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.

Monday, November 4, 2019

First month on the job: Juggling Moving-In and Starting Work

Written by Perry Demarche


Since I joined the Dar Si Hmad team one month ago, things have been hectic! In addition to moving to a new country, I have had to adjust to a completely new job. Through all this chaos, however, everyone in the office has been incredibly welcoming and helpful in teaching me the ropes.

When I first arrived in Agadir, I had to find an apartment, move-in, unpack, learn where to buy groceries and apartment necessities, meet my new neighbours and make new friends, explore a new city, and finish all the onboarding processes for work. So many colleagues helped make this a smooth transition for me by driving me to look at apartments, helping me acclimate to the office, teaching me about Dar Si Hmad, showing me around the city, and sharing delicious food with me.


I have also hit the ground running with work. Within my first few weeks, I have learned how to use all Dar Si Hmad’s internal software, created English content for various projects and our website, made all new flyers and forms for our programs, found new language students and teachers, worked with potential researchers, reviewed program materials and academic research, met our partners, applied to conferences, taken 10 hours of Darija lessons… and so much more! Work is always busy, but I have been loving every second. 

Balancing moving to a new country and starting a new job is a challenge, but everyone at the Dar Si Hmad office has been extremely welcoming and kind. We’ve already had quite a bit of fun as well, including eating welcome couscous, celebrating a birthday for one of our language students, and enjoying some Halloween treats. I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!


Monday, October 28, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories, Mohammad Hamou-Ali, Fog-Water Project Assistant

Free interpretation based on Mohammad’s interview

In December 2018, I received a frantic phone call from Timtda village that water was leaking from a buried pipe.  I quickly made it to the house in question and, indeed, the entry to the house was getting muddier because the buried pipe seems to be leaking.  The grandfather comes out of the house in a state of panic and seemingly quite distraught saying that “my grandson was playing here and cut off the pipe”.  This seemed odd, how can a 7 year old, even playing rough reach a pipe buried at 60 cm deep?  What did he play with to cause such a damage?  This story somehow was unlikely but given the venerable age of this man, I could not ask any further and I had to fix the water leak as this affects water availability to the remaining households.

As I was digging, the grandfather went inside to make tea.  The child stayed behind and I started asking him about the game he was playing, at which he whispered how it was his grandfather who broke the pipe when trying to install bricks at the entrance of the house. The grandfather was apparently extremely worried that he would be the cause for water shortage in the entire village. It seemed much more befitting to say it was the doing of a child, that is someone with no maturity, not knowing there are consequences to actions and thus can be easily pardoned. That it was an accident did not seem to make sense to the grandfather who thought that just because he caused the leak, he was responsible and may have not only to pay extra-money for the water, but may have to face his fellow-villagers.  Understanding this, I continued working and fixed the leak, I also went in and had tea but never told the grandfather I knew. What was more important is that no water would continue to leak and that, the grandfather and I shared profoundly, no water-waste because we both know how valuable such a substance is. 
Some Playing time after a very hard day of work on the Fog-Water Project

Saturday, October 19, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories, Hadda Bouzouguarh, Chef and Hospitality Manger

The Hardest is Always Bread Allergies

Free adaptation based on interview with Chef Hadda

There is a large repertoire of Moroccan cuisine that I have grown up eating and that I have learned how to cook, but I can never tell you when exactly. I have always been around food, raw, cooked, in the souks and in the pantry, I love food and I love preparing it and sharing it.  I have been the Chef at DSH for the last 3 years and my role is to prepare hearty and authentic Moroccan food to our students and visitors. The tajines of fish from the shores of Sidi Ifni, or the tajines of goat meat with quince, or free range chicken with pickled olives and lemon, or a steaming bowl of beans (lubia), or yet again the skewers of sausages  and zucchini with a side of tomatoes with parsley grilled in the oven are all dishes that are eaten with Bread. For us, bread is the major food-staple, we eat bread accompanied with broth, to translate it literary it is “we ingest bread,” /kanduwzu l-khubz/. Breads are the major staple to us, for breakfast from Rghayef, msemen, beghrir or harsha (all bread types), to Aghrum afornu dripping with Argan oil, to the chfenj of the afternoon (fried bread) dipped in honey, bread is always present, always essential and always necessary, at times it is the only thing that can really fill the hunger, isn’t that otherwise called soul-food?  

So you can imagine my concern when we hosts students who cannot eat bread, not as a matter of choice because it is fattening, but because of increasing instances of gluten intolerance, at times very serious.  I am concerned because I feel they cannot have a full culinary experience of what eating “like a Moroccan” means, I feel concerned because the alternative choices are really limited, and because I worry that such an allergy not be always comprehended by a range of people when they move from our center at DSH. I don’t have a solution, but I have learned to be creative with barley, with maize and with rice-flour that is now available. I take it as my mission to give priority to these students so they still have an exciting culinary experience despite this major limitation. The administration encourages me to be creative and adventurous. At times, I have to compromise the ‘authenticity’ of a recipe if one is to reference the dishes to the traditional recipes handed down generations ago, but I also have to think about the health and safety of the student and the guest. This is my priority and my mission at work is to strive to reach this balance despite constraints. I am always so happy and excited when on their last day the students come, hug me and say a deep-heart thank you; that day I myself don’t eat bread as my soul is in heaven!  



Monday, October 14, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Abdallah El Moutaouif, Accountig and Finance Manager

Life Cycles : Bidding Goodbye, Saying Hello

I have joined DSH in mid 2013, I am what one might call a “fixture” of the organization, there is certainly some humor in being identified as such and I welcome it. Through the years I had to learn to adjusting to living with the life cycles of the organization which can be very taxing emotionally and procedurally. Allow me to explain: the organization welcomes young people with no prior experience and so for us, the core of the DSH administration, we have to spend fair amount of time training the new comers and getting to know them as people. Then following a year or maximum two, a life-cycle, they are looking forward to discovering other worlds. 

Saying goodbye for me is always a painful process; I’ve just gotten used to working with the person, used to having a new support and friend, used to navigating the cultural differences (as often we have different nationalities in our staff and volunteers), and then the time is up for them to leave. And once this happens, the work-load these people used to do, gets re-distributed among us the core of DSH-Administration. There is a strong solidarity among us at the core, and as we adjust to seeing our old colleagues leave and manage our work-load, we look forward to hosting new blood, to saying hello to newcomers. 

There is also an opportunity for us in that as we do each other’s job, we become versatile and can wear any hat in the organization, this is a very strong point. Yet, we are all so much aware of the risk that such turnover can have on the long term for the organization, but we also like to think there is so much positive outcome in this.  We welcome new, enthusiastic, and often very passionate new staff. Surely, and as said before, there yet again the need for time to adjusting, to teaching and to connecting to the new person, but it is largely a positive experience as the youth keep the edge on the work we do as we proudly serve vulnerable communities learn and prosper.

Friday, October 4, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Khadija Changa, Human Ressources Manager

Breaking and leaving the shell 

Since I joined Dar Si Hmad in 2016, my job has always been behind the scenes. I love numbers as I am responsible for the balance sheets of the association; I control the inventory and the fixed assets; and I prepare contracts for my colleagues, partners, or the few consultants. I make sure that Dar Si Hmad’s legal and fiduciary standing are always impeccable and up to date.  Without these documents that indicate that the organization is in good health, that it functions according to the legal standards of Morocco, it can neither seek external funding nor be a steward for the community we service. 

   
Khadija and her colleagues from DSH doing field work in the north of Morocco
But the organization is small, we fluctuate between 7 to 11 employees (depending on the projects we run), and we all have to participate in events even when that is not our specialty. My director proposed me for such public event, speaking about the fog-collection project, to a wide public in Warzazate, a town in Southeast Morocco.  My initial response was to refuse because I felt I could not face up the crowd, that I would lose my voice, that I would never be able to find the right words to respond, …. etc and the list of the doubting, destructive voice is just too long! Everyone in the office at Agadir or travelling from Sidi Ifni sat with me, and each one encouraged me, gave me words of comfort and told me how much they trusted me. I prepared a presentation with numbers, pictures, statistics about the project and rehearsed the presentation in front of everyone. Encouragements and suggestions came from all parts and I left for Warzazate in new garb of self-confidence. 

The day of the presentation, I listened to the speakers before me and then my name was called. I walked to the podium and clicked on the presentation, but to my surprise, the system refused to work even though we had set it before. My heart was pounding and I broke up in a cold sweat, terrified about what to do next. Then I closed my eyes for a moment and remembered the faces of my colleague back in Agadir as they listened to me during the rehearsal. I opened my mouth and the entire presentation came up, with no visuals to aid. Little did I know the technician had fixed the problem and the images were streaming behind my back. I talked and talked, I had broken out and left my shell. I still love the work with numbers, contracts, and colleagues that I am doing, but I also know that I can participate in other venues when and if necessary. DSH works with and services the communities, but we the staff all work together and learn from each other, it has been almost 4 years that I am here and I continue thriving in my work. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Soufian Aaraichi, Project Manager

Within and beyond languages

An intercultural team can be of great advantage when it comes to solving complex problems, as different points of view are coming together. At the same time, cultural diversity comes along with some challenges. We often underestimate the cultural implications to achieve such cooperation.
 
Working with an anthropologist and my first female director, always motivated to recruit collaborators of different cultures together and work as one team, is like handing a set of watercolors to a sketch artist who has always worked with charcoal. Amazigh, Arab, French, American and other cultures opened a whole new range of possibilities and boosts our creativity to decision making and problem solving. However, the applied language appears to be a further problem in communication during our meetings and internal/external communication as we always need intermediator with mono-langual colleagues. While almost 60 percent of the work we do is in English (with some mixing here and there), the language abilities vary greatly.
As project manager/coordinator, I have found myself developing my communication skills and language without realizing in it, swinging with four languages a day. The consequences are often misinterpretations and misunderstandings. It is frustrating and sometimes causes tention! I learn to overcome this challenge by recognising and appreciating the differences and similarities and learning how to deal with them.

I do appreciate to be exposed to intercultural team at Dar Si Hmad and I have experienced how it can be of great advantage. Every culture is unique so there are differences between every single culture. But instead of complaining about these differences, such creative diversity is embraced and integrated into our work concept. By doing this many problems can simply be overcome.

Friday, September 20, 2019

From The Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Salwa El Haouti, Communication Officer


Learning the tools of the Trade


It’s been only two months that I am the communication officer of Dar Si Hmad and yet, I have already had to face many challenges. When I first started in the organization, I was so eager to learn,  to improve and to put to  practice all the communicational skills I had recently acquired through the many courses I completed whether online or at the university, but the priority is that I had to work with a PhD candidate, a CELAR student needing assistance for the research she was conducting here in Morocco. 

Though the large umbrella of this research was on climate change and water scarcity in the rural Southwest region of Morocco, her specific questions focused primarily on how this climate change impacts the health and lives of underserved marginalized women within these areas of the country. This is a new field of research, still emerging and research is being conducted in different disciplines. The challenge was basically a linguistic one, most of the published material being either in French  or in Arabic and not in English; this is where my role came in.

I am a native speaker of Arabic and French languages, and my role was to assist her in completing a literature review, and finding what is emerging as the most important topics within the field; this task was surely stimulating but also very demanding for me. I felt I had to shoulder the new responsibility but I also was apprehensive that my work would not meet the demand and expectation of the researcher. Documents, both in French and Arabic are easily available, but providing a faithful and accurate translation for their content is where the challenge lay. Working on one single article of some 7 pages would generally take 3 days of intense work to find out the accurate and nuanced translation of the jargon it contained and its general message; we were meeting daily for the entire month of July. This task demanded rigor and discipline and even when stressful at times, it proved to be also one that benefited me greatly and widened my knowledge horizon.

Now and following the completion of this demanding task, I can focus on the communication matters and the future RISE project I am designing with the team’s help. The days spent in the organization go by very fast to the extent I did not  realize the start of the new academic year. as I am now pursuing my Masters’ Degree at Ibn Zohr university. I am full of emotions, happy, excited, fearful, but always hopeful.