BLAINE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Betsy Allen still does not know just what motivated her to help a young man half a world away in Morocco from her home in Aroostook County.
“I felt like I had to do it for him,” she said humbly when NEWS CENTER joined her on the trip to pick up Abdelkhalek El Malyani from the airport in Boston in August of 2016.
We followed their emotional reunion and El Malyani’s first visit to doctors at the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass. The trip was the result of months of work by Allen raising money and support from Mainers.
A year later, Allen said she is overwhelmed by joy seeing how far he has come.
"Through Abdelhelek's story I think I found my own--my own purpose,” she said.
She first met El Malyani while she was on a teaching service trip to Morocco in 2013. It was there she witnessed how he walked.
With a severe case of club foot, his twisted feet caused him to walk on the edges of his feet—something that was incredibly painful and challenging.
Now, after countless surgeries and therapy he is able to walk flat-footed.
"It has been absolutely amazing. It has been heartwarming. It has been lifechanging,” she said.
“Thank you America!” El Malyani said in an cell phone video Allen shared with NEWS CENTER.
Allen said he has learned some English in his time here and intends to continue studying the language. Aside from the serious physical limitations, she said his feet once made him an outcast in his community, and she hopes this provides a new beginning.
"He can go back now with his head held high and really contribute to his society,” Allen said.
In her own life, Allen is focused back on being a mom while finishing up her nursing degree.
"Really I just want it to last and I want to keep helping people,” she said.
She even has plans to continue education to become a nurse practitioner specializing in orthopedics—something she said was inspired by the journey.
“It’s just sheer joy to see and disbelief almost that this happened,” Allen said. “His feet are straight and the impossible became possible."
El Malyani still has small braces on for the next month or so. Allen said he is set to continue therapy before heading back to Morocco in October.