Oussama comes from a difficult background. He grew up in Sidi Boujida, in Fes, Morocco; sadly losing his father at the age of just 14. He grew up as an only child living between his mother and grandparent’s home and had little hope for a brighter future.
He said of that time, “I was getting in with a bad crowd and going down the wrong path.”
That was until he got involved with ActionAid partner ‘Citizens of the Street’ where he learnt skills in citizenship and leadership. He began to think differently about how he could have a positive impact on society and he is now part of Fes’ first ‘Youth Council’
The purpose of the youth council is to empower young people to make change in their local surroundings. Citizens of the Street brought together 40 youth from Sidi Boujida who have been learning how to identify and resolve community issues. Through the youth council, Ossama and his peers have begun to include the community in the process; discussing sensitive subjects in new and creative ways.
Ossama said, “We have a book club on a Sunday called ‘Just Read.’ Members of the community bring a book and discuss some of the issues inside of it. We discuss how these issues relate to our own society in Fes. We live in a closed society, so this method of discussion makes it much easier for the community to open up.”
Some of the issues the community has identified include; unclean streets, lack of public transportation and child labour.
Ossama and the youth council plan to raise the awareness about the importance of children’s education to parents as well as to lobby the local municipality for better transport links.
Ossama said, “Our transport links are bad and getting worse. Last year, we had a direct bus to the university that was just for students. Now we have to take two public buses which takes almost 2 hours. It’s also bad for the girls who face harassment when using public transport.”
Ossama feels that for the municipality to listen to the communities’ concerns, they have to lead by example. He said “We will first get the community to clean up the streets and then ask the municipality to have better services for collecting rubbish. If they see that we are serious about having a cleaner community, they are more likely to listen to us.”
Ossama has benefitted greatly from his involvement with Citizens of the Streets and now sees the people who work there as his ‘second family.’ He has been so inspired by the voluntary run organization that he has set up his own project; working with children to express their dreams through theatre and the arts.
He said, “I cannot defeat poverty alone, but I feel that by opening up children to creative experiences, it will give them a more positive and proactive outlook on life.”