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, March 18, 2016

That's a wrap! Rounding out the RISE Profiles

A mix of “Joyeux Anniversaire”, “Happy Birthday”, and “Eid Milad Sayed” poured out from the RISErs as they stood beaming around a table lined with cake, cups, drinks, plates, and balloons. Opposite them were the shocked faces of two Dar Si Hmad staff members, two incredible women who have planned, facilitated, and coordinated programming for the RISErs every day for the last six months or so. Knowing how hard they work, the participants of our RISE program took it upon themselves to organize the whole celebration, staying far after the usual hours to wish their friends and facilitators a happy birthday. Smiling widely and clapping loudly as the song dragged into the final note, you could feel that this had become more than just a program. It had become a family.

They’re a diverse group, in backgrounds as well as passions, coming from all different walks of life: men, women, Amazigh, Arab, Moroccan, Malian, and so many more. Most hail from the location of the program itself in sunny Agadir, but others come from the bustling urban centers of the north and some from small eastern towns. What marks these RISErs is that they do more than just let their pasts define them; they are driven by the people who have built them up. When you talk to any of these passionate young people, they’ll tell you how they want to give back. Whether it’s designing an art program for the children in their town, creating culture centers for marginalized communities to express themselves, or striving to teach underprivileged students, each participant has a drive to create real change for the people around them. It is easy for a young successful person to look only forward, yet these participants have found a way of combining their futures with their pasts. Though the RISE program itself touches on community engagement, the RISErs focus on it in every aspect of their lives.

The only thing more inspiring and diverse than their backgrounds are their passions. They speak with drive and purpose, with forward cutting solutions to very real problems. Working on giving a voice to refugees through journalism, using their language skills to translate for immigrant communities, or developing graphic technologies in Morocco, each RISEr has their own unique passion. For us, the program itself doesn’t create the leaders of the future, it empowers them. These participants are already forward thinkers and creators, all they need is the support and knowledge to realize their dreams. Moreover, the RISE program is a place where raw passion can find an outlet. Many students come to the program with more questions than solutions, and through both conversation with their peers and lessons from the modules, they have started to find paths for their talents. This is one of the most beautiful and unexpected results that we’ve seen; that these participants have discovered so much about themselves and what they want to do with their lives through being a part of RISE. There is such talent in every last one of them, and they each bring their own perspective even when engaging in similar fields of study. They are the teachers, writers, graphic designers, journalists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and leaders of tomorrow - and today.

The goal of the RISE program is to develop soft skills often forgotten in a university setting. Technological competence, personal marketing, understanding the entrepreneurship field, these skills are essential to navigating the Moroccan employment market as a young person. Through numerous workshops and an array of other activities throughout each month-long module, the students have started taking these concepts to heart. But the impact of RISE is bigger than just skills. In all kinds of success, from Silicon Valley to the beatniks, what matters is the creation of a nurturing and supportive community. A web of connections and friends, ideas and passion, a group where the leaders of the future can build on their dreams. Creating a constructive community is hard, but it is so essential to the engines of change. Dancing and singing around that table, at an event planned completely on their own accord to show gratitude to two women who had given them so much, it was evident that the RISE participants had done just that. Watching them teach each other the macarena, laughing, smearing cake on each others’ faces, these young people had gained more than just skills in the RISE program. Over the past few months they have made a family, a community, and bonds that will last a lifetime.

We are proud of our RISErs, and we would like to thank Fatima, Youssef, Jamila, Youness, Fatima-Zahra, Abdellah, Sara, Abdullah, Zahra, Salma, Mohamed, and Rkia for sharing their hopes and dreams with us. Our series of RISE Profiles has come to an end. But the incredible young people we've been highlighting have more to say. Committed to developing themselves and their communities, our RISErs have launched their own Journalism Club. Follow their adventures, read their stories, and learn more about Morocco's young leaders by joining Agadir Rising online at agadirrising.blogspot.com. Let's RISE.

This piece was written by Dar Si Hmad Intern Jason Bono, a student at Seattle University. It will be Jason's last post from Morocco: like the RISE profiles, Jason's time with Dar Si Hmad is coming to an end this week. We would like to thank him for his incredible commitment and energy over the past two months. For more about Jason's experiences with us in Agadir, check out his "Day in the Life" and "Glance into the Water School" posts. And please join us in wishing him well as he travels back to the US!

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