Woman from Morocco reflects on 'devastating' journey back home after quake

Ottawa realtor Ilham Chabi is originally from Morocco and travelled there a week after the Sept. 8 earthquake in order to bring relief aid provided by Canadian donors.  (Submitted by Ilham Chabi - image credit)
Ottawa realtor Ilham Chabi is originally from Morocco and travelled there a week after the Sept. 8 earthquake in order to bring relief aid provided by Canadian donors. (Submitted by Ilham Chabi - image credit)

An Ottawa woman originally from Morocco has returned from a trip back home to provide aid to people affected by this month's devastating earthquake.

Ilham Chabi is an Ottawa realtor who moved to Canada from Morocco when she was 12.

She has been back in the past, including a visit just two weeks before the 6.8-magnitude quake that struck Sept. 8 near Marrakesh.

It was the strongest quake recorded in the country in over a century and claimed thousands of lives.

A week after the disaster, Chabi organized a collection of donated Canadian supplies, including blankets, tents and sleeping bags, to be shipped to Morocco.

Winter clothes were also prioritized "because we were thinking about the next coming months," Chabi said.

Chabi then headed to Morocco, leaving her two young boys behind.

"Each time I passed by a difficult moment, I would think about my kids and I was like, no, I need to finish this mission," she said.

Scouting out places in need

While waiting for the supplies to clear customs at the Casablanca airport, Chabi and her sister travelled narrow mountain roads by car to towns and villages damaged by the earthquake, in part to assess what types of supplies should be funnelled where.

"Not everybody had a tent. Not everybody had a home," she said.

tents in Morocco
tents in Morocco

Chabi and her sister scouted locations to determine which communities needed what supplies. (Submitted by Ilham Chabi)

Chabi said she was able to bring two of the 23-kilogram supply bags she shipped over with her on the road, so she handed out smaller items like milk for infants.

She also heard stories she called "devastating."

One man, Chabi said, told her that his wife and youngest child were able to escape safely — but his mother and his two other children were trapped under their house and didn't survive.

"It was was just amazing to see how humble those people are," she said. "I couldn't imagine, if I had lost my family, that I would be able to stand on my feet and [say what] the these people were [saying]."

Morocco's Interior Ministry has cautioned that an overflow of poorly co-ordinated aid "would be counterproductive" and said it planned to accept assistance from more countries later.