Moroccan-born Hafida — née Balalioui — Torres came to New York City in 1999. After living in Queens for a short period, she moved to Brooklyn and here is where she has stayed.
Once in New York, she pursued her education, receiving her bachelors and masters degrees in special education and early childhood intervention. Torres is an educator, licensed therapist, and community leader who has been active in Brooklyn’s Moroccan community, helping individuals, families, and children with special needs overcome hurdles.
“Since I was young I always wanted to provide help for people,” she says. “When I help someone or I present something good, it makes me feel great.”
Torres is the president of the Moroccan American Council to Empower Women, her work touching such people as Naima Remmak, its vice president.
Remmak met the Woman of Distinction at a cultural event in a public school, after reading a flyer informing her that Torres would be telling stories using the Moroccan old traditional oral stories.
“I loved the flyer, it reminded me of my childhood in Morocco, so I went in the auditorium to attend the show,” says Remmak. “Hafida had a beautiful set up, including Moroccan tea and treats — the presentation was awesome and the children had a good time.”
Remmak recalls going up to Torres to thank her and congratulate her for doing a beautiful job.
“That’s when I found out that she works with children with special needs just as I do,” she says. “Since that day, we exchanged contact info and we’ve been collaborating ever since.”
Torres is also a co-founder of the Moroccan American House Association, and the Moroccan Society of New York Association. She is affiliated with a number of other organizations, helping to educate Moroccans and others about their rights, and providing information about government programs in New York.
The honoree, who has received recognition and honorary certificates from the City Council for her altruism, is as enthusiastic as ever about her work.
“I like what I do because I encounter more people who need help, especially women from my culture,” she says. “The community is growing more and more, and people need guidance and advice in different fields to improve their lifestyle.”
Torres is “phenomenal,” remarks Remmak.
“Wherever there is a need, you will find Hafida is the first one to respond, and people in our community know to reach out to her when they need help with any types of services,” she says. “I have never met a Moroccan-American woman who is doing so much for others in the same capacity that I’ve seen Hafida do.”
Community work is reward in itself, says Torres.
“I love working with people and I like to put a smile on someone’s face and make his or her life easier,” she says. “I feel more motivated whenever I provide a service and I see great result.”
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge.
Occupation: President and founder.
Company: Moroccan Association Council on Empowering Women.
Claim to Fame: “Helping the community.”
Favorite Brooklyn Place: “The entire borough.”
Woman I admire: ”Mother Teresa because she was an amazing woman with a big heart, full of love for everybody. I like her quote, ‘It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.’ ”
Motto: “She saw an opportunity, so she turned it into a reality.”