One of the highest civic accolades in Italy was given to a Moroccan law graduate who works with refugees in northern Italy by teaching them Italian.
Fatima Zahra El-Maliani, 22, was made a Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by Italian President Sergio Mattarella in recognition of her work to "return the good she received through her commitment to the UNICEF after-school care in Turin and for helping homeless women."
The Italian president bestows this honor in recognition of the country's merit achieved in the sectors of literature, the arts, the economy, public service, and social, charitable, and humanitarian efforts.
El-Maliani and her mother moved to northern Italy when she was just 2 years old, but she has yet to get Italian citizenship. In order to provide her daughters with a brighter future, her mother emigrated from Morocco and settled in Turin.
El-Maliani and her sister participated in after-school programs at Sermig, a NGO housed in a former army barracks in the heart of Turin, where social and educational programs aid in the integration of migrants and the underprivileged.
According to El-Maliani, who made the statement to La Stampa newspaper, the center "was not just a location with volunteers engaged in homework aid, but also a space for play, understanding, camaraderie, and equality."
“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 added. “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,” she concluded.
Throughout the pandemic, El-Maliani served at the UNICEF after-school program in Casarcobaleno, a diverse neighborhood in Porta Palazzo, where she assisted about 30 foreign-born primary school students with their homework.