MARS HILL, Maine — A Mars Hill woman who has spent the last few weeks raising money to finance travel and health care costs for a 20-year-old Moroccan man who suffers from severely deformed feet has seen her efforts come to fruition, as the man is in the U.S. awaiting surgery to correct the problem.

Betsy Allen said Friday that Abdelkhalek El Malyani, whom she met in 2013 at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center in Casablanca, Morocco, as part of a one-week volunteer teaching experience, arrived in the country on Aug. 13. He and his translator are now in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he will have surgery at the Shriners Hospitals For Children.

“I am so excited that this is all coming to fruition,” said Allen. “Everything really has fallen together so well, and so many people have really gotten behind this young man and been so generous after hearing his story.”

Abdelkhalek’s feet and heels face inward, so the soles of his feet face each other, and he has trouble walking and is in pain. Since he grew up in Sidi Moumen, Casablanca, the largest shanty town in the country, he had no access to medical care that could have corrected the problem.

Allen said that Abdelkhalek simply had to adapt and learned to walk on the sides of his feet. As a result of his condition, however, he was never able to run, hold certain jobs and complete many other tasks.

After she got back from Morocco, Allen contacted Shriners International, and it agreed to take on Abdelkhalek’s case.

The Shriners will fund all of his medical costs and paid for the two plane tickets to travel to the U.S. Allen, who last month started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for other expenses related to the trip and surgery, must fund the return tickets to Morocco.

“Due to visa regulations, they were not allowed to leave their country without proof of a return flight,” she said.

Abdelkhalek met with doctors on Monday, who conducted tests and said to him that he will be in the U.S. several months undergoing either one long surgery to correct the problem with his feet or a few short surgeries. When he is discharged from the hospital, he will be staying in a nearby Ronald McDonald House. While there, he and the translator must provide their own food, which Allen said that the GoFundMe donations will assist with.

She said that seeing Abdelkhalek outside of his own country has been “both hilarious and heartwarming.”

“His translator has visited the United States before, so this is not as exciting for him,” she said. “But Abdelkhalek has never been anywhere. So seeing him get into a swimming pool for the first time, and seeing that look of shock and wonder on his face, was amazing. And also watching him try to eat with silverware. Prior to coming here, he had always eaten with his hands.”

No date has yet been set for the surgery, but Allen continues to raise money for Abdelkhalek on her GoFundMe page.

“If there is any money left over at all, I would like to donate some of it to the Shriners and some to the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center where I first met him,” she said Friday.

To donate, visit