America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

Unofficial Ambassador Brian Harley Reflects on His Experience in Morocco Post-Trip

 By Brian Harley
 Brian is a 2012  AUA Mosaic Fellowship  and volunteered in Morocco by assisting with healthcare and care giving. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.

You would think that readjusting to home after a trip would be easy for me. After all I served in the Marine Corps in Japan, America, and in Iraq. So why should coming home be an issue this time?

 I had one of the best times of my life during my two weeks in Morocco. Working with the children was a phenomenal experience which I’ll never be able to forget. Seeing the country of Morocco was something I had looked forward to for quite a while. After a rather long trip back home that included a roughly 17 hour layover in one stop and little quality rest on the plane I finally made it back.

Immediately as I got off the plane it really started to sink in that I wouldn’t be able to see the children every day. That the next morning I wasn’t going to be able to get in the van and be dropped off at the hospital to spend time with them. That I wouldn’t be able to see them smile, hear them laugh or have them boss me around to inflate balloons for them. What had become my entire world for two weeks was now completely gone. I felt lost.

To be honest those thoughts started after my first day in Morocco, although in a different form. I was thinking about the fact that I knew I would have to leave in two weeks. Now that I’m gone and back home I can’t stop thinking about those two weeks and my experiences.

Physically I adjusted back to being home. I go to my job; I’ve seen friends; gone to the movies; etc. But in my mind a part of me is still in Morocco. For the life of me I can’t shake off the concept of seeing children in a hospital because of injury or illness. That view was very foreign to me. Other than a child being born, I personally cannot recall having ever seen a child laid out in a hospital bed or walking around one with tubes in their arms. It was pretty heartbreaking for me to see that. But as I had to remind myself then I remind myself now about the good I did while I was there.

The cultural exchange and genuine curiosity I had with the people really made my stay very memorable and showed them that I was willing to listen and help where I could. This really did make the staff accept me as well as the children whom on the first day were very hesitant to come into the activities room with us.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to “shake off” so easily  the fact that in my mind a part of me is still in Morocco, but I take great pride in what I did there. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces or hearing the laughter from them or seeing the amazement in their eyes as they saw the food on the table when I threw a party for them on the last day was worth it.

I’m home. I’m continuing my readjustment phase. I am thinking about how I can do more. For as much as I felt I taught those kids something, I promise you they taught me more about myself and what I want to do in life. This helps me become readjusted back home. I may not be able to see them like I used to, but they motivated me so much at a point in my life when I was in a bit of a slump. I owe them a lot. Unless I can meet them again somehow one day in the future, I must take comfort in the memories of my time there.


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This entry was posted on May 29, 2013 by in Volunteer Related and tagged , , , .
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