Hicham lives at ‘Lieu de Vie’ (‘Place to Live’), a home specifically designed for 25 orphaned and abandoned children with learning disabilities. The home is integrated into SOS Children’s Village Dar Bouazza, and ensures that children can receive the specialist care they need. At the ‘Place to Live’ house children have the opportunity to take part in therapeutic activities to contribute towards their development. Activities on offer include fine arts, ceramics, clay work, music, dance and aqua-therapy.
From when he arrived, Hicham particularly enjoyed the aqua-therapy, and quickly developed a passion for swimming. Now 16, and already a swimming champion in Morocco, Hicham recently travelled all the way to Syria to compete in the 2011 Middle East and North Africa Regional Special Olympics. Since 1968, the Special Olympics have provided a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Over 2,000 athletes from 23 countries gathered for the games in Syria. Hicham won a gold medal in 50m freestyle swimming in his first race. He went on to receive bronze medals for both the 100m and 200m. On his return home from the competition, Hicham was greeted with a lively party and welcome from everyone at SOS Children’s Village Dar Bouazza. Hicham says: “I was really very happy.”
Rachid Aït Oufkir is a psychologist by background, and manages sport and health at the “Place to Live”. Rachid says that sport helped Hicham to develop into the confident and successful young man he is today. He says: “Sport practice and achievements like in the 7th Special Olympics games for North Africa and Middle East brought him self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and a presence among people.” Rachid also says that the sporting activities have helped Hicham to control his behaviour: “When he was younger, he was subject to unmanageable fits of rage. Now he is able to concentrate for competition; sports gave him this extra breath.”
Sports enable many children like Hicham, who know they are different, to overcome their disabilities and difficulties. They contribute to the positive image of their special home and of themselves.