‘A humbling experience but heartening to see the resilience of the Moroccan people’

We hear from Irons Supporting Foodbanks about their efforts helping in Morocco

Nayef Aguerd (WHU) at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

Following the tragic earthquake in September in the Atlas mountains in Morocco, West Ham United were quick to offer support to their Moroccan player Nayef Aguerd. The club asked us to organise a collection at the following game for the relief fund organised by the British Moroccan Society (BMS) and invited us to Rush Green to meet the player and launch our cooperation. 

Nayef personally donated £10,000 to the appeal, plus a further donation from his agent. Our matchday collection raised a further £2,500 for the appeal. We began working closely with BMS to see how else we could help, and were able to supply a further £6,000-worth of new clothes at short notice for a container that was being organised to go with other essentials. 

Ella Williams, from Cheshire, became our local contact and we kept in touch almost weekly. It was clear that Nayef was a superstar in Morocco, and local kids were happy to have a West Ham United connection. A few weeks later, the club and Umbro also provided a large amount of kit, tracksuits and warm clothes which were taken back out by Ella following a short visit back to the UK.

Ella invited us to Morocco to see how the aid operations were working out there, and to show us how our donations had been used, and in January, LS stadium announcer Martin Godleman and I went over to Marrakech for a week to help with food distribution and visited some of the affected villages. We were introduced to the BMS local team, and also to the Canadian emergency aid responders Global Medic, who have supplied water filtration kits and were distributing food parcels to a number of villages.

We were told that our donations provided for about 1,000 of the 17kg food parcels, 17 tonnes in total. To date, about 100 villages have been visited, of which there are several thousand in the mountains, with some villages consisting of just four houses.

The earthquake zone was two hours from Marrakech, and as we drove, the roads became more impassable, needing 4×4 vehicles to go as far as we could. We spent a day delivering over 100 parcels to two villages. One of these villages, Takoucht, had still been cut off from road access since the earthquake. The villagers had to bring eight donkeys to carry our food back, a round trip of 30km. 

At Amassin village, we received a warm welcome, with freshly baked bread, local dipping oil and mint tea. On another day we visited Tassa Ouirgane, a village in the mountains of about 120 families. 

Many buildings had been destroyed in the earthquake, as we took coffee in one of the houses which still had cracked walls. We’d received a generous donation of work gloves from one of our builders merchants to donate to the village, as the men were still moving rubble with their bare hands. 

At this village we had arranged to work with pre-school children, and arranged a drawing and colouring competition with the books and crayons that we had donated. West Ham United had donated a full set of shirts for us to take out, and so we organised a six-a-side four-team competition which was fiercely contested. 

After a 4-4 draw in the final, Irons Supporting Foodbanks went on to beat West Ham 1-0 in the penalty shootout. All in all, it was a humbling experience to witness the effects on communities four months after the disaster, but heartening to see the resilience of local children and adults alike.

We’ve made good friends locally, and with Global Medic and the BMS, and will look at offering further support as it is needed.

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