Features: Koutoubia Cheshire Home,
Thursday 6th July
I had spoken to Lazizia 7 days earlier to plan our visit. It was with some surprise that she new nothing about what we were doing. Mike explained what he had organised and we formulated an itinerary.
Cheshire Home Koutoubia is a sister to Meknes, being the original project set-up by Greg Gibbel 7 years ago. Leonard Cheshire gave a £1500 loan, which was quickly repaid, and a generous donation of £5000 was received from the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent commemorated by a plaque on the wall.
This project is on a smaller scale than Meknes restricted only to people in the area of Koutoubia. There used to be a residential home there however, problems were experienced in reintroducing the children back into their respective families some having apparently washed their hands of them. The new concept was a day care centre, which promoted parental participation and continuing therapy at home. Again siblings are encouraged to attend. There is an education program covering all aspects of not only cerebral palsy but also other childbirth related conditions. There is even a little girl with the same injury as me, brachial plexus lesion caused during birth, although she is lucky that the nerves are only bruised and will hopefully come back with therapy, in my case the nerves were severed at the spine with a permanent affect.
There are 60 children attending the school from the ages of 4 months to 12 years. Mothers are taught how to administer therapy and they have even held father's days with great success. All the apparatus are locally made and where possible mothers are shown how to replicate equipment for themselves at home, a bit like Blue Peter using old buckets, foam, fabric and glue.
In the last year, a number of mothers from classes of children over 12, have clubbed together and meet each week to continue the camaraderie and therapy so helpful to children. This is a first, and lets hope it is the first of many.
The rent on their current premises is high and the home has been looking to relocate to a more cost- effective base. With the increasing profile of disability on the Governments agenda the town has donated a plot of land. Lazizia and her colleagues are busy raising funds to build a new, bigger home to include a safe outside play area. Main contributors are from England, Germany and more recently Spain reflecting the links with Meknes. Increasingly funds are being sought with some success within Marrakesh itself.
We had arrived at an opportune time, for this afternoon was to be a party for all those children who graduated onto school. It was great to see this success. Over tea we were shown photographs of the children when they first attended, some incapable of anything, yet today they were dancing, joking, singing songs and as boisterous as any other children.
Lazizia is the Director with 2 principle assistants. She has a degree in English initially for use in tourism but 7 years ago she met Greg and became involved in setting up the project. She has been a key figure since day one, being trained in physiotherapy by Greg specific to cerebral palsy. Her English has been used when writing letters to prospective donators and also regular reports for those supporting specific projects. Sadly for the centre she is moving to Ireland in August with her new husband, we wish them both the very best of luck.
Lazizia on the right with her Leonard Cheshire 'Enabled' t-shirt, her sister centre and Sue left.
After the party was over it was time for another talk to the parents. These children had already come along way and I wished them all the best for the future.
We returned again on Friday morning to meet another group before hitting the road again.
Outside the Centre Koutoubia (42 deg. C in the shade.)
If anyone would like to support this project directly and help with the building of a new centre please contact:
Koutoubia Cheshire Home
Quartier Industriel 15
Sidi Yousef Ben Ali