Moroccan graduate receives Italian honor for volunteer work

A Moroccan law graduate who teaches Italian to migrants in northern Italy has been awarded one of the country’s highest civil honors for her work.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella appointed Fatima Zahra El-Maliani, 22, Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic “for her efforts to return the good she received through her commitment to the UNICEF after-school care in Turin and for helping homeless women.”

This distinction is awarded by the Italian president for “merit acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities.”

El-Maliani arrived in northern Italy with her mother when she was 2, but still has not managed to gain Italian citizenship.

Her mother left Morocco and settled in Turin in search of a better future for her daughters.

El-Maliani and her sister attended after-school classes at Sermig, an NGO hosted in a decommissioned army barracks Turin city center, where social and educational activities help migrants and the poor to integrate.

El-Maliani told La Stampa newspaper that the center “was not only a place with volunteers engaged in homework help, but also a space for play, understanding, friendship and equality.”

She added: “I will always be grateful to all the volunteers who helped us, and to my mother who understood how studying was important for me and my sister. She has always sacrificed herself so that we could have a better future.

“I decided to give back to other children all the love I received as a child by becoming an after-school volunteer.”

During the global pandemic, El-Maliani volunteered at the UNICEF after-school center in Casarcobaleno, a multi-ethnic area of Porta Palazzo, where she helped around 30 primary school children, all foreigners, with their homework.