Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Capacity Building Program: January and February's Workshops

Written by DSH Fellow: Katherine Tyler
The participants with The trainor Imane
In this past two months, Dar Si Hmad has had TWO successful workshops for the Capacity Building Workshop! Our participants have gained so many insights on their experiences and aspirations, and we can’t wait to see how they use their new knowledge to benefit their communities.
In January, the workshop’s themes were Organizational Management and Partnerships and Advocacy. We were lucky to draw from the experience and expertise of our trainer, Hassan Achrwaw
Our workshop on Organizational Management focused on how NGOs can translate their visions for change into efficient, sustainable actions. While we discussed theories on how to create strategic plans, we also equipped our participants with tools on how to plan for change most effectively. For one exercise, participants learned how to develop SWOT analyses to implement new organizational strategies and changes. 
Trainor Hassan during the workshop
The Partnerships and Advocacy Program covered how NGOs can successfully launch awareness campaigns to promote change in their communities. Because we believe here at DSH that you learn more when you’re having fun, we had the participants join in on funny debates. Each of the three groups was assigned to defend the rights of… common pests! One group defended the right of lice, another the right of rats, and the third group represented cockroaches. We then had judges vote on whether the participants gave convincing defenses. We all ended the session laughing, but the participants demonstrated that they had absorbed the trainer’s advice on rhetoric and the elements of a convincing argument.
This past month in February we specifically focused on project management and evaluation with our trainer Imane El Ouizgani. We covered project development from its inception to the very last stages of evaluating a project’s success. Participants learned how to conduct a feasibility of a new project with PESTLE analyses and brainstorm their assumptions on challenges and outcomes related to new projects. We also discussed the practical measures necessary for implementing a successful project by introducing the GANTT chart tool. 
For our daylong workshop on project evaluation, we brainstormed solutions to data collection challenges and thought in new ways about how to find accurate and relevant indicators for projects. We also began to delve into the topic of how to convey the results of projects to different audiences, as your communication of data with your donors, staff, and beneficiaries often requires different focuses. 
Trainor Imane during the workshop
Throughout these sessions we incorporated fun activities to energize our participants and encourage networking. One memorable energizer was when we played some calling and name games on the roof. We might just bring our participants onto the roof again next month for some activities next month, if the weather stays pleasant!
Each week we assign the participants homework so that they apply what they have learned in our workshops to improve their own NGOs. Now, as we’re coming towards the conclusion of the training series, we are working more closely with our participants on developing and launching new projects and campaigns. In the next four months we will be seeing our efforts materialize with new initiatives in southern Morocco!

Our participants during the workshops

Friday, February 15, 2019

EFS with Miami Valley High School (January 2019)

A testimony from one of our beneficiaries, Ikram Bouchama

Students from Miami Valley High School
Last month we received a group of 18 students from Miami Valley High School at our Ethnographic Field School. We developed a rich curriculum for the students to enable them to understand more about Moroccan life, identities and culture.  
Our program consisted of lectures, excursions, and activities based on the culture and histories of southern Morocco. The program's excursions included a visit to our fog project, an old Medrassa in the Ait Baamrane region, Association Aicha in Guelmim, and historical tours of Agadir and Sidi Ifni, led by our EFS Manager and Executive Director.
One of the activities is a cultural exchange between the American and Moroccan high school students.  This initiative enabled both groups of students to learn new things about their ways of life, to overcome negative stereotypes and to make new friends from overseas. We are very grateful to the Ibn Maja High School administration, its students, and the delegation of national education of Agadir for helping us organize such an enriching activity.
The group of students with their teachers
Weeks later, Ikram Bouchama, a student from Ibn Maja high school and a beneficiary of the cultural exchange activity, reached out to Dar Si Hmad’s communication manager and sent her side of the story. You will find below Ikram’s testimonial:
“The most fun yet exciting event that our Ibn Maja High School has experienced took place on Friday the 18th 2019 at 9:30 a.m. I couldn't believe that I was going to be a part of that event. When my teacher Mrs. Aaouatif first told me that I was chosen to participate in it, I got extremely excited to meet American students my age, some of whom are now my friends.
The morning event started with the American students arriving at our school. They looked like any typical American teenagers, which I was pretty nervous about. Before getting to the core of the event, we got in a circle and introduced ourselves in a fun way so that we could get rid of the awkwardness that was surrounding us. Then, we started to create these small groups of four or five where we had to find common things within the group, which was super entertaining; we sang, laughed, and had an unforgettable time.

The students playing baskeball with each other
After a while, we got in groups of three Moroccan students and three American students to discuss the main purpose of the event. American students reflected on their understanding of Moroccan culture, as well as Moroccan students on American culture. We heard some positive stereotypes from our American friends which surprised us. They said beautiful things about Morocco, the people and how nice they were to them. There weren't really any negative stereotypes.
We also shared our perceptions as well. Mostly, it showed how we liked American culture. We liked how open-minded and generous Americans are. Thereafter, we got in a huge circle so that each group could share their final thoughts.

The students drawing graffiti
Afterward, we all went to eat from a buffet full of different snacks, and after some of the students went to draw graffiti on the school walls (FYI, we are allowed to draw graffiti in our school), while others went to play basketball. At the end, the students got together to play a football match with American students playing against Moroccan students, which was incredibly fun.
It was sadly the time for the American students to leave. We took pictures, exchanged each other's information, and said our last goodbyes. I'm grateful that I was part of this event, I'm also very happy that we created memorable moments with our American friends, and we are more than welcome to have them again for more events in the future.”
Ikram with her friend

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Capacity Building Program: First two workshops!

Written by DSH Fellow: Katherine Tyler
Our trainer Zainab mentoring a group of participants
A lot of exciting activities have been happening at the Capacity Building Project since we first posted about it! The second week of December marked the second workshop for the capacity building workshop for NGOs after our first workshop on Governance and Administration in November.  Our trainer Zineb led a module on Human Resources Management, and our trainer Mustapha led a workshop on Financial Management. We had a lot of ground on management training to cover, and our staff, trainers, and participants rose to the challenge with grace and enthusiasm!
When we are planning the content for these workshops, we make it a priority to include interactive activities. We want to be able to hold people’s attention for an entire daylong event after all the participants already been working for an entire week-- so long lectures are not going to engage our audience very well!
When I was identifying a volunteer’s motivation to serve, I found out that there are three motivations to volunteer: a spiritual or personal connection to the cause, a desire to build skills or gain experience, and an interest in making social connections.
Ilham, a Rise Alumna during her participation in our activities 
When I was drafting our module on volunteer management, my co-manager Hafida pointed out that Dar Si Hmad has already worked with some strong volunteers who could share their experiences and expose our participants to more perspectives on how NGOs can best engage their volunteers. So, we designed a module where we invited three alumni from Dar Si Hmad’s RISE program, a youth empowerment training series, to adopt the profiles of three imaginary volunteers who had different motivations to serve and currently experiencing some difficulties in their work performance. The participants were placed into three groups and took on the role of an NGO board and had to brainstorm solutions so that they could better engage the different volunteers.
Another goal of the Capacity Building Program for NGOs is to get a bunch of smart, ambitious people working to better their communities in the same room together to share ideas. For one session during the Financial Management module, we challenged NGO leaders to work in groups to brainstorm income-generating activities for an imaginary NGO that supports the Mikhaleen, workers who sort garbage for collection and recycling in major cities throughout Morocco.
The participants engaging in the workshop activities 
In addition to envisioning creative ideas to support the financial viability of this NGO, participants also had to assess whether this idea would generate a substantial profit for the NGO based on the project’s estimated start up and operating costs. When these participants were trying to brainstorm a feasible income generating activity, they shared their own professional experiences with each other and ultimately came up with a list of ideas that no one participant would have created entirely on his or her own. These NGO leaders are also getting to know each other better over the course of six months, so we hope that they will be creating mutually beneficial partnerships to support each other’s missions. 
Although a lot of our activities are based on responding to hypothetical situations, we have several strategies to have our participants apply their training in a practical manner. After each session, we assign homework for the participants to use what they have learned to benefit their NGO. One of the assignments from this past session was to have the participants write job descriptions for their staff and volunteer positions. This assignment will help NGO leaders better organize, delegate, and outline workers’ duties and responsibilities, improve their recruitment strategies and provide a template for providing feedback and performance reviews. Each NGO leader has also agreed to launch a new project or campaign based on the management training they have received from the Capacity Building Program.
Team building activities
There are so many people at Dar Si Hmad who work incredibly hard each month to make this workshop training series happen. In addition to working very closely with Hafida, Jamila, our Executive Director, provides feedback and guidance on how to structure the content more effectively. We also collaborate closely with our trainers to draw from their extensive experiences in NGO work so that we can share the most critical aspects of management with our participants in the most engaging format possible.
When it comes to running the logistics of our program, Hafida and I rely on Dar Si Hmad’s driver and caretaker, Abderrahman, to assist us with ironing out the details, which includes a lot of running errands and literal heavy lifting. Aatika works very hard to provide delicious meals to our participants and staff during the training sessions.
Our trainer Mustapha during the Financial Management workshop
There are so many people who have put a lot of time and energy into making the Capacity Building Program a reality, and I am so excited to be working with and learning from so many Moroccan dedicated to social impact.
If you are involved with civil society in Morocco and would like to get more involved with the Capacity Building Project, hang tight! We are planning to release a training manual for trainers and NGO leaders written in Arabic at the end of the project. And, hopefully, we will be able to launch a similar workshop training series again in the future.
The participants during the speed interviews activity

Monday, January 14, 2019

Reflecting On My Internship Experience: Ambar Khawaja

Written by DSH Intern: Ambar Khawaja

Ambar during her trip to the desert
I have just finished my time as an intern at Dar Si Hmad, so I wanted to reflect on the four months I spent here. I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people on some amazing projects, and I will remember being here as a formative experience in my life.
Through Dar Si Hmad, I worked on two main projects, GRACE and planning the EFS 10th anniversary celebration. Both have helped me develop my professional and interpersonal skills. I learned how to be an effective teacher and manage a classroom, while still providing fun and exciting content to make my students interested in the material. I also grew from learning how to continue when things aren’t going my way.
With GRACE, I started off with around 40 girls, but due to some scheduling conflicts, about 10 girls had to drop out, leaving me with only thirty students. While slightly disheartening, I was reminded that it isn’t about the quantity but rather about the impact. With EFS, I developed the capacity to think about many different aspects of one project, particularly from the logistical side.
Ambar and some of her students (Grace beneficiaries) 
What really felt like the most insightful aspect of working here was simply being around the daily activities of a well-functioning NGO. I was surrounded by different ways of thinking, and I got to understand how gears are constantly turning even in the absence of active projects. I feel equipped with these new skills, and I am excited to see how they fare for the rest of my gap year and once I start school.
I recently walked past the hotel I stayed in during my first night in Morocco. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “wow, this doesn’t feel so daunting anymore”. Looking back at myself being terrified, too nervous to walk more than 5 feet to a restaurant, and staying hidden in the hotel, I can safely say I have grown a lot. To be completely honest, it makes me laugh. Who was she? I don’t know her anymore.
A picture from her trip to Essaouira
I remember a list of goals I wrote down before coming here, one of which included being able to hold a basic conversation with another person only in Darija, which is the colloquial Arabic spoken here. I am pleasantly surprised with my ability to communicate in Darija now and have learned quite a bit through my language classes with my tremendously helpful teacher, Lahcen. I love being able to come home and talk to my host mother about my day with her being able to understand me (for the most part).
While I am definitely going to miss being at Dar Si Hmad, I know I will be staying in touch with the organization and hope to visit it again in the future. My heart feels happy knowing that I have done good work here, and it has motivated me to continue working on what I hope to accomplish in the future.
Ambar with Dar Si Hmad Staff at her last day of the internship

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

UIRMAL 2018: A Gateway For Other Interesting Opportunities

                    Written by RISE Alumnus & DSH grantee: Ayoub Nachat

Ayoub in the last day of the conference
Before I talk about my experience with Model Arab League, a short self-introduction would be helpful. My name is Ayoub Nachat, I am 24 years old, and I am a master's student majoring in Applied Linguistics and Language Studies at Ibn Zohr University.  I am an alumnus of the RISE program 2017/2018 edition. The Rise program was very rich and interesting in terms of knowledge and the different opportunities it brought me and other alumni. 
I found the application form for the conference on Dar Si Hmad's Rise Alumni group. It was a five-page application form where I had to introduce myself, my background, my previous experiences with Model United Nations (MUN) and write four essays on different topics. I already had previous experiences with MUNs before as a delegate and a chair as well, but Model Arab League (MAL) was an opportunity for me to go through an interesting new experience. As I expected, this opportunity caused me to notice many differences between MAL and MUN. 
Ayoub during the training
After filling out the application form online, I passed the first round and I was contacted by Dar Si Hmad's staff to sit for an interview. The interview was smooth and to the point. I was asked by the interviewer, many questions along the lines of: “introduce yourself, why do you think we should select you to be part of the conference?”, and “talk about your previous experiences in MUNs?” She has also explained to me everything that has to do with logistics and what is expected from me as a delegate at the conference. 
Days later, I received an acceptance email that said I was selected to be the head delegate of the delegation sponsored by Dar Si Hmad and Fulbrighter Anna to represent Ibn Zohr University in UIRIMAL in Rabat. One week later, we started the training sessions regarding MAL's procedures and topics. The trainings were rich, inclusive, and to the point as well, but it would have been better if our university had signed us to participate to have a longer period of training since the other delegations from other countries had started training months before. However, I am still thankful to Dar Si Hmad and Anna who signed us, sponsored us and trained us in a very limited time period.
Ayoub during his visit to the parliament
On November 1st, the delegation that consisted of 4 people, University Advisor Anna Cizek, Imane Arjdal, Intissar Blila, and I, left for Rabat. After we arrived the next day, we checked into the Université International de Rabat (UIR) dorms. Later, we went to meet the other delegates in order to go to the Moroccan parliament for a cultural visit. That was a very interesting experience for both Moroccan and other delegates from different countries since we all had the chance to learn many things about the political system of Morocco and how parliament works. 
I also had the chance to serve as a translator for the guide in the parliament who was explaining everything about the parliament institution, and that was very special and meant a lot to me. Later in the evening, the opening ceremony of the UIRMAL conference started, and different speeches were delivered by the organizers of the event. 
From left to right: Intissar, Anna and Ayoub
The next morning, we started the committee debates and discussions, and I was very eager to participate as much as possible and defend the stand of the country I was representing, which was Saudi Arabia. I always try to seize such opportunities to develop both my personal and professional skills. I also made many friendships and met new people, and I would like to advise the readers to grow their networks as much as possible in such events. You will meet new people who can really inspire you and make you see the world from another perspective. 
This conference was different from other MUN experiences I’ve had before. The procedures made me feel a little bit disconnected, but I worked hard to overcome that challenge by getting into debates and lobbying with other delegates. Additionally, I had to prepare for many different and complicated topics in a short amount of time and, luckily, I managed to do that in the free time during the conference. 
Ayoub with other participants at the conference
Besides the difficulties I faced, I really loved being a delegate in UIRIMAL. First, I had the chance to meet new young, ambitious, and very nice people. Since I arrived to the university, I never felt alone. In fact, at this moment while I am writing this blog, a young guy I met at this event just sent me a message.  Another advantage of this conference that I enjoyed was the academic training. It was not easy to participate in all the debates and discussions through speaking in public, working with others, and negotiating ideas, but I had to really challenge myself to do that and improve both my personal and professional skills.
Participating in Model Arab league was a pleasure and a great experience that has taught me a lot and I am willing to make this experience a gateway for other interesting opportunities, both for me and students in my community.

Ayoub in the MAL conference

Thursday, November 29, 2018

UIRMAL 2018: A Fulfilling Process And Experience

Written by RISE Alumna & DSH grantee: Intissar Blila

Intissar in the Moroccan Parliement
“Great things never come from comfort zones”; this is what I told myself recently in order to challenge myself to get out of my shell and do things I have never done before.
Before I start telling you about my part of the story, let me introduce myself. I am Intissar Blila, a 21-year-old student attending Ibn Zohr University, studying faculty of juridical, economic and social sciences. I participated in the program for personal and professional development called “RISE & THRIVE” during the period from November 2015 until June 2016. Rise was an enriching experience which allowed me to make new friendships and learn a lot of things in each module we went through.
Friday, October the 5th, I received an email for an application from Dar Si Hmad stating that they would sponsor their Rise Program alumni to attend an international conference. I opened the email and read it and luckily I was eligible for the opportunity, but once I saw the four essays we were asked to write, I felt bad. It was the kind of feeling you get when deep inside you know you can do something but at the same time there is something that stops you.
Intissar during the training with her fellow Risers
A few hours later, I reread the application form again and asked myself, “why not, Intissar? Why would you let this opportunity slip through your fingers again?” At that moment I told myself that “this is a new challenge that you need to take up”.  After three tiring days of reading, gathering information and writing, I finally submitted the application form. I could not believe that I finally did it! 
Days later, I received an email which told me that I passed the first application phase and that I was accepted and needed to come to Dar Si Hmad for an interview. The interview was also scheduled on a Friday! I still remember how stressed I was while walking to the Dar Si Hmad office. On that day I got the chance to meet Anna Cizek, an amazing woman who marked this whole experience. She asked me different questions concerning my essays and gave me more details about the conference.
Finally, I received another email where I was informed that I was one of the three people whom Dar Si Hmad would sponsor to represent Ibn Zohr University at the Arab Model League Conference, organised at the International University of Rabat. Weeks before heading to Rabat, we had many training sessions with our university advisor and Dar Si Hmad Intern, Anna, who helped us broaden our understanding of parliamentary procedure and the Model Arab League in general, in addition to the country which we were going to represent, which was Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Anna helped us boost our self-confidence with different exercises. It was in these sessions that I met Ayoub and Imane, the two other lucky chosen students!
Intissar during the MAL conference
Once we got to Rabat, we were warmly welcomed by the organisers of the conference. On the first day, we visited the Moroccan parliament, and for the two other days, they were busy and full of hard work in the committee sessions. It was difficult and challenging at the very beginning but was still a fulfilling process and experience.
I cannot put into words or describe the significant impact this experience had on me. Not only did it show me that when I really want something I will surely do it, but it also gave me the opportunity to live unforgettable moments and meet amazing people I could not have met otherwise. 
From left to right : Anna, Imane, Intissar and Ayoub

UIRMAL 2018: A Challenge That I Was Able To Overcome

Written by RISE Alumna & DSH grantee:
Imane Arjdal 
Imane at Model Arab League conference
Participating in an international conference has always been a goal for me. My involvement in Model Arab League (MAL) is a story of personal interest, institutional support, and faculty-advisor mentoring and training. Model Arab League is a multi-regional competition where students from across the world learn about and compete as representatives for member states of the Arab League. Through Dar Si Hmad, I was able to reach this goal.
My name is Imane Arjdal, and I’m 20 years old. I am in my second year at Ecole Supérieure de Technologie, majoring in business management. I am also a former RISER from Rise 2018, the contemporary issues, critical thinking, and creative expression program. 
Imane during the training led by Anna
When I first got the email from Dar Si Hmad informing me that they wanted to sponsor RISE alumni to attend this conference, I felt hesitant to apply because I thought I didn’t have any experience in politics or defending country policies, but after more thinking and encouragement from a friend, I finally decided to apply. The process of applying was difficult, but it was an opportunity for me to increase my knowledge about different subjects and to enhance my skills in public speaking and diplomacy. I wrote four different essays for the application related to my chosen council, which was Arab Social Affairs.
I got accepted to attend the MAL after a highly-competitive application and an intensive interview, so I considered this conference as a challenge that helped me step out of my comfort zone and learn more. Before attending the conference, Dar Si Hmad provided us with a training held by their intern Anna Cizek, who was also our instructor and Ibn Zohr University advisor. She taught us everything about the MAL, starting from what it is, to parliamentary procedures, and how to talk and debate in the council sessions. Since it was my first time doing Model Arab League, the sessions were extremely helpful. After two weeks of training, the time had come for us to travel to the International University of Rabat (UIR). My feelings were scattered, jumping from stress to excitement.
Imane and her faculty advisor Anna and colleagues Ayoub and Intissar
After a long night on the bus from Agadir to Rabat, we finally made it to the university, which became very fascinating to me. The participants came from a variety of universities from all over the world, including Georgia State University, NYU Abu Dhabi, AALIM center, Wilmington College, UIR, and Ibn Zohr University, which was represented by our team.
The first day of the conference was the most interesting because we got to visit the Moroccan parliament and network with the other participants for the first time. In the evening, we attended the UIRMAL opening ceremony and listened to a lecture about “challenges, transition, and promise for sustainable development in the Arab world “discussed by the UNIC Rabat director. Afterwards, many other professors gave speeches, one of which was a welcoming speech held by Dr. Aaron Ashby, the director of the UIRMAL conference.
A visit by some of the participants to the Moroccan Parliament 
Model Arab League had more than four sessions a day that were two hours each. Going through my first session was really hard due to me being unfamiliar with the procedures. In the sessions, we got to debate, discuss and come up with new policies for our council’s agenda points as representatives of Model Arab League countries.
I represented the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a challenging country that I had so much fun representing in the end. As the sessions advanced, I became more and more efficient at debating and discussing new policies about the issue in front of us. With the encouragement of my faculty advisor, Anna Cizek, and the chair of our council, Carissa, supporting me from afar during the sessions, my confidence increased.
Imane during the conference
Being a part of Model Arab League’s second edition was a life-changing experience. From applying to debating, discussing my ideas, and helping write position papers as a sponsor, everything felt like a challenge that I was able to overcome. Not only was this experience an opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone, debate, and talk in front of people, but it was also an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge on political developments throughout the Arab world, diplomacy, and parliamentary procedure.
I developed important skills like critical thinking and how to assume leadership in a group, not to mention that I met amazing people from different nationalities and I have got to learn more about their life, culture, language, and perspectives.
Model Arab League was an unforgettable experience. I returned to Agadir with both new experiences and new friends. I want to thank Dar Si Hmad for sponsoring me to attend this conference that I will be forever grateful for, and I hope to work with them again in the future.
Imane with fellow participants at the Social Affairs Council