I was scheduled to fly to Marrakech yesterday to attend Pure, the annual week-long experiential conference that brings together friends and colleagues from the global travel community.
In my suitcase were English-Arabic dictionaries, notebooks, pens, and tote bags — I was organizing a collection of school supplies for Education for All, the non-profit that provides housing for Moroccan girls from rural communities so they can continue their education. I visited one of their homes in the Atlas Mountains last year and was deeply moved and impressed by the work they do and the girls I met.
Needless to say, when I woke up to text messages asking “are you okay?” and learned that an 6.8 earthquake that had struck the center of Morocco, months of carefully made plans and scheduled appointments were turned upside down.
The first thought was, do I get on a plane in seven hours or cancel? And although the correct answer was obviously cancel because why do you want to fly into a disaster area, in the first few hours, it wasn’t clear. I really, really still wanted to go.
I started texting around. A journalist already in Marrakech reported things "seemed surprisingly quiet and normal," while another said "absolutely not" when I asked if she would fly in today.
Marrakech-bound friends were trying to decide whether to board imminent flights. “Let’s go and help,” was a common reaction: beautiful and heart-warming. “Let’s go to support the local economy” was another. I had the same urges, but ultimately realized that my best intentions are useless in the immediate aftermath of a crisis. Medics, rescue workers, construction experts: They are useful. I have none of those skills. I don’t even speak Arabic.
The aforementioned Education for All home I visited in the High Atlas was near the epicenter. Because the school term hasn’t started yet, the girls were still in their rural communities in homes not built to withstand natural disasters. I hope to learn good news in the coming weeks and days.
Which brings me back to this: What is a thoughtful, concerned global citizen to do when global disasters strike? What is the best way to show support? It's not like these crises are going to stop happening. I'm just not sure there are easy answers.
Most immediately, giving money to organizations who are on the ground is the most effective way to help. Here are a few good ones working on earthquake recovery:
Education for All
Doctors Without Borders
World Central Kitchen
High Atlas Foundation
Global Diversity Foundation
Banque Alimentaire - a local food bank (the website is in French)
Intrepid Foundation - will matching all donations up to $100,000 AUD
And as soon as it’s safe to do so, we should return to destination that have been hurt. Tourism fuels economies: It's that simple.
In other words, we should all be planning trips to Türkiye and Maui this fall and to Morocco in early 2024.