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.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dar Si Hmad Volunteer Profile: Arielle Moss

Yesterday for Dar Si Hmad’s #16Days Campaign, we talked about International Volunteer Day. Volunteering and civic engagement are critical to the work that Dar Si Hmad does, and to the prevention of violence against women and the creation of a just society around the world. Today, we highlight Arielle Moss, one of Dar Si Hmad’s current volunteers and a passionate advocate against gender-based violence.

Arielle Moss interns for Dar Si Hmad
during her time as a Fulbright
English Teaching Assistant
Arielle first came to Morocco in June 2013, when she spent two months at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes shadowing doctors at Clinique de Meknes and studying Arabic. Her time in Morocco was part of a study abroad program through Indiana University in America, where she was attending university. After receiving bachelor’s degrees in biology and Arabic language and cultures, Arielle decided to move to Morocco for a longer period. Her extensive volunteer experience during university helped her to win a Fulbright award. She is now teaching in Agadir as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. In her free time, she interns at Dar Si Hmad, volunteering with a number of our programs. 

A lot of Arielle’s experience before coming to Dar Si Hmad focused on women’s empowerment and the prevention of violence against women. When we asked about her motivations for volunteering, Arielle told us this: 

During my freshman year at Indiana University, I wanted to find a way to get involved in the Bloomington community outside IU's manicured lawns and iconic Sample Gates. I began volunteering at the Middle Way House (MWH), a local shelter for women and children escaping situations of sexual and/or domestic violence.  I worked with these women by tutoring their children in MWH's after-school program and daycare center.  This formative experience revealed my passion for teaching as well as my interest in working towards raising awareness on sexual assault and domestic violence. 

Sexual assault on college campuses is rampant and is often either insufficiently addressed or ignored altogether by administrators.  One in five women is sexually assaulted at some point during her college career.  The stigma of sexual assault and the lethargy of university administrations often renders survivors silent and left with few resources to get the necessary resources, health assistance, and legal support they want and/or need. 

This staggering phenomenon hit close to home when one of my good friends was sexually assaulted at her university.  I knew I wanted to continue devoting my time to raising awareness on this pervasive issue.  At the end of my freshman year, I organized a student organization, the IU Middle Way House Chapter (IUMWH).  IUMWH serves as a channel between IU and MWH by connecting IU students to volunteering and fundraising opportunities for MWH.  IUMWH also works with other student organizations to raise awareness on sexual assault and domestic violence through events such as food/clothing drives, film screenings, panel discussions, etc.

 The summer before my junior year, I studied abroad in Meknes, Morocco.  In addition to my Arabic course, I also interned with Women's Voices Now, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing a creative platform to amplify the voices of Muslim women through writing, film, photography, and art.  I spent one month exploring women's associations around Meknes and interviewing and making video profiles on some of the incredible women I met. Two articles I wrote for Women’s Voice Now highlight the amazing people and projects I worked with. Check out my pieces on "Empowering Women, Empowering Families" and "A Voice in Meknes".

During my senior year, I ask began interning with IU's School of Informatics' ServeIT Program, a service-learning program that provides IT support and technology education for nonprofits around Bloomington.  As part ServeIT's community outreach team, I helped plan lessons and activities on simple coding, stop-motion animation, and e-textile fashion design.  Girls are discouraged from pursuing science and technology at a young age because techie toys and games tend to be marketed overwhelmingly towards boys. The lesson plans were designed to focus specifically on young girls and ultimately to spark their interest in technology and allow them to see that technology is accessible to them and their male counterparts.  

I also served as the social media intern at IU Women in Technology (IUWIT).  Because it is ingrained in girls from a very young age that they are not suited for STEM fields, there is unsurprisingly a shortage of women in these fields.  I wrote a weekly news digest that was sent to IU's 8 campuses around Indiana, managed IUWIT's Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages, and designed IUWIT's website.  I also started a social media series profiling techie women working at all of IU's 8 campuses.  This was a great opportunity to meet my fellow women in STEM and learning about the challenges they faced and overcame to get to where they are now.

This past summer before coming to Morocco, I was certified as an On-Scene Advocate (OSA) for MWH.  As an OSA, I was trained to provide a range of primary prevention and crisis intervention services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape.  Perhaps the most important dug of an OSA is to assure survivors that regardless of where they were or what they were doing, the assault was in no way their fault and that they are not alone.  From this point, an OSA can provide nonjudgemental emotional support and offer resources pertinent to each survivor's situation, such as finding a safe place to stay, addressing immediate medical concerns, accompanying the survivor to the hospital for a rape kit, or suggesting counseling and legal services.  After listening and supporting survivors while I was on OSA duty, I left Bloomington even more committed to getting involved in these issues and working to empower women.  

Working with DSH has been a continuation of my passion for gender equality because many of its projects intersect with various women's issues.  Making sure girls and women have equal access to quality education is imperative in empowering them and ultimately promoting gender equality.  I was fortunate to benefit from an incredible education, and this motivates me to help find ways for other girls and women to obtain an education and pursue their dreams.  

I hope to use my time in Morocco to work with DSH and its incredible staff by assisting in catalyzing social change and ensuring women from all walks of life have the opportunity to be all that they can be.

During her time at Women’s Voices Now in Meknes, Arielle interviewed a young woman about why the organization was important to her.  
“Women’s Voices Now allows Moroccan women to see they are not alone. Showing the success of just one woman says to others everywhere, ‘You can be better. You have all the potential inside you.’” 
Arielle caught that answer on camera. And the moment made her realize the power of her tiny camera to make not only her voice, but also the voices of women like hers heard around the world.

Arielle is now spending her time in Agadir both behind and in front of a camera, helping to document and promote the work of Dar Si Hmad in encouraging girls to continue their education, enhancing young women’s careers prospects, and building Berber women’s capacity for societal change.

Building from her background in biology, Arielle is helping expand the curriculum of Dar Si Hmad’s Water School, an innovative program that uses curiosity about the natural world to provide quality education for children in the Bled (Moroccan countryside). Check out this video to see Arielle in action talking about why she loves the Water School:

The Water School combines a lot of Arielle's passions: encouraging women in science and technology, empowering young people, and building a society more committed to sustainability and equality. Arielle looks forward to February, when the 2016 Water School will kick off and she will spend some time in the Bled putting her planned curriculum into action.

In Agadir, Arielle also works with the RISE program, helping students build their skills and reflect on their career aspirations. Talking with participants before and after sessions, Arielle
Dar Si Hmad Intern speaks with RISE participants
while volunteering at the organization
serves as a powerful role model for how volunteering, civic engagement, and passion can be leveraged into life-changing opportunities.

Through her time volunteering at Dar Si Hmad, Arielle is using her passion and experience to continue working towards justice for women in southwest Morocco. We hope you will join her in volunteering for change. Together, we can make a better world for us all.

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