– January 15 2018
‘A priceless legacy’
Engineer and entrepreneur Abderrahim Laabid shares how growing up in SOS Children's Villages has given him opportunities to become who he is today.
For Abderrahim Laabid, it all started with a hug.
Only six years old at the time, Abderrahim recalls arriving with his little brother at the SOS Children’s Village Ait Ourir in Morocco. He walked in and was introduced to his SOS mother, Aziza Liadini.
“She gave us a really big hug,” says Abderrahim, who today is a 38-year-old energy industry entrepreneur. His voice softens as he says: “I can remember that hug - it was so unbelievable.”
That hug, which has stayed with Abderrahim all these years, embodies everything about his experience at SOS Children’s Villages. Asked to describe what it is like to grow up in an SOS family, he says simply: “It’s magic.”
Magic, he says, in the feeling of having a “real family”, even if he and his brother Zakaria were not related to the other six children in the SOS family. Magic, in another way as well. “We had love,” he says.
“Our SOS mother gave us so much love. She was an incredible mother. She had so much joy of life. We felt like we were living like princes. We felt so lucky. I knew what my situation was like before.”
A big change
Abderrahim was sent to live at the SOS Children’s Village Ait Ourir in 1985, the year it opened as the first village of its kind in Morocco. After the death of his father, Abderrahim’s biological mother struggled to raise him and his four siblings. He remembers very little from those early days: his father’s funeral, a home constructed not of concrete, but of dirt, too little food.
Though the decision was hard for his biological mother, he thanks her for allowing him and his younger brother to be raised in the SOS Children’s Village. “It meant a big change in my way of life,” he says. “I’m sure I would not have had the same education if I had stayed, especially when I see my other brothers, who were too old at the time to be taken into the village. I see I had a chance to get an education that they did not have."
Abderrahim as a young boy.
Even from a young age, Abderrahim was determined to make the most of this chance. Since the local public school he attended was average, the village offered extra classes and activities to develop skills. He particularly enjoyed the electronics workshop, which is where he says his passion for engineering started. He even built his own radio in this workshop at the age of 12.
“The entire approach [at SOS Children's Villages] was made for us to be mentally and physically solid to overcome our past nightmares, build a stronger personality, be prepared for the adventure of life, to be independent and most importantly to follow our dreams and be happy.”
A priceless legacy
Today, Abderrahim is living that dream. After getting scholarships to attend an engineering college in Morocco and later a one-year programme at the University of California, Berkeley, Abderrahim became a field engineer for a commercial power company. In his work, he travelled to more than 20 countries across Africa.
In 2017, with the encouragement of his wife, Abderrahim started his own Morocco-based company, CSTransfo, doing industrial maintenance and repairing electrical power transformers. The company serves large industrial companies in Morocco, as well as in North, West and Central Africa.
As he is doing well, Abderrahim makes a point of helping support the two people who made his success possible: his biological mother and his SOS mother Aziza, who has since retired.
“I got a priceless legacy from SOS Children’s Villages,” he says. “It gave me shelter, education, health care, and the most amazing family ever.”
Photos: SOS Archives
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