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, July 12, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Learning across one continent

Written by DSH intern Walid Zarrad:

Walid Zarrad is a Tunisian intern in Dar Si Hmad who has demonstrated strong organizational skills in managing the organization's inventory, both in Agadir and in Sidi Ifni, during his stay in Morocco.

While traveling to a new culture, you learn something new every second. It might sound cliché but from the moment you arrive, lessons start flooding in; and these lessons include everything from culture studies to linguistics.
As a Tunisian, I thought traveling to a country as close as Morocco would mean avoiding the culture school. I quickly understood that instead of learning new things, I would be learning new things and comparing them to what I’m familiar with. In other words, the subtle yet omnipresent differences turned my trip into a game of “let’s find out how, why, and to what extend this is different!” And I loved it.
During my month in Agadir, I learned to turn into a sponge whenever I entered a drugstore or café. Hell, even walking down the street I wanted to grasp as much information as possible. What I used to believe was extra mental labor turned into a hobby.
And what better place to practice this hobby than Dar Si Hmad? I walk in and see hard-working, friendly, and diverse staff members mixing their different backgrounds to come up with outstanding projects. I walk in and meet student researches who are happy to teach me and learn from me. I walk in and learn how to use the anthropology that fascinates me to help communities in need.

This trip confirmed to me that every culture is an iceberg with a small part the world sees and a huge part you have to dive in the waters to find out about. And nothing is more fun and challenging than diving in head first. If you’re lucky enough, the swim will turn into a thousand questions. I was constantly thinking about all the factors that could have influenced a specific difference between Moroccans and Tunisians: is it the different decolonization processes? Is it the different approaches to arabization and westernization? Or is it just different geographies?

I am writing this from the top of Mount Boutmezguida, next to Dar Si Hmad’s Cloudfishers. Although I‘m 1225 culture meters high, I can see that higher mountains are ahead of me. I can’t wait.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Summer Tech Camp 2019: Another Succesful Edition

Written by DSH intern, Ms. Salwa El Haouti
Additional to the multiple events Dar Si Hmad embraced during June of this year, the last week of the month has also witnessed the completion of the second edition of the Summer Tech Camp with satisfactory results. This educational program, which aimed at initiating underprivileged teenage girls to the digital world, also served girls with average prior knowledge on the use of the internet.
Although the main focus of this instructional program was the teaching of technology as its name indicates, the syllabi developed for the teenage beneficiaries comprised a number of other concerns all of which would certainly serve them on both the short term, as high school students, and the long term as active members in the job market and the society.
The first day of the camp was an opportunity for the beneficiaries to know one another and for the instructors to present an overall of the schedule of the week before inciting the girls to create their own classroom constitution. That session was also marked with the introduction to the technical jargon in relation to the computer, starting from the components of the hardware to the essential terminology that pertains to its software. The girls were also taught some ABC’s on surfing the web and were assigned some Web quests as a practice. Watching a Ted talk beforehand on the merits of being an IT girl and discussing it also contributed to maximizing the attention and interest of the Summer Tech Camp’s beneficiaries.

Day 2 was a continuation of the previous day’s lesson. This time, the girls were initiated to the web extensions and were offered examples on the ones they will most benefit from as young web browsers. Since all the girls are about to enter high school, it was necessary to show them how to use Google Docs and Google Slides. Above all, they were further instructed on how to detect real news and information from fake ones using internet tools, as they will be assigned to do divers researches from high school onward, all by giving the credit to the publisher of any content in order not to commit any plagiarism.
The third day of the summer tech camp started outdoors by visiting the local Amazighi museum of Agadir. This visit was an opportunity for the girls to learn and rectify many fallacious and erroneous ideas they once had on the Amazighi culture and history. The tour they had was intentionally planned to stimulate the girls’ curiosity on what one can learn in the museums and thus feel eager to visit more of them. Back in Dar Si Hmad, we guided them to websites where they could have a virtual 3D visit to internationally known museums such as the Louvre Museum in Paris. Having access to such content would definitely reinforce their overall historical and cultural knowledge, which will indeed benefit them throughout their lives. The afternoon of that session covered the right techniques of taking pictures and shooting a video, and also guided the girls to some editing platforms where they could modify and improve the quality of their pictures or make a short video film.
On the fourth day of the program, the girls demonstrated great interest and engagement with the course content. That day was consecrated to coding and Artificial Intelligence and had included many tasks for practice. The learners were then directed to some beginners’ coding websites, where they could learn and also practice the coding as they did inside the classroom. Each young girl by the end of the session has created an HTML web page, which comprised a head and a body where pictures and videos were also attached. In the last quarter of the day’s program, the focus was mainly put on the AI where the girls expressed clear astonishment at the level the technological field has reached.
The morning of day five was spent in the beach of Agadir. The girls had a blast playing competitive games with one another. They clearly needed a pause from the serious subjects they have tackled in class the previous days. The afternoon was also spared for them to make their own DIY projects where they gave vent to their creativity.

Similarly to the fourth day, the sixth one also evoked the engagement of the girls, but this time in deep discussion about themselves, how much do they know about their strengths and weaknesses and to what extent do they exploit their potential. The girls complained about the poor orientation they get in their schools about the educational prospects ahead of them, the organizing team of the camp also held a session of orientation where the girls’ questions and ambiguities were finally clarified. Moreover, scholarships’ opportunities for both high school and university students were also presented to the beneficiaries of the program, as they were also provided with tips on how to maximize their chances of getting one.
Day 7 was the last day of the camp and it was a chance for the girls to demonstrate what they had acquired throughout the week. The participants did a power point presentation on one of the various matters, which were treated during the program. The presentations were pretty inventive and originative as they tackled what they have learned from different perspectives.
Since this day marked the end of the camp, it, of course, included a number of fun activities before the participation certificates were given to the young beneficiaries. By all accounts, the week’s program described above is indeed a strong evidence on how successful the Summer Tech Camp of the year 2019 has been.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Capacity Building Program Closing Ceremony

Written by DSH fellow Katie Tyler
After eight months of lots of hard work, learning, relationship building, and fun, the Capacity Building Project has come to a conclusion!
This past Saturday we met with our participants and two of our trainers for the Capacity Building Closing Ceremony. Each pair of participants from the same NGO presented on their organization’s work to launch a new project based on the knowledge they have gained throughout the training workshops. Our participants have been hard at work during the past six weeks to turn their visions into concrete plans for change.
We were incredibly impressed by their innovative ideas as well as the amount they have learned over the course of the past eight months. The participants used tactics such as SWOT analyses, SMART goals, problem and solution trees, and GANTT charts to analyze their projects’ potential impacts and make thoughtful action plans. We expect to see great things from each participant in the coming months, as well as throughout the duration of their long and successful careers! 
After the participants finished sharing their plans for new projects, two of our trainers gave their feedback on the presentations as well as their final thoughts on the success of the training workshop series.  Our NGO president, Aissa Derham, and our Executive Director, Jamila Bargach, also gave concluding remarks on the work that went into developing this program. We celebrated our achievements with a delicious lunch prepared by our cooks Aatiqa and Hadda.
However, the impact of the Capacity Building Program does not end here! We have developed a Capacity Building Training manual in Darija that covers useful information for NGOs to develop their organizations. Each participant was given extra copies to distribute among interested leaders in development across southern Morocco. We also plan to make this manual available online to those who want to learn more about building their NGO’s capacity and maximizing their organization’s impact.
Although the program has officially ended, I hope that the participants will continue to maintain their relationships with each other and with Dar Si Hmad in order to support each other in their tireless work to support their communities. Since the goal of the Capacity Building Project was not merely to deliver instructions for change but rather to equip participants with the tools to improve themselves and those around them, participants will be able to continue to draw upon their knowledge to build NGOs’ capacity. Perhaps Dar Si Hmad will launch another Capacity Building Workshop, and these participants will lead their own initiatives to build other organizations’ capacities! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

RISE Citizen Journalism Closing Ceremony

Written by DSH intern, Ms. Salwa El Haouti
Group picture of the Graduated RISERs
It was ten in the morning when RISE participants of this year’s edition started gathering in Dar Si Hmad’s conference room. As they all came packed with journalistic realizations to present during the closing ceremony, they also took great delight in gathering again with their fellow RISERS with whom they have shared this incredible journey.
When the small talks and chit-chats began to end, the presentations started taking place.  While attending the ceremony, one would hardly fail to notice the pride and contentment that RISE organizers and facilitators expressed towards the satisfactory work that the young ‘’future citizen journalists’’ have demonstrated. The realizations varied from articles and op-eds on the scams that tourists face in Agadir to expressive photographs on homelessness in the city. 
Ms. Hasna Belkdim during her presentation
The journalistic realizations of the risers also included audio-visual reportages, one of which had absorbingly conveyed the idea of losing the sense of guilt and how such a thing can result in ingrained heedless and defective habits. Podcasts were also produced for this closing ceremony. One of them tackled the issue of using chemical products in the agricultural domain, and further inspected their aftereffects on the environment and the laborers of the fields. Overall, the risers made use of different means of communication to discuss and report divers’ topics and matters.
RISE 2019 closing ceremony was marked by two breaks. The first one was a game in which everybody had to disperse in the room and walk randomly in different directions. Once the signal is given by the coordinator of the activity, each person had to join the closest person walking near them. When assembled, they had to find out three mutual things between them and share them with the class. In the second round of the game, the two regrouped participants had to start the walking again until they are told to gather with the closest duo to them but this time to learn four non-previously mentioned common things between them
The final reflections game 
The activity carried on the same way until all the participants ended up making one large circle and trying to discover as many mutual things between them as possible. It was gladdening to learn that everyone, spoke Darija pretty well, though not everybody was Moroccan or grew up in Morocco. The second break, on the other hand, was a moment of food sharing on the rooftop of the building where a buffet of finger food and drinks were served.
The closing ceremony of RISE 2019 was concluded with Mrs.Bargach’s word and that of all the organizing team members of this year’s RISE program, namely MS.Mazoud, MS. Arjdal, MS.Tyler and MS.Elboute. The time left afterward was an opportunity for all the beneficiaries of the program and their trainers to express their gratitude to anyone in the room that they feel they deserve a special word of kindness. And of course, like any other final congregation of a group of people, the risers felt more connected to one another during the ceremony than any other day of the training. They expressed strong willingness to stay in touch with one another and even conceived and considered starting a new group project of citizen journalists.
Ms. Oumaima Maghfour accepting her certificate

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Preparation for Summer Tech Camp 2019 is Well Underway!

Written by DSH intern, Ms. Saloua El Haouti 
Our team preparing to receive summer camp beneficiaries 
After the huge success that the first edition of the Summer Tech Camp had achieved, the program’s team members have planned for another prosperous edition with the same objectives. Dar Si Hmad’s summer camp targets middle school girls from underprivileged families and aims at introducing these young teenagers to the basics of Information Technology literacy.
With that objective in mind, the Summer Tech camp team headed to Abdelali Benchkroun Middle School in Ben Sergaou, one of the least served areas in the suburbs of the city of Agadir. In this educational institution, many students are unaware of the fundamentals of using a computer. In fact, most of them don’t even have one in their homes and thus far fail to turn it on, as was noticed from the previous edition of the camp and was also demonstrated by the applicants to this new year’s program.
Jamila, one of the summer camp facilitators
Dar Si Hmad staff is entirely committed to this program, but we also have a great team dedicated solely to Summer Camp, which consists of 3 young sessions facilitators who work with us as part-time consultants; Ms. Imane Arjdal, Ms. Saloua Elhaouti, and Ms. Jamila Bendhi who are led by Dar Si Hmad employee Ms. Mazoud.
In order to fairly and accurately choose the appropriate beneficiaries for the Summer Tech Camp, the organizing team has meticulously considered the girls’ grades in language and scientific courses, their aspirations for the future, their objectives for participating in the program and, above all, their possession for a digital gadget such as a mobile phone and a computer as well as whether they have a Facebook account or make any use of the internet.
Orientation session at Abdelali Benchkroun
The priority was generally granted to the pupils with the least access to technology and the ones with the greatest motivation and desire to explore the utilities and wonders of the digital world. With the awareness of the merits, usefulness and power of mastering numerous technological tools in this era, Dar Si Hmad Summer Tech Camp’s team has prepared a comprehensive program that will enable the beneficiaries to maximize their profit of using the computer for personal and educational purposes.
In the first week of preparation, prior to the beginning of the camp, Dar Si Hmad held the opening doors for the parents of the teenage girls who were nominated to participate in this year’s Summer Tech Camp. After presenting the organization’s mission and objectives, the camp’s team members gave an overview of the project’s program to which both the beneficiaries and their guardians expressed great interest and excitement, all with sincere gratitude for creating such an enriching and free of charge opportunity for their children.
During our meetings with the parents of the students
The following days were dedicated to update the program’s syllabi. The Summer Tech Camp organizer and facilitators gathered to work on developing the different courses which tackled multiple topics from the basic digital literacy to artificial intelligence and coding. This year’s program also includes an in-depth exploration course for the personality discovery and the acknowledgment of one’s self strengths, in addition to a guidance session on the different career paths the girls can choose to follow.
Indeed, the Summer Tech Camp is meant to instruct young underprivileged girls on the basics of the various uses of technology. Nevertheless, the program of this camp also includes multiple entertaining and amusing activities to make the learning fun and to ensure that the girls’ experience in Dar Si Hmad would stay as beneficial and memorable as possible.
Ms. Mazoud, the camp manager putting the final touches

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Let Me Tell You about the Mountains in Morocco!

Written by our former intern, Ms. Ambar Khawaja

Ambar during her stay in Morocco

Let me tell you about the mountains in Morocco. As you begin to climb them, you look up to see the sun shining through the clouds and the peaks peeking out above them. As you continue forward, you begin to find yourself in the fog. This fog can be bothersome, because you want to be able to see the top and the climb is no longer as scenic as it started out. It clouds your vision. It seems like forever until you are out of the fog, but as you keep walking you start to brim with joy and thankfulness because you can once again see clearly. You are high above everything, watching the world move along at what seems like such a slow pace in the grand scheme of things. Perspective.
I once was the girl who thought she had her life figured out:
1.    Graduate high school accomplished;
2.    Go to a good college and major in neuroscience;
3.    Get my PhD and do research on the brain;
4.    Get tenure at a university so that I can be a professor and have my own lab;
5.    Amongst all of this, travel the world
Truthfully, this was not entirely my dream. It was a mixture of the dreams of the people I’ve looked up to and it was sculpted by how society views success. I was equipped for this specific version of life and did not expect to deviate from it. I had such certainty chasing after these goals. Everyone was in awe of my drive and determination to reach the end; but it seemed like even if I did reach the end, I would never reach satisfaction. I felt empty without praise because my worth was based off of my achievements. It was no wonder that when I reached a new goal, I would either become stalled or feel like there was still something lacking. The thought that there is always someone better than me out there constantly seeped into my mind. This led to a cycle of chasing prestige, recognition, and anything else that I could use to make myself feel better about my worth. I never knew that success and despair could happen simultaneously, and that the former could cause the latter. I didn’t know how to just be.

Taken by Ambar

What do people do in the in-between of life? The in-between is what I refer to as the space that occupies the emptiness between my failures and my successes. It’s my worst mental enemy, but if handled correctly it can be my best mental friend. I would like to point out that this space that baffled me is actually just called life by most people, and that the accomplishment-hungry-me just didn’t know what living actually was yet.
While my goals and accomplishments were a large part of my life, they weren’t the only part, and I was neglecting the rest of myself. I was becoming unaware of the many other layers I contained as a person, leading me to be hollow.
At times like this, far away from home on another continent, where people speak another language and I know virtually nothing, I am sitting in my room reflecting and writing about the changes I have noticed in the month and a half I’ve spent here. Worries are less, small mistakes are forgiven easier, and I am not basing my value on achievement. Here, people do not care about what you have done as much as they care about the kind of person you are; whether you are kind and how willing you are to try and learn. Finally, in a place where I know nothing, I can learn everything without self-judgement. I do not have the pressure to always be doing something in a society that puts emphasis on busyness. What a privilege. Finally, I am learning to act in the in-between. I am emptying the pot that everyone poured their hearts and souls into and putting it in storage so that I can begin to fill my own. Each is important. One is what I came from and what I am made of, and the other is what I will become.

My community pumped me with love and purpose, so even though I didn’t expect to deviate from my original life plans, I was prepared for it. My family, mentors, teachers, and friends are only some of the people who helped inflate me so that I could learn to fill up my skin. Creating a community for myself was a conscious choice. Yes, I am uncertain about my future place in the world. My plans are changing, and I don’t know what I am meant to do. Purpose is such a heavy word that calls my name. At a time like this, I have found that my immense skill of worrying is truly no help to me, but the simple human action of breathing serves to be the best mechanism to assist me. Life has taken me this far, and the universe has created a path and given me all the signs I need to follow it along to my destination.
Every day I may find myself in the foggy place, I remember the top of the mountain I’ve always reached, regardless of my worries, confusion, and uncertainty. Faith is showing me my way, step by step. I need to take the time to pause and remember the grand scheme of the universe. Every small mistake I have made will not crush me, and every person who doesn’t like me doesn’t diminish my value.
Where do I go from here? Besides wherever life is taking me, I have learned that I need to place more effort into self-validation rather than external validation. I need to remember to learn from everyone, because everyone has something to teach me, whether good or bad. It’s silly to think that any given life has nothing of substance. I should not be so quick to judge others and instead I should grow my patience by realizing that I too have made mistakes. However, I need to continue to become better at discerning those who are toxic and become wiser with how I invest my energy and who I invest in. Above all, I want to become a person that jumps into the unknown quicker because it is always an opportunity to grow, and I must always make time to reflect on how far I have come and where I want to go next.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

RISE Citizen Journalism 2019: Session 6, 7 and 8 Run Down

Written by Ms. Hafida Mazoud
Group picture with Peace Corps Volunteer Ms. Cassandra
We cannot believe how quickly time flies! It is already Week 8, and we have one more extra session. The upcoming meeting with our all of our RISERs will be at the Closing Ceremony. Before jumping on how this session went, let us first give you a brief recap.
The fifth session that was conducted back on May 19th was about photojournalism. We invited a Peace Corps Volunteer, Ms. Cassandra Broadwing, to facilitate this session. The objective of this session was to enable the RISERs to identify the components of a compelling image to articulate the ethics of photojournalism and to pitch their own ideas for a photo essay to promote social change and social justice in Agadir.  
Ms. Cassandra started the session by projecting the photo of an Afghan girl taken by Steve McCurry. She asked our participants if they recognized the picture first and what they could describe by taking a closer look. After she then told them about her story and projected a short video documenting the rest of the story about this girl and how 17 years later the National Geographic team found the girl and took the second picture of her.
The Egg Activity
Between the two pictures, that girl had faced and experienced many things, and her unrequested fame didn’t help her but instead made her life even harder. This led our facilitator to start a discussion about whether what the photographer leaves out of the image is just as important as what he or she captures. She also addressed the strengths of using photography to tell stories as well as its weaknesses.
This session was an opportunity for the participants to learn about the elements of photography, what makes a photo compelling and how a photo can make you feel something. Ms. Cassandra asked one of the participants to help her do an activity where the participants shined a light on an egg with a drawn face in order to use light to portray an evil face, a sad face, or a happy, angelic face just by changing the light angles.
Photojournalism is photography, but the reverse is not necessarily true. To illustrate the differences between these two concepts, they talked about photojournalism and ethics, empathy, media bias, and how it is a journalist's duty to remain emotionally aware and empathetic.
Before closing this session, we gave a handout to our participants that helped them brainstorm the idea they want to tackle in their photo essay assignment and explained the tools and the data they need in order to research the idea.
RISERs taking shots of their partners
Video Journalism was the theme of the following session. The session was led by Ms. Katie Tyler and our intern Ms. Imane Arjdal who helped our RISERs define what is videojournalism and its different forms. Later, they were introduced to the different phases of videojournalism from pre-production, production, and post-production.
Practicing videojournalism as an amateur or a professional was also brought up during the discussion. This led to explaining what digital and visual storytelling is, its ABCs and how you can exercise these principles through video production. We also covered how video editing can help to refine the final product to achieve a smooth, unbroken flow of the narrative.
In regard to the narrative, we talked about narration and the use of a strong narrative voice. As an example, we played a video of Morgan Freeman and studied how the use of his voice gives a different perspective for the story.
We are not contradicting with what we said above, but we always love to challenge our RISERs’ creativity, and we asked them to produce a video with a journalistic approach about any topic they want without spoken words. They could use subtitles, infographics or background music to help deliver their story. 
Game time during the session
Now we arrived to the eighth week which was the last taught session of the RISE Citizen Journalism Program 2019. This session was about environmental journalism, and its goal was to show that the environment is not a faraway issue that only affect glaciers, but it contains crises that touch us every day, and this is why having a journalistic coverage is a must!
We then distributed two different printed articles and asked the participants to compare the different writing styles, such as whether the style was descriptive, narrative, or both. One of the articles we chose for them was about how climate change is creating a rise of child brides. They were blown away by the connection and realized that if they analyze many environmental issues, they would find a direct consequence of that issue in their lives or the lives of others around them. We concluded this session by watching a video that discusses the differences between facts and opinion as well as and what is truth.
The participants requested many times to conduct a session where they can learn about how to study abroad and find scholarships. Our RISE team could not be happier to answer their request and provide them with the opportunity to discuss and learn more about this topic for one more extra informative session organized during the first week of Ramadan. 
Group photo with Ms. Tasnim