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, 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.  

Friday, September 13, 2019

From The Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Mounir Abbar, Fog-Harvesting Manager

Entry, 23rd March 2017 – Village Toufitri Connection

All the village residents were out, finally the last steps to fully installing and connecting their houses to the water were to be completed within few hours. They had bought and brought the meters as per our agreement. They have been more than patients, it has taken us years to come to this point. From getting all the necessary clearance, securing all the funds, but especially from getting all the heavy machinery to work in such a harsh environment. Hard rocks, rough mountain sides, are a nightmare for digging. It has taken us more than 3 months to complete the entire process  of preparing the passage for the pipes, laying the pipes, covering them and having them connected. The distance is a simple 3000 linear meters.
Each day comes with the promise that this will be completed, but something unexpected happens, the machine breaks down, the imponderables of working with equipment that is old in a very demanding environment. A missing piece or tool that halts the work and we have to take a long trip to town to see if we find it, by the time we return, the workers have left. Actually, this worker leaving for good was a positive step, he was sarcastic all the time and still doubting that there was any fog-water to be collected. Incredulous, he refused to believe that this was actually happening and that the water had transformed the lives of the communities with access to it.  That he was replaced by a family-member of one of the beneficiary-villages, was in itself a success; this man brought force and commitment to his work.
So this last village, everyone is out and they are witnessing just the last step, like the cutting of a ribbon to celebrate the promise of something new.  One of the residents and his family were, however, not among the celebrating group; their house was at the farthest point of the village and they were, in all effect, marginalized because they were considered to be the poorest of the village. The father being blind, the two daughters and an aging mother fared however much they could in these dire conditions. While the rest of the village was ready to welcome flowing water after they had installed their newly bought meters, this family had no meter and no way of purchasing one. They were occupying all the margins of this village. I could not stand such injustice and that they did not share the joy of welcoming finally water in their household as the rest did. This situation warrants to take different decisions and while respecting the agreements between the NGO and the Beneficiaries, this time I myself stopped the work, and left to town. I bought a new meter and came back the next day to launch the work from the house of the poor, blind man… From being at the margin, he became for me, the dignified starting and initial point, the one from where we begin the counting. And this story continues to inform my work and my commitment to working and being morally responsible for one’s actions. It is not about finishing a day’s work, but it is about changing in a positive way the life of another person.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

From the Logbook: "a new blog series" said our Executive Director




We receive feedback on our blog series, this is what has kept us going for the last 5 years of blogging, and we are often in search for original pieces and new thresholds to think about and reflect upon the work we do in our organization. Just for the last two years, we had the “Unsung Heroes,” we had “Learning across the Continents” and for this entry we have decided to launch a new series we have decided to call “From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Story." We are a small organization and each one of us often wears multiple hats and do overlapping tasks to plan an event, to organize a program, to file documents, to meet visitors, or to search for funding. Through the last ten years, we have had many employees come and then leave for other opportunities, but there is a core that has stayed, witnessed and fashioned the many transitions within the organization.  As the ED I’ve asked them to write a piece based from the logbook of their working lives within Dar Si Hmad. The object being to connect our readers to what goes behind the scene and to hear the experiences and voices of the members of this team that create, make and sustain the magic.

Jamila Bargach, Executive Director
Dar Si Hmad 



Friday, August 9, 2019

Discovering the Moroccan Language Varieties

Written by Lahcen Lqoul
Lahcen Lqoul is the teacher of (Tashlhet) Tamazight, Darija and Standard Arabic in Dar Si Hmad's CELAR program.

     I am an educator, translator and language and cross-culture facilitator. I have a Master’s degree in Comparative Studies in Literature. I teach undergraduate courses at the university of Arts and Languages, Ait Mloul (the larger Agadir Region). I also worked with the Peace Corps as a language and cross-culture facilitator, teaching Darija and introducing volunteers to Moroccan culture. I am currently occupying the same position at Dar Si Hmad, an NGO based in Sidi Ifni with an annex in Agadir.
    My teaching experience with Dar Si Hmad started in 2018. When I was given the opportunity to collaborate with DSH, I considered it as a means to develop several inter/intrapersonal skills in terms of communication, cultural exchange and professionalism. At the end, what I achieved has, surprisingly, exceeded all my expectations.
    First, I started teaching classes in darija (Moroccan Arabic). Then I taught (Tashlhet) Tamazight. After that I taught Standard Arabic. To be able to manage and maintain teaching these three languages, DSH developed a language program called CELAR. This program offers courses in the mentioned languages. In order to learn the language in a relatively short period of time, these courses are most of the time intensive, 6 to 10 hours a week. DSH made this teaching and learning process more convenient. They provided me with a suitable working environment and the needed teaching materials, such as textbooks, equipment and so much care.
      During the period in which I have been working for DSH, I met and taught many interesting students from all over the US. There were Fulbright researchers in different fields of research, English teaching assistant, students in internship in DSH and some of DSH staff. Due to various interests in learning these languages, I taught these three languages for different purposes: for general communication in everyday life like shopping, transportation and so on; for research like writing and translating questionnaires and interviews with or for local people in their communities. In these courses, there are students who started knowing one word and ended up in an intermediate level; there are others who brushed up on one of the languages I mentioned and moved to an upper level. I also taught groups of students from other universities and organizations who came to learn about Moroccan culture and language. I taught students from (WGEI) Women's Global Empowerment Initiative, students from Quinnipiac University and students from Lewis and Clark University. These students showed great interest in learning the languages we use in Morocco and to learn about Moroccan culture in general. And that motivated me a lot to do my best and for me to learn more about my multiple cultures.
     Working with DSH gave me the chance to develop and sharpen my teaching, social, and personal skills. They also helped me to discover other personal and professional teaching skills. For me, Dar Si Hmad is a cross-cultural zone where different cultures meet and deep exchange happens. I met different people from different countries and different backgrounds; people from Morocco, US, Ghana, and Tunisia. Working with these people was fun. It was a fruitful and a professional and resourceful experience.