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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How GRACE came to be

Written by DSH Intern: Ambar Khawaja

First session of GRACE Program
If I could think of one reason why I am where I am today, it would be the multitude of strong female role models and mentors in my life. It has always been difficult to find representation of women that is versatile, powerful, and inspiring, but I am privileged to have seen and experienced women from all walks of life, each changing the world in their own way.
When I was musing over the kind of work I wanted to do during my gap year, I created a list of criteria my work had to meet in order for me to feel fulfilled. The key words were empowering, creative, and difficult yet possible. I chose empowering because I believe that women deserve to have choices in their lives, and what they choose should be up to them. I chose creative because this adjective encompasses all things the imagination can think of, and without imagination, the world would be stagnant. Lastly, the phrase, “difficult yet possible” was coined because I wanted to step far outside my comfort zone and try things that I had never done before. The work I wanted to do had to be feasible and able to be effectively implemented into whatever community I chose to work in. 
Ambar while she is teaching one of her classes
My original plan was to teach yoga and women’s empowerment to girls, but after talking with Jamila, the executive director of Dar Si Hmad, we realized this was not going to be possible. The language barrier between the girls and I was too difficult, so we decided to modify the program. We agreed upon teaching English because it was both achievable and something the girls needed but lacked outside of their schooling.
With help from Soufian, DSH project manager, and Hafida, DSH communication manager, we worked together pitch the idea to the school, develop a 2-month lesson plan for teaching the girls, and generate an acronym that reflected our vision. This is how GRACE (Girls Read And Communicate in English) was created.
Ambar and Hafida at the school supervisor's office
I have one group on Wednesdays and another on Fridays, totalling around 40 girls, and my classes last an hour and a half. It felt like a positive sign that we launched the first session only a few days after the international day of the girl. The first two classes mostly consisted of me adjusting to the different attitudes of the students and getting comfortable and confident teaching in front of the groups. Hafida was by my side for the first two classes, communicating the important information to the girls in Darija, but now I’m teaching solo for the rest of my sessions.
It has been quite the learning curve experience but hearing from the girls’ English teacher that they really enjoyed it and that more wanted to join made me feel like I was making an authentically positive impact, rather than falsely being helpful with good intentions. I really have never met such eager students who want to learn and answer questions like these girls.

Ambar and the english teacher
Ms Asmaa Ait Youssef
 In the second session, there were a few girls who had accidentally entered the classroom without realizing I was going to be teaching. They didn’t tell us until around halfway through the class, and when we asked them if they wanted to leave, they declined. They wanted to stay and do the activities with the rest of the class and when they had to leave early because of their schedules, they still wanted to show me their work before they left. My heart was overflowing, and I couldn’t stop smiling because I realized I had finally met all my criteria for meaningful work during my gap year.
I am very excited to see where this project goes, and my hope is that after I leave Dar Si Hmad, GRACE will grow to reach more girls with the help of future interns. Other schools were interested in the program, but it cannot be expanded right now because of lack of time and resources (there is only one of me); however, I will continue to give my all to the amazing girls I have been given the privilege to work with and hope that at the end of my time here, they will be more confident in their English abilities. And who knows, maybe that confidence will spread to other areas of their lives.
A selfie with one of the classes

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Learning Across Continents: America sharing knowledge with Africa

Written by DSH Fellow Katie Tyler :

Katie is a recent graduate from Princeton and a fellow of Labouisse Fellowship. She is working with Dar Si Hmad on the capacity building project for NGO's .

Dar Si Hmad Intern Katie Tyler
A little more than five years ago, I found out that I had received the opportunity of a lifetime. Thanks to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), I had been awarded a scholarship to study Arabic in Marrakech. I had never lived outside of the U.S. before, and I was excited for the chance to be immersed in studying a foreign language. At the end of my six-week experience, I was able to speak Modern Standard Arabic a little better, but I wanted to continue improving my language skills.
When I entered college the following year, I knew that I wanted to continue studying Arabic and different cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. Becoming a Near Eastern Studies (more commonly known as Middle Eastern Studies) major at Princeton University was an obvious choice for my course of study.
During my third year of college, I spent a year writing an independent research paper the reconstruction of Agadir after the 1960 earthquake. Reading books about Moroccan history and newspaper archives from Agadir reminded me of how much I missed living in Morocco. Based on my experiences interning at a youth homeless shelter in Newark, New Jersey, I also knew that I wanted to gain more experience in working with nonprofit organizations that fight poverty. 
A mosque in Agadir (Taken by Katie)
I was lucky enough to attend a university that is able to support my career aspirations to work in sustainable development abroad. I am able to work in Agadir with Dar Si Hmad thanks to the Labouisse Fellowship, named after Princeton alum Henry R. Labouisse, who was most notably awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the president of UNICEF. The Labouisse Fellowship provides graduating Princeton seniors with the funding to pursue a yearlong project in international development in partnership with a local nonprofit organization.
Henry R. Labouisse
I reached out to the former NSLI-Y program coordinator for advice on finding a partnership with a Moroccan organization, and she enthusiastically recommended Dar Si Hmad. When I researched Dar Si Hmad’s work to provide water to rural communities and empower young people, I did not hesitate to get in touch. I worked with Jamila Bargarch, Dar Si Hmad’s Executive Director, and Maisie Breit, the former EFS Manager, to devise a plan for how I would use the Labouisse Fellowship to support some of the organization’s new projects during my time in Morocco.  After spending so many hours reading and writing about Agadir it felt surreal to be moving to the city for an entire year in late June.

One of the main projects that I am working on here at Dar Si Hmad is the new capacity building project. I am working closely with Jamila and Hafida Mazoud, DSH’s Communications Officer, to design and implement an eight-month-long training series for a group of small associations in Agadir, Tiznit and Sidi Ifni regions. Our beneficiaries are working with a diverse range of issues, such as literacy in refugee communities, women’s empowerment through income-generating initiatives, the preservation of cultural manuscripts, and the use of solar energy in villages. In the training, we will cover topics such as administration, financial management, and program management.
Our Intern Katie and
Communication officer Hafida
The goal of this project is to equip local leaders with stronger management skills so that they can expand their organizations’ reach and social impact more effectively. Each participant will develop and implement a new project or campaign by the program’s conclusion in June. We intend to equip participants with the tools to materialize their visions to change their communities. We are also committed to incorporating principles of environmental sustainability and gender inclusion throughout the project. I am especially hopeful that this capacity building workshop will continue to benefit communities in southern Morocco long after my fellowship concludes.      
In addition to my work on the capacity building project, I am assisting Jamila with research on Dar Si Hmad’s ongoing fog project. Outside of the office, I enjoy trying delicious new pastries from the bakeries around Agadir and going to BodyPump classes. I am improving my Darija, and I have recently started learning Tachelhit with Lahcen, a teacher who partners with Dar Si Hmad. I wrote my undergraduate thesis about how Tuareg communities attained mass literacy in the Tifinagh script, so I always try to read the Tachelhit signs written in the Tifinagh script around the city. 
If you see me in the DSH office, I am always excited to hear new recommendations on books about Morocco, as I am trying to learn as much as I can during my stay here! 
 Katie at the office

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Learning Across Continents: My first travel abroad experience

Written by DSH intern Ambar Khawaja:

Ambar Khawaja is an American intern on a gap year of service through UNC’s Global Gap Year Fellowship. She is working with us on an upcoming project that we will reveal more information about in the future on our blog. 

Traveling means a different thing to each person who experiences it. When I was preparing to come to Morocco, I had no idea what it would mean to me. I listened to stories of other people’s travels overseas with wide eyes, peppering them with questions with the intent to satisfy what I believed I had not yet experienced. 
I spent hours scrolling through my social media, seeing beautiful, vibrant images of adventures and locations in different countries. These images fed into the preconceived notion I had of traveling and living abroad, which I have now learned is highly misrepresentative of one’s true experience. Life here is not constantly the “picture perfect” snapshot you imagine when moving to a foreign country; Instead, it resembles life in general, with its ups and downs, but with tremendous space to grow.
There are many facets of my identity that have helped me blend into Agadir. As an 18-year-old, Muslim, Pakistani-American woman, I physically do not stand out in the crowd. Basic words, like “salam”, “shukrun”, and “inshallah” come easily to me because of my second language: Urdu. At a glance, I am just like everyone else around me, but ask me a question in Darija and you will be met with a blank stare. 
The first thing I learned how to say when I arrived was “ana Pakistaniya” so that I could communicate to the confused Moroccans around me that I myself was not Moroccan. This physical similarity with those surrounding me has given me some privileges, like not being overcharged by a taxi or not being stared at like a tourist while walking down the street. Conversely, it has made my experience traveling as an American much more complex than I expected. Because of this situation, however, I have learned an absurd amount about myself and my skills, or lack thereof in some cases.
On the surface, I fit in, but the nagging knowledge that I don’t speak the language or know the culture as well lends itself to a lot of cognitive dissonance. I definitely feel embarrassed when the person I am out with has to explain that I speak English, however, I wonder if this sense of self-consciousness is because my looks don’t match up with my language. I ask myself “how different would I feel if I matched the stereotypical image of a white American”, and “how would the privilege of looking like what my nationality is ‘supposed’ to look like change my interactions with people”. 
This photo was taken by Ambar

I have observed that it is more likely for local people to change the way they approach a conversation with this stereotypical image of an American because they feel the need to adapt to them, rather than the foreigner to adapt to the culture they are in. This is the privilege of speaking English. However, I appreciate my physical appearance making it more difficult for Moroccans to pinpoint where I am from, because I am then placed into more situations where I must adapt to this new language environment. Sometimes I must resort to speaking in English, but this is because I understand the limits I have when trying to communicate in French or Darija.
The language barrier has been the single most difficult experience for me thus far. When I first arrived, I found myself speaking a mix of English, Urdu, and Spanish, since these languages lead to conversations in my world. Pointing, hand gestures, and shaking my head “no” have proved to be an effective way of communication for me when my interlocutor doesn’t understand English. While humorous on many levels, it has also provided me with the opportunity to learn non-verbal communication skills and living with a host family has given me the chance to sharpen them. 
My host mom, in particular, speaks very little English, yet we have formed a beautiful bond in the short amount of time I have spent here. Helping out in the kitchen, watching the sunset together in awe and admiration, having the same faith, and sharing photos of each others’ lives has created a relationship between us that couldn’t have been created by words, since words sometimes get in the way of moments. This is not to say that language is not beneficial since our relationship is finding new joys in language exchange, with me starting to learn Darija and teaching my host mom words in English. Learning the language of the place I am living in will also remove the barriers I have in trying to interact with locals and will prevent my overarching privilege of speaking English from interfering in conversations. Lucky for me though, I do not face these problems in my workplace.

Our intern Ambar working at the office
  I have found a lot of purpose in my work here as an intern. Being the youngest person in the office has helped me fine-tune some of my skills since I am constantly surrounded with more experienced coworkers offering me constructive criticism to help improve and add to what I already know. It’s an interesting experience to learn more about my capabilities by doing things I have not done before, like tutoring English and planning programs for high schoolers. 
Being in the presence of these amazing people has helped me adjust much faster to living here than I would have if I had to figure out everything alone. Because I have people to show me their favorite places in the city and teach me how to order food or buy something at the “hanout”, the transition has been much smoother. I have been given a solid foundation on which to venture out alone on.
A picture of the souk "taken by Ambar"
Traveling solo for the first time has enforced the concept that I am accountable for myself. There is no external reason that I can’t go out and try something new, face a fear, or take a risk. All of my choices are in my own hands, and that is a very liberating feeling to have because it opens up my life to a lot of personal growth. Now is the perfect time for me absorb everything around me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Opération café (Operation coffee)

Written by DSH Intern: Ayman Taleb

Dar Si Hmad (DSH) officially started “l’opération café” in August 2018. This operation is about a partnership with restaurants and coffee shops in order to collect their organic waste. The main objective of DSH is to create a compost for its project of Agdal farm. This operation is raising awareness to the need to sort out waste.

The farm situated in Ait Baamrane was put at the disposal of the Association by the beneficiaries of the famous fog project on the mount Boutmezguida. In the region of Sidi Ifni, this farm will become a didactic nursery presenting the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, the valuation of the old farming practices of the Al Andalus, and the capitalization of the knowledge and the local customs.

Moreover, the creation of worthy economic opportunities (processed and raw products with high added value) makes it possible to mitigate the rural migration. Finally, training in irrigation techniques will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the low-cost use of water.

The first challenge of this farm project is the regeneration of soils. Indeed, the desertification due to the aridity of the region gets worse year after year with the decrease of organic matter rates. Opération café (operation coffee) is a direct answer to the effects of soil degradation. By collecting mainly coffee waste, sugar canes, and other fruits wastes, it will be possible to compost the organic matter to give life and revive the soil.

The preparatory phase of the operation consisted of creating a new dedicated logo (label). In this way, any other individual or legal entity who needs to collect organic matter for its soil regeneration project can become a distributor of this logo. Several agroecological project holders already collect organic waste from their partners.

The logo above is directly part of raising awareness of waste management that is considered as an important pillar of the Green Morocco Plan (Plan Maroc Vert). As a partner in this project, the restaurant and coffee shop owner declares to be aware and conscious of the evolution 99-12 law, where there’s the national charter of the environment and sustainable development. The restaurant owner is proactive in preparing her / his staff for the need of sorting out waste and seeks to reduce its volume.

The second phase began in the middle of August with the distribution of the bins that are dedicated to collect coffee grounds. These bins relate information and contain the logo of the coffee operation.

The third phase will consist of the regular production of compost in Agdal farm which we will continue writing about in future posts.

Lack of information, the resistance to the change or the management of space are the first walls to be broken by restaurants and coffee managers. Here we greet the first five restaurants that have agreed to be part of this Challenge.

If you want to encourage this campaign and be a changemaker just by drinking coffee, you can visit our first partners which are:

- Pizzatino: located in Avenue Al Mouqawama

Pizzatino Staff with our intern Ayman Taleb (manager of operation cafe)

- Rituels: Located In front of Lobnan mosque, Agadir.

Moulay Youssef, the barista is very enthusiastic about the operation café
Manager of La Fontaine with Ayman
Our intern Ayman at Orange Cafe

Our director Jamila Bargach and Intern ayman
at Restaurant Cafe La Cossa Vanille
The coffee operation is a win-win project aimed at inspiring each actor to become aware of the environmental crisis. This publication is a call to the restaurants and coffee shop owners of Agadir to join this pilot project.

We are very optimistic about the rest of this project and we will keep you updated on our future partnership and progress.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Unsung Hero # 11, Sara!

Interview with Sara Saba

Sara Saba in an American intern at Dar Si Hmad working with
the RISE Program and curriculum translation.
Interview conducted on 13 March 2018.

What is your name and how old are you?
My name is Sara Saba and I am 18 years old.

Where are you from?
I am from Tucson, Arizona in the United States.

How long will you be in Agadir?
I’ve been in Agadir for about two and a half weeks, and I will be
here for another four weeks.

Where do you currently go to school?
I am currently a senior [final year] at BASIS Tucson North High
School in Tucson.

What brought you to Agadir/ DSH?
My high school has an opportunity for seniors to pursue an independent
research project or internship during their final trimester of school. Most
students do their projects domestically, but I knew I wanted to do
something abroad if I could find the right opportunity. I knew that I
wouldn’t necessarily have this time again to pursue any type of project/
internship that I wanted, so I had to make the most of it. I heard about
Dar Si Hmad through a family member, and the organization caught my
interest because of its mission and values. The combination of environmental
work and giving back to the community [through programs like RISE and the
Oasis School] was very interesting and inspiring to me. I was drawn to Dar
Si Hmad as a result of its many approaches to provide different types of aid
to this community. Thankfully, it worked out so that I could travel abroad for
my final trimester and intern at a place I’m really interested in.

Describe your role at DSH.
I’ve been helping with the curriculum design and facilitation of the new RISE
program this semester with Georgia, Alex, Natalie, Maisie, Hafida and Ayman.
In addition, I’m going to be helping Soufian and Karima with translation of the
Oasis School curriculum from French into English. I am also pursuing an
independent project to understand the experiences of young people in Morocco
and the issues they face, which directly ties into this semester RISE. I’ll be
creating a video interview series to achieve this, and I hope to involve our
current RISErs.

What is your favorite part about coming to DSH?
Dandara is definitely one of my favorite parts about coming into Dar
Si Hmad. She is so adorable, and I love it when she plays with me or
naps on my backpack while I’m working. It’s also been really exciting
to get to know all of the DSH staff and interns as well as all of the RISE
participants. I’ve really enjoyed all of these new experiences meeting
people who have grown up in a place so different from me and to see
so many similarities in regards to our ideas, passions, challenges and interests.

What are you hoping to achieve during your time here?
I would really like to work on understanding other people’s perspectives,
especially the RISE students’, and to learn more about my own perspectives
as an American. I hope to obtain a better sense of where people’s perspectives,
ideas and thoughts stem from as a result of the environment they’ve grown
up in.

What is one thing you’d like everyone to know about DSH?
Don’t discount organizations based on their size. Even though Dar Si Hmad
is such a small organization, they have made such a large impact with their
work, and they possess so much potential. The people and projects here
are truly impressive and inspiring.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Unsung Hero #10, Ayman

Interview with Ayman Taleb

Ayman is a local intern here at Dar Si Hmad who is heavily involved in
the new semester of RISE this year. He plays a very important role as a
young Moroccan and RISE alumni himself in the curriculum design and
facilitation of the RISE sessions.

What is your name and how old are you?
My name is Ayman Taleb and I am 24 years old.

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Agadir, but my parents are from Essaouira, and it feels
like a second home to me as well. .

Are you currently in school/ studying and if so where?
Last year I got my masters in Quality Safety and Environmental Management
specializing in food safety from FST (Faculty of Science and Technology) Beni Mellal
in Mohammedia

Describe your role at DSH/ how you became involved with DSH
I had always heard about Dar Si Hmad and their fog harvesting project
and was really interested by the work that they do. I began following them
on social media and coincidentally came across the advertisement for the RISE
program and application last semester with two days left to apply. I knew I had
to apply, so I did and was accepted. I’ve been in touch with Dar Si Hmad ever since.
Last semester, Maisie helped me out with another program that I was applying
for, and through that we shared our mutual interest and passion in social issues.
As a result, when I heard about the RISE session assistant position, I applied
immediately. I am now currently a RISE session assistant, so I help plan the
sessions, design the new curriculum for this semester and help facilitate the
sessions. The goal of my position is to make it easier for participants to share
personal experiences and help connect our American interns to understand
how these social issues are presented in Moroccan society.   

What is your favorite part about coming to DSH?
The staff and interns here are my favorite part about coming into Dar Si Hmad!
When I come here I feel like I have a purpose. There’s magnificent, positive
energy here. Everyone is so open minded, and I love how the office maintains
professionalism while also being open, engaging and supportive. There’s a big f
ocus on the relationships between everyone in the office. I feel like I am a part
of something big and special when I come into Dar Si Hmad.

What is one thing you’d like everyone to know about DSH?
Everyone at Dar Si Hmad is so enthusiastic and genuine. There’s a shared
excitement for the work here, and your voice and opinions will always be
heard. There’s no hierarchy here. It’s very cooperative and collaborative, and
I love being apart of an office like this.

What is one of your most memorable moments at DSH thus far?
Some of the other interns and staff here at Dar Si Hmad did a mock interview for
me in preparation for a big interview I had coming up, and I have never felt so
much support as I did in that moment. I felt so capable of achieving anything I
set my mind to. They gave me some great advice and helped me believe in
myself and my skills. The support meant so much to me, and I’ll never forget
that experience.

What are you hoping to achieve during your time here?
I hope to help create a supportive and safe environment in RISE so everyone
feels free to express and share their personal experiences and stories. I would
also like to develop my professional skills through helping facilitate RISE
sessions and learn more about how NGOs are run.