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, January 12, 2018

RISE Closing Ceremony

By DSH Intern Katie Huge
The RISE program came to a bittersweet conclusion last Saturday morning. We were sad to let our
wonderful students go, but we are very proud of how far they have come and how engaged they
have been throughout the past few weeks. Amidst the chaos and stress of final exam time, the
RISErs remained committed to the program and consistently showed up, bringing focus and enthusiasm
to class. They were eager to accept their certificates of completion as they assembled in
the Dar Si Hmad classroom for the last time.

Students in their last RISE session

To begin the ceremony, Jamila Bargach, the director of Dar Si Hmad, spoke to the students expressing
her pride in their accomplishments and her hope that they continue working to develop their potential
and improve their communities. Then we heard from the RISE trainers Alex, Natalie, and
Nourredine, and from Program Coordinator Soufian Aaraichi. Following the speeches, the
RISErs had their own work to share. Three students - Hasna Lachhab, Brahim Ichou, and
Yassin Fouad - presented the websites they had been working hard on during web design class.
The student with the most impressive website will have their website hosted by Dar Si Hmad for one year.

Trainer Natalie helping out a RISE participant



After the presentations, we had a little surprise for the RISErs. During the program students
had to dance in front of the class when they were late. In order to make things a bit more fair,
trainers Natalie, Alex, Maisie, and Katie embarrassed themselves by giving
the RISErs a small gift to remember their experience at Dar Si Hmad.

They rewrote a popular Spice Girls song to be about the RISE program and performed it for the group.
The students were all very entertained and it was a fun way to begin the ceremony.
Saying Goodbye at the last Tuesday Session

Working hard at the last Thursday session



The students were then invited into the kitchen to chat with their peers while snacking on tea
and cookies before going back for a final activity. When they returned, Maisie assembled them
into a large circle, and with one ball of yarn, everyone in the classroom formed a web in which each
and every student was connected to two other people. Each person wrapped the yarn around
their wrist to make a bracelet before throwing the ball of yarn to someone they appreciated or shared
a good memory with. While our office cat, Dandara, played and jumped around in a heaven of yarn,
the web slowly started to form and grow wider in every direction. As the game came to a close,
the students passed a pair of scissors around in a circle to cut themselves away from the web.
They keptthe yarn on their wrists and tied them into bracelets to remember that, although
the RISE program had come to an end, everyone was still connected and the memories
of past few weeks would live on.

Trainer Alex helping a student at the last Thursday session



With that the ceremony finally came to an end. We reminded the students to remain in touch
with us and to stay alert for future events, programs, or opportunities that may be open to them.
They will always remain a part of the Dar Si Hmad family and we couldn’t have been
happier and prouder to lead them.



Friday, January 5, 2018

Oasis School First Module

Oasis School: Soil life Module

The Oasis school is ready to blast off with a new version of the engaging lessons and fun activities we've
used in our previous water school. In the last 4 weeks, beneficiaries of both schools Ihamchouine and
Id achour, were introduced to the first Module “Soil Life.”



The module focused on positive environmental practices. It started with our Oasis school teacher,
Fatiha, teaching the soil types, and what types existed on the land. Afterwards, they moved on to
the soil ingredients, or the "environmental Lasagna." The lasagna is a gardening name which refers
to the method of building the garden soil. The students essentially added layers of organic materials
(remains of tree branches, dead leaves, and cardboard) that will “cook down” over time, resulting in
rich soil that will help the plants to thrive. At last, they played a scavenger hunt game where they had
to look for a number of insects, organic parts and seeds which compose the soil, in order for them
to understand what the environmental lasagna demonstrates and how it supports the lives of so many
natural living components.


Along with teaching environmental practices, this unit focused as well on the importance of working
and communicating in groups, working together on activities and artistic projects, as well as developing
critical thinking and active listening skills.



Every time the Oasis School team comes to the schools, the beneficiaries show joy and excitement to
learn and practice more. Thanks to the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund Grant that we won through

Dar Si Hmad is able to introduce these practices to the Ait Baamrane community, who we hope will
take care of and live off the land for generations to come.




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Stay tuned on our social media to get more about the Oasis school and the adventures of our
beneficiaries.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

RISE Indoor FUN DAY!

By Katie Huge
This week in the RISE program, we mixed things up a bit and guided the RISErs in a(n optional) day of interactive activities. Soufian Aaraichi, Natalie Sullivan, and Alex Kochenburger were away this week, so Katie Huge and Maisie Breit took the reins and had two “fun” sessions with the students.
In the first half of the session, we conducted what is known as the “Marshmallow Challenge.” In teams of three and four, the students had to compete to build the tallest structure with a marshmallow on top in only eighteen minutes. Each group was given only twenty pieces of spaghetti, one yard of tape, and one yard of string. It was interesting to see the different ways each group interacted and assembled their structures. All of the groups started with elaborate plans in mind, but by the end of eighteen minutes, less than half of the groups were left with a standing structure.




Afterwards, students discussed the various factors that made them successful or not. For many, the marshmallow had been much heavier than anticipated and their base was not strong enough to support it. Some groups spent too much time planning, leaving little time to construct and test their plan. The marshmallow challenge was useful for the students because it physically demonstrated the difficulties of working in a group, and different strategies to solve a problem.


In the second half of the session, the students watched Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” In her speech, Chimamanda Adichie talks about her own experience with single stories and stereotypes, and she explores why people are so vulnerable when diminished to a single story. The students led their own discussion addressing common stereotypes they face in their own lives as well as stereotypes they have heard about other places. They discussed how the media impacts the way in which stories are received, and how that subsequently determines people’s perception of one another. The students stressed the importance of creating and sharing many stories in order to give people around the world a better idea of what Morocco is like.

We hope the students had fun working with their peers and leading a group discussion today. We think they got a lot out of the discussion and had a good time trying something new in the classroom setting. We hope to do an outdoor field day in the future in order to help the students get to know each other better as well as offer new perspectives that they might not be exposed to during our usual sessions.

Friday, December 8, 2017

First two RISE Sessions!

By Katie Huge
Our first two RISE sessions -- orientations on Tuesday and Thursday -- were a huge success. The Dar Si Hmad offices worked hard to prepare for the incoming class and were excited to meet our new students. We were impressed by how quickly the groups came together and started getting to know one another.
During the orientation, the students learned about the history of RISE and why DSH started the program. There are very few programs like RISE in the area, and we are excited to offer such a unique a professional development tailored program. The orientation also touched on Dar Si Hmad’s other projects and organizational mission. Dar Si Hmad directs the largest fog collection project in the world, and we felt it was necessary that the students understood the roots of the organization and its mission of sustainability and educational opportunity.


As we went over the curriculum and schedule of the program, we mixed in a few fun icebreakers and games to get everyone talking. The students drafted their own constitution to set rules and expectations for the RISE program. This allowed them to take ownership over their group constitution, as well as to hold themselves and each other accountable.

To finish the session, the students wrote down and discussed their goals for the next seven weeks. We loved hearing everyone explain their passions and ambitions, and it really set the tone for the program.

The next week, we had our first official lesson in the RISE program. Led by Natalie Sullivan and Alex Kochenburger, the classes went over how to write resumes and cover letters. Most of the students are around the point in their careers where they are applying for jobs, graduate degrees, abroad programs, or scholarships, so it is important for them to be comfortable in this area.

The students were engaged as they discussed what a good resume is comprised of, how to distinguish between an American resume and a French CV, and how to write a compelling cover letter. We showed various examples of resumes and cover letters and students critiqued good and bad features in each one. We found that the visuals gave them a better feel for what to avoid and what to aspire to.

One of the biggest challenges for RISErs is writing formal English without being misleading or unprofessional. Because many languages have their own cultural context, there is often confusion when something does not have the same meaning when translated. We found that the students face this difficulty when writing in a professional setting, and did our best to clarify a lot of misconceptions. We hope the session was helpful in clearing up multiple misunderstandings.

The students in both the Tuesday and Thursday RISE groups are eager to improve their skills and take away as much as they can from the sessions. The lesson was a strong start to the program and we look forward to the upcoming weeks!



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

RISE 2017-2018

By Dar Si Hmad Intern Katie Huge

This week, Dar Si Hmad is wrapping up the selection process for what will be our new class of the RISE program. The last interviews are taking place and many acceptance letters have already been sent. This year we read applications from a very competitive pool of over 150 students and we are planning to end up with a class of roughly 30 students. The program will begin with orientation next Tuesday, November 21st, and it will last until Saturday, January 6th when we will have our closing ceremony. We have had great success with this program in the past and we are looking forward to working with our new students.
Marking our fifth year of the program, this RISE class will be led by Soufian Aaraichi, Natalie Sullivan, and Alex Kochenburger, along with the help of EFS Manager Maisie Breit, Office Manager Abbes Benaissa, and intern Katie Huge. Natalie and Alex are both Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) while Katie is a Global Gap Year Fellow volunteering from the University of North Carolina.
From left to right: Katie, Natalie, Alex, Maisie, Abbes, Mohammed MISSING: Soufian!

The program will be comprised of five sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of professional development that students can apply to their future careers. Students will be able to write a proper resume and cover letter, practice taking interviews, write business emails, learn about workplace management as well as international business culture and education. Field days will also be integrated into these sessions in order to present to the students and environment in which they can get to know one another, bond, and collaborate.
On top of that, we are excited to announce our newest addition to RISE: our web design component. In collaboration with web design company INO Communication, company owner Mohamed Amribet will be teaching four web design sessions once a week to all students in the program. The students will go over how to use Wordpress as well as perform website maintenance on an existing website.
We are eagerly anticipating the start of the program, bringing our incoming class of students together for the first time, and seeing what each and every one of them offers to the discussion.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Oasis School

Today, November 8th 2017, Dar Si Hmad launched the first ever Oasis School, at the Ihamchiouine School in Ait Baamrane. The opening ceremony included school representatives and directors, beneficiaries, the regional delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, and Dar Si Hmad’s president and team.

Madrasat Tawahat, the Oasis School, builds on the ecological and environmental lessons introduced in DSH’s former program, the Water School, as students learn to grow, develop, and care for gardens and seed banks in an environmentally sustainable context that is applicable to both their needs and our common future. Furthermore, the Oasis School will implement a permaculture education program, through which the students will learn the agricultural practices required to create and sustain a self-sufficient ecosystem and gain hands-on experience. Directly targeting the graduates of the original Water School, from 3 schools in the rural villages of the Aït Baâmrane region, this initiative builds upon that foundation with practical knowledge teaching topics ranging from soil life to planting and biology.

In partnership with the regional Ministry of Education and supported by the US Department of State, the organizing team and the alumni team members plan to reach the goal of the Oasis School being a stepping stone to, and inspiration for, a community-wide permaculture project. The Oasis School project was selected out of 1,014 project submissions from 125 countries as finalists for the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) project grant. The U.S. State Department AEIF supports alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges -- such as the Oasis School.

For four years, in the rural villages of Aït Baâmrane, the Water School has provided an innovative environmental education program for approximately 100 young beneficiaries of our award-winning fog project. Students participated in classes led by Dar Si Hmad’s team on ecologically-sound water practices and hands-on activities that stimulate their curiosity and love of learning.

Madrasat Tawahat will follow up with the same students who went through the Water School, providing invaluable secondary support to students who have just begun to discover their interests and potential. Furthermore, the project will lay the groundwork for establishing a permaculture farm in the region, putting the care and building of community gardens and seed banks in the hands of the Oasis School Students.

Oasis School programming will happen in the villages of Ihamchiouine Id Achaour and Agni Nzkri and the first session will be on the 22nd of November. The curriculum is divided to 7 modules: Soil Life, Seed Evolution, Insects and Bees, Plant Evolution, Animal Biology, Plantation and Biology.

This video, created by our outstanding RISE Coordinator Soufian Aaraīchi, gives you an inside look at the ceremony. We can't wait to officially launch the program later this month!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and check back on our blog for pictures and more Oasis School updates!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Summer Breeze… from the DSH Agadir Center

Our blog at Dar Si Hmad has been silent for few months now… we have been caught in the midst of adjusting to administrative changes and taking time to constructively reflect on the work we so passionately do with and for our communities.

Safe drinking water has been flowing to all the communities in Ait Baamrane, we have now 8 more villages not to have suffered through the scorching summer-heat to go fetch meager water-amounts from distant wells. They have celebrated the holy month of Ramadan with even more happiness, celebrating water available within the households.

This past summer we have hosted high-school pupils from under-represented groups in the US and we are extremely proud to say that this first experience was an astounding success. The EFS manager Maisie Breit and the DSH team committed all their energy and know-how to delivering a successful programGender, race, and indigenous culture were presented, discussed, and scrutinized in different social contexts, thus unveiling how structures of power function in our multiple worlds today.

This summer we have also hosted two very promising researchers from the US, all working on Agadir as their research-site. Their work on ecological issues facing this touristic city is not only timely, but ask key questions as water scarcity and water-waste.  Some of these questions were subsequently taken up by the Climate Chance meetings to have just taken place here in Agadir from the 11th-to 13th of September.  All NGO actors coming together to continue and/or initiate the work for a better stewardship and care of our planet. DSH was an active actor during these meetings.

This summer we have hired a new office manager, Abbes Benaissa who comes with a rich experience working in NGOs in Morocco and overseas. We are learning and benefiting from his “past life” and discovering all the enriching new paths in front of us.  New ways of collaborating with other environmentally minded NGOs, with European based volunteers, and with a host of bohemians, free-spirits, folks in love with life and with all the beauty we learn from observing it.

This spring, we also hired a new RISE program officer, Soufian Aaraichi. Another cool breeze of calm and serenity. With Soufian, just like Abbes, other types of free-spirits are joining the organization and taking the environmental work to a new level of connections. All are welcoming and carry the promise of a better today.

From left to right: Soufian, Abbès from their excursion in Wim-Timdouine
This summer we were blessed by a very special visit. All fog-projects in the world place the Chilean case on a pedestal of sorts, it was the first, large-scale and most successful initiative to have endowed fog with the title of a noteworthy source of water. The Fundación un Alto en el Desierto came to visit our fog-project and see how the new CloudFishers function. The blessing of these prophets of fog from Chile to Morocco was a true inspiration to nurture our continuing determination.
From left to right: Mounir Abbar, Natalia Robert and Nicolas Schneider (director and president of Un Alto En El Desierto), Aïssa Derhem


This summer, Soufian Aaraichi, Khadija Changa and Jamila Bargach, we all travelled to the Northern part of Morocco and worked in the mountains close to the Fnideq.  This region is known by water-scarcity during the summer and by the presence of thick fog.  Our field-work concerned some 3 villages in order to evaluate the fog-potential and have the 192 households have access to water even during the dry-season.
Jamila, Khadija and Soufian enjoying the view on the stone quarry.

And finally this summer, we were offered some naked land in the mountains of Ait Baamrane in order to create a fog-fed farm employing the principles of permaculture. Greening the desert, and why not?  This small experiment in which the goal is to mitigate the encroaching Sahara in the region where we work. We are in the process of studying the project and looking into this future of possibilities.


So yes, our summer was quite busy and we are just so happy about it!