from Azrou in the mountains and far from any main roads. The inhabitants live by gardening and the raising of sheep and a few cattle. In the village there are some shops, a school and a dispensary. Once a week, there is the souk (market) in Azrou where we can buy what we can't find in the village.

Azrou marketAzrou market

Our community is situated on the outskirts of the village. The three nearest families welcomed us and showered us with vegetables and help of all kinds. Allal, our neighbour, provided us with the wood we need for heating during the winter; he also climbed on our roof to seal the gutters. A third of the houses in the village are built from earth. This makes them easier to heat and less hot during the summer, but upkeep requires real skill. You have to know how to slap the earth on the roof in case of rain or snow.

The shops are grouped together in the centre of the village, near the mosque. We meet people as they go and return from the mosque and it's the occasion to make friends. Some still remember the community we had in Ougmes, over 36 years ago.  Several families are of nomad origin, like the mother of Najia. This family is very kind to us and share vegetables from their garden and invite us for couscous. We also enjoy baking together and making sweets! Little by little we are getting to know the family well, but time is an essential element in the art of loving…

Anne-Yvette writes:

The dispensary is a two minute walk from our house.It is situated on a hill overlooking the village and every morning I watch the village gradually awaken. I begin my day by confiding each one to the Lord, every person who lives in my heart.

We are three nurses working in the dispensary.  Kamal is in charge of hygiene in the schools of the area. He takes responsibility for vaccination programmes especially when there is an  epidemic. From time to time he also goes to visit the nomads living up to 8 to 10 kms distance. He has a motorbike. Souad and I stay at the dispensary . We do first aid and follow the progress of the expectant mothers. I had everything to learn. The work is very different from that of a hospital. Souad was very patient and helpful in showing me what to do and helping me get to know the patients. I had to do a lot of listening and observing. Little by little I became one of the team while remaining

very watchful not to take too much place and to accept the place given me. The doctor only comes three tunes a week for a few hours. We have hardly any medicine to help and relieve the suffering of those who are sick and destitute. That is very hard for me. There is no pharmacy in the village. I also find it very hard to see some who don't have the means to take care of themselves and don't believe any more in hospitals.The dispensary is also a place for important contacts, very simple encounters. The people are very trusting and thankful for the little we are able to do for them. They share very easily about their worries. I am struck by their courage, their way of assuming their lives everyday. Sometimes they have travelled a long distance on the back of a donkey but they never complain. Everything is a gift from God and they do not stop thanking Him. Sometimes I also visit patients in their homes if they are unable to come to the dispensary. I love going to their homes and being able to feel their lives from the inside.

In the beginning, many came to see who this European woman was who had chosen to come and live with them, thinking perhaps I had a lot to give. I came with empty hands, but with an available heart and full of love for these people who every day awaken in me the gratuitous gift of life God gives us all.

Lucile writes:

My experience doing seasonal work with the women of the village has been wonderful! It was all very new for me as I am a city girl. It is so good to be able to go to work each day together from the village. We were 15 to 20 women all working for the same farmer. He came to pick us up in his truck to take us to the field to be harvested. Most of the time we went to pick peas at Ait Yacoub, a village 6 km from our village. But we also went to pick olives nearly 60 kms away. The trip was quite an expedition!