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, November 19, 2019

The Closing of a Cycle


For these past three months, we have invited our readers and followers to meet and know of the personal experiences of the current Dar Si Hmad staff. Each person spoke of how their day is composed, what their challenges are and how they manage these challenges. As the co-founder of Dar Si Hmad and its director, I feel privileged to work with all these individuals and I especially treasure the fact we embody the spirit of civil society at its best. We believe in our mission of helping vulnerable communities learn and prosper; that is we are the bridge for the communities we service, from the villages in the Ait Baâmrane, the high-schoolers of Agadir or the University students, to gain from possibilities of growth that may not be easily accessible to them otherwise. As we prepare for our 10th anniversary in April 2020, we tally how many lives we have positively impacted and we feel proud, happy and yet humble. Humble because we have been trusted by these people who opened their lives and hearts for us. Happy and proud because the good work we have delivered has had a return. Students, volunteers, interns, community members all have given us the immense pleasure of infusing life and spirit into Dar Si Hmad mission. As we prepare for our next blog-series and for our continuing community-engagement, this is to the team of Dar Si Hmad and to everyone to have worked, learned, and supported our activities.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Hussein Soussan and Abderahman Nassiri, Respectively: Fog-Water Manager-Assistant, Driver and Technical Maintenance


 Both Abderahman and Hussein joined the organization in 2011, when we first started the initial building of the fog-collection project. We had a conversation this past 2019 spring during our annual retreat.  This is an abridged section from this exchange: 

 Abderahman Nassiri, Driver and Technical maintenance
Abderahman:  Some of the hardest moments of the fog collection project was in the beginning in July 2011 when we had to take up the building material to the top of the mountain. It was hot, the road extremely difficult and we were still discovering how to do the work
Hussein: Yes, it is true… it was a record year of heat and the work was very physically demanding. We also needed to get the truck on top of the mountain and remember how we simply could not do that because it was simply impossible
Abderahman:  Yes, I remember and how we ended up having to take down all the long steel pillars out of the truck and try to do that by walking to soon discover we really could not do that either; extremely heavy, hot and hard… and finally we had to ask for the donkeys from the villages to let us use them but they insisted that they have to be with their own donkeys for one, and second, most of the international volunteers disliked the idea
Hussein Soussan, Fog-Water Manager-Assisstant
Hussein:  It was very hard at this time, but we did succeed after a week of non-stop work to deliver all the material to the mountain and it is only after that we started building.  That too was difficult, the rocks were too hard to break and we could not make the necessary holes for the anchors. One time, the contractor said he wanted to use dynamite and the managing team refused. We were, though, able after a lot of physical work to finish the holes. 
Abderahman:  Each one of the program that we host at Dar Si Hmad comes with its set of challenges, but what is important is that we always talk and find the solution as a team.
Hussein:  I’ve worked in many places before joining Dar Si Hmad and this is what I always like and treasure in this experience: the ability to problem-solve together, for all of us to come together and consider what the best solution to a given problem is and then work towards adopting the solution. 


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.