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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Learning Across Continents: America sharing knowledge with Africa


Written by DSH Fellow Katie Tyler :

Katie is a recent graduate from Princeton and a fellow of Labouisse Fellowship. She is working with Dar Si Hmad on the capacity building project for NGO's .

Dar Si Hmad Intern Katie Tyler
A little more than five years ago, I found out that I had received the opportunity of a lifetime. Thanks to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), I had been awarded a scholarship to study Arabic in Marrakech. I had never lived outside of the U.S. before, and I was excited for the chance to be immersed in studying a foreign language. At the end of my six-week experience, I was able to speak Modern Standard Arabic a little better, but I wanted to continue improving my language skills.
When I entered college the following year, I knew that I wanted to continue studying Arabic and different cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. Becoming a Near Eastern Studies (more commonly known as Middle Eastern Studies) major at Princeton University was an obvious choice for my course of study.
During my third year of college, I spent a year writing an independent research paper the reconstruction of Agadir after the 1960 earthquake. Reading books about Moroccan history and newspaper archives from Agadir reminded me of how much I missed living in Morocco. Based on my experiences interning at a youth homeless shelter in Newark, New Jersey, I also knew that I wanted to gain more experience in working with nonprofit organizations that fight poverty. 
A mosque in Agadir (Taken by Katie)
I was lucky enough to attend a university that is able to support my career aspirations to work in sustainable development abroad. I am able to work in Agadir with Dar Si Hmad thanks to the Labouisse Fellowship, named after Princeton alum Henry R. Labouisse, who was most notably awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the president of UNICEF. The Labouisse Fellowship provides graduating Princeton seniors with the funding to pursue a yearlong project in international development in partnership with a local nonprofit organization.
Henry R. Labouisse
I reached out to the former NSLI-Y program coordinator for advice on finding a partnership with a Moroccan organization, and she enthusiastically recommended Dar Si Hmad. When I researched Dar Si Hmad’s work to provide water to rural communities and empower young people, I did not hesitate to get in touch. I worked with Jamila Bargarch, Dar Si Hmad’s Executive Director, and Maisie Breit, the former EFS Manager, to devise a plan for how I would use the Labouisse Fellowship to support some of the organization’s new projects during my time in Morocco.  After spending so many hours reading and writing about Agadir it felt surreal to be moving to the city for an entire year in late June.

One of the main projects that I am working on here at Dar Si Hmad is the new capacity building project. I am working closely with Jamila and Hafida Mazoud, DSH’s Communications Officer, to design and implement an eight-month-long training series for a group of small associations in Agadir, Tiznit and Sidi Ifni regions. Our beneficiaries are working with a diverse range of issues, such as literacy in refugee communities, women’s empowerment through income-generating initiatives, the preservation of cultural manuscripts, and the use of solar energy in villages. In the training, we will cover topics such as administration, financial management, and program management.
Our Intern Katie and
Communication officer Hafida
The goal of this project is to equip local leaders with stronger management skills so that they can expand their organizations’ reach and social impact more effectively. Each participant will develop and implement a new project or campaign by the program’s conclusion in June. We intend to equip participants with the tools to materialize their visions to change their communities. We are also committed to incorporating principles of environmental sustainability and gender inclusion throughout the project. I am especially hopeful that this capacity building workshop will continue to benefit communities in southern Morocco long after my fellowship concludes.      
In addition to my work on the capacity building project, I am assisting Jamila with research on Dar Si Hmad’s ongoing fog project. Outside of the office, I enjoy trying delicious new pastries from the bakeries around Agadir and going to BodyPump classes. I am improving my Darija, and I have recently started learning Tachelhit with Lahcen, a teacher who partners with Dar Si Hmad. I wrote my undergraduate thesis about how Tuareg communities attained mass literacy in the Tifinagh script, so I always try to read the Tachelhit signs written in the Tifinagh script around the city. 
If you see me in the DSH office, I am always excited to hear new recommendations on books about Morocco, as I am trying to learn as much as I can during my stay here! 
 Katie at the office