HMEMSA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization registered in Virgina USA. It's mission is education and support for the marginalized. Our board members are all US based and have strong ties to both US and Morocco.

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Project Details

08 April

HOPE Program

The H.O.P.E Program strives to increase the social-emotional, cognitive, and motor development of  the orphaned children (infants and toddlers) of the Rita Zniber Foundation’s Le Nid Orphanage. The program will promote positive developmental outcomes using a trained caregiver to provide evidence-based methods of play.

The three main goals of the H.O.P.E. Program are to:

  1. Provide each child with more opportunities for sensory-motor development through a stimulating crib environment and time outside of the crib engaged in “floortime” play activities. 

  2. Support each child’s social-emotional  attachment experiences by assigning each child a trained primary caregiver to provide  caregiving routines.  

  3. Establish a volunteer program, under the supervision/guidance of the H.O.P.E Program Coordinator, to increase each child's opportunities for more social-emotional and language experiences.

H.O.P.E Program HMEMSA Team

Tracy Jaekel is the H.O.P.E Program Advisor. She has a doctorate degree in Education with a focus on Early Childhood Development and Communication.  

Khadija Belkhayat will serve as H.O.P.E. Program Coordinator.

Wafa Bennis Bennani is HMEMSA Board Member

H.O.P.E Program:  LeNid Team

Ouafa Amhaouche - Charifa - Fayza - Khadija Belkayat.

Identified Needs and Assets

Many studies have shown that young children exposed to institutional care, such as the orphanage at Le Nid, often suffer from “structural neglect” which may include minimum physical resources, unstable staffing patterns, and socially-emotionally inadequate caregiver-child interactions.  Problems that stem from this neglect often lead later to: poor impulse control, social withdrawal, problems with coping and regulating emotions and  low self-esteem writes David A. Wolfe, PhD, (Child Abuse & Neglect, 2002).

Group sizes are large and caregivers typically receive little training.  The training they do receive is more focused on health issues than on social interaction. They spend the vast majority of their hours bathing,  changing, and feeding the children, along with cleaning cribs and preparing food.   Caregivers are invariably female, so children rarely see men. Problems experienced by children by growing up in orphanages include delayed physical growth and brain development, dysregulation of the neuroendocrine systems, delayed cognitive development, and attachment disorders.

Many studies show that being loved, touched, and spoken to from the very early stages of development are key components in helping any child thrive. Studies show that when there is an absence of nurturing and attention in infancy and early life the effects can often be catastrophic. While the Le Nid Orphanage fulfills many needs of the orphaned children, such as providing adequate clothing, food and shelter, their psychosocial and cognitive development needs are largely unmet.

The orphanage does not currently have adequate financial resources to employ staff to provide developmental care to the children. The current staffed nurses have been advised to allow infants and toddlers to self-soothe and they are rarely picked up and held, even for feedings. The staff is currently overworked as they provide the children with the basic needs of diaper changes, feedings, and bathing. There is also currently no staff available to review volunteer applications or to supervise volunteers.

The lack of physical activity and stimulation has resulted in gastrointestinal issues for many of the children (Acid reflux, constipation), a lack of head and neck control, underdeveloped overall muscle tone and underdeveloped motor skills.  The lack of verbal interactions between caregivers and infants has led to significant language delays and attachment issues.

Le Nid Orphanage resides on the 5th floor of Mohamed V Hospital in Meknes, Morocco. There is limited space for babies to sleep and play.  There is little natural light and only a small outdoor space available for play.

The H.O.P.E Program’s Desired Outcomes

The H.O.P.E Program seeks to:

  • Increase the orphaned child’s social-emotional, cognitive and motor skills

  • Promote Social-Emotional development that will lead to healthy attachments.  This will allow the children to gain the confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments. 

  • Improve the physical environment in an effort to provide a sensory rich learning environment,  filled  with auditory and visual experiences through the use of color, natural light and textures.

Short Term Outcomes

Children will demonstrate Improved:

Gross motor skills: children will improve their ability  to roll over, pull to a sit, stand and begin to walk on their own.

Fine motor skills:  children will improve their ability to reach for an object, manipulate and explore it.

Language skills:  children will  improve their response to verbal cues such as clapping, high five, head shake for yes/no; babbling, eye contact, and labeling objects. 

Self-Care Skills: children will  Improve their ability to suck and swallow, hold a bottle, bring a sippy cup to their mouth, feed-self and help to dress by putting arms and legs in their clothes with assistance.  

Social-Emotional Skills:  caregivers will Improve their ability to engage with each child during caregiving  routines, increasing attachment relationships as shown by increased eye contact, imitation and smiles.  They will encourage choices (do you want the blue or the red shirt) which will lead to a heightened sense of self .

Education Environment:  children will exhibit increased sensory-motor interactions in a crib that  provides opportunities for greater sensory experiences through mobiles, mirrors, and rattles.  They will have an increased opportunity for scheduled playtimes out of their crib several times a day in an environment that encourages a variety of sensory-motor experiences, such as soft climbing structures and objects to manipulate.  They will have an opportunity each day to go outside and enjoy the natural light, smells, sights, textures of the outdoors.

Long Term Outcomes

The program seeks to improve conditions in the Le Nid orphanage by increasing opportunities for the children to be stimulated in all areas of development. The program will:

  1. Provide funding for a sustained staff member if available to spend at least 10 hours a week engaged in activities with the children.

  2. Improve the physical environment of the orphans by providing funding to bring light, color, texture, and music to the cribs and rooms where the children sleep and play.  

  3. Improve Staff Training to increase social emotional  development of each child during everyday care routines.  

  4. Improve the social-emotional environment for the children by promoting a culture of volunteerism.  Establishing a process to review volunteer dossiers and monitor volunteer activities.

Monitoring and Evaluation

H.O.P.E Program Coordinator, Khadija Belkhayat will use the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) as the key tool in the program’s evaluation of the children. The Ages & Stages Questionnaires pinpoint developmental progress in children between the ages of one month to 5 ½ years. Its success lies in its caregiver-centric approach and inherent ease-of-use—a combination that has made it the most widely used developmental screener across the globe. Evidence shows that the earlier development is assessed—the greater the chance a child has to reach his or her potential.  This type of assessment also guides the caregiver in what activities are appropriate  for each child.. 

Each child that is part of the H.O.P.E. Program will be evaluated with the appropriate level ASQ as a baseline, and then reevaluated every 4 months. This historical record of whether the children are reaching developmental milestones will help to evaluate the impact of the H.O.P.E Program and provide a basis for future analysis and program improvements. The ASQ results will be shared with Wafa Bennani and Tracy Jaekel.  The information will be kept confidential and contain only the birth date, sex and first name of each child.


The H.O.P.E Program is based on a heartfelt desire to improve the lives of the orphaned children at the Le Nid Orphanage. We feel that by providing more nurturing caregiving experiences and a stimulating, physical environment, where play activities encourage learning,  the children will show improvements in their overall well-being .  Their improved development in cognitive and physical abilities, along with social-emotional capabilities, will allow them to develop into children and adults who will ultimately be a greater contributor to society.