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.