NEWBURYPORT — Mohemmed Echchouini grew up in Marrakesh, Morocco, speaking two languages, but neither was English.
So when a lottery for green cards enabling entry into the United States made him a “winner,” he quickly began learning his third.
“I spoke Arabic and French,” said Echchouini, 44, who is chief of environmental services at Anna Jaques Hospital. “I had studied some English at university but it wasn’t enough. I knew I had to learn fast so I could get a job.”
Echchouini came here in 1999, in part because family medical expenses made it impossible for him to pay for his university studies. It appears to have been the luck of the draw that enabled him to acquire a green card permitting residence here.
He settled in the Malden area. He didn’t know many people in the U.S., but he did know one thing: He was willing to work.
Echchouini soon got a job as a baggage handler at Logan Airport. Later, he joined a company that had contracts to clean hospitals and other health institutions.
“In Morocco it is very hard to get a job,” said the affable department manager, who supervises about 14. “In this country, there is opportunity.
“If you want to study, you can. If you want to get a job, or two jobs, that is possible. There are many chances to work.”
Echchouini indicated that to get anything done in his home country, it takes a “special gratuity.”
“To get a doctor’s appointment, to take classes, you’ve got to give money just to get the process started,” he said. “In this country, it’s easier to get things done.”
Mohemmed, the son of a security guard and a homemaker, has eight brothers and sisters. He is the only one to have left his country for a new beginning.
He credits his luck in getting a green card to enabling him to settle in the U.S., but whatever the reasons for getting here, he is taking advantage of the situation.
After a stint with the custodial-services company, he learned about a similar position at Anna Jaques. He got the job.
The hospital has been voted one of the best institutions on the North Shore at which to work, and the Marblehead resident appears to be very pleased with his position and employer.
He is married to a pre-school teacher, and the couple has two children. He travels back to his native country, but he is committed to America because he feels his family will have a better life here.
His job, particularly, provides him with satisfaction.
“I enjoy seeing a patient who is pleased with the care and appearance of the hospital,” he said. “I am happy in what I am doing because if we can help a patient, it’s a good day.”
In an era when many Americans express concern about the lack of job opportunities or the future of the economy, Mohemmed’s attitude appears to be characterized by optimism — and gratitude.
“I feel thankful to be in this country,” he said. “I’m grateful to people who helped in my first jobs, to my wife, Tracey, and to many friends I have met. This is a great country — Happy Thanksgiving.”