But Samir’s childhood came to an abrupt end at the age of 14. His father died suddenly and his mother left home and never returned. Abandoned with three young children to look after, Samir became desperate. Neighbours, recognising his plight, did what they could, providing food here and there and making sure the youngest children, Hiba aged four, and two-year-old Saber, were looked after while Samir and Sana, his ten-year-old sister, continued to go to school.
Responibility on young shoulders
However, as the weeks went by, there was less and less food and the little ones started to get sick. Samir realised he had no choice and stopped going to school. “This made me very sad and frustrated,” says Samir. “I liked school a lot!” But he knew that he had to care for his siblings and became determined to find a job.
This proved to be a huge challenge. Finding a job in Morocco, where the unemployment rate is 10%, is far from easy at the best of times. It is especially tough for young people (four out of five unemployed people are aged 15-34), and even more difficult for those in the countryside. With the odds stacked heavily against him, Samir was forced to make contact with an uncle living in the Atlantic coast city of Safi, four hours away.
His uncle helped him get a job as a waiter at a coffee shop in the city. He would be able to stay with his uncle and earn 90 euros a month (around £64). It was with a heavy heart that Samir moved to the city, leaving his brother and sisters behind. A family friend promised that they would look after the youngest children while Sana was at school.
For seven months, Samir worked long shifts in Safi, coming home only once a month to bring his family the money he had saved. On each visit home neighbours tried to persuade him to send his brother and sisters to an orphanage. Samir always said no. He didn’t know what their future would look like, but he knew that he didn’t want to lose his siblings to an orphanage.
On one of his visits home, a former teacher told Samir about SOS Children’s Villages. She had come across the charity whilst watching a documentary on TV. “You could all stay together,” she explained to him. “You’d be in the same house…you would be able to go back to school and you would not have to worry about you will eat the next day”.
The promise of being able to live with his siblings and be able to go back to school was very appealing. A few weeks later, a social worker from SOS Children’s Village Agadir came to meet the family and, after some discussion, Samir, Sana, Hiba and Saber came to live at the Village.
A tough transition
Sana, Hiba and Saber settled in quickly, enjoying the company of their new SOS siblings and friends. For Samir however, it was much tougher. Moving to the Village was the third big change in his life in less than a year. He struggled to adapt to the fact that he was no longer responsible for his family. For months, he would wake up early before his SOS mother so that he could be the one to get Hiba and Saber ready for school.
Today, Samir lives the life of any normal teenager with his own dreams and aspirations. He loves trying the many activities and sports on offer at the Village. Drawing has become his real passion and he is learning Spanish from his new best-friend, Kamel.“It took a lot of patience and time to earn his trust and to help him let go,” says his SOS mother. “Gradually as the days passed, he saw that I was taking care of his brother and sisters and that they trusted me and so he started to trust me too.”
The responsibility he had on his young shoulders has left its mark however, but his SOS mother makes sure it is channelled positively. Recognising Samir’s aptitude for leadership, he was recently made a team-leader for his group at youth camp – a role that he is immensely proud to hold.
This autumn, Samir will leave the Village and become a boarder at a school a few miles away, which means leaving his brother and sisters. “Leaving my family has always been unconceivable for me,” he says thoughtfully. “But I realised that the family was not falling apart - our SOS mother will always stay with them so I know they are safe.”
Giving Zakat this Ramadan
We've been working in Morocco for 35 years. This Ramadan, please help us continue to be able to give children like Samir a safe, loving home and a childhood by donating your Zakat to SOS Children.
You can donate your Zakat to any of the 125 countries we work in. If you choose to donate in this way, your money will be held in a non-interest earning account.
You can also sponsor a child from any of our Children’s Villages. Your sponsorship will be subject to our normal banking procedures.
Please visit our dedicated page on Zakat giving for more information.