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, June 2, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Let Me Tell You about the Mountains in Morocco!

Written by our former intern, Ms. Ambar Khawaja

Ambar during her stay in Morocco

Let me tell you about the mountains in Morocco. As you begin to climb them, you look up to see the sun shining through the clouds and the peaks peeking out above them. As you continue forward, you begin to find yourself in the fog. This fog can be bothersome, because you want to be able to see the top and the climb is no longer as scenic as it started out. It clouds your vision. It seems like forever until you are out of the fog, but as you keep walking you start to brim with joy and thankfulness because you can once again see clearly. You are high above everything, watching the world move along at what seems like such a slow pace in the grand scheme of things. Perspective.
I once was the girl who thought she had her life figured out:
1.    Graduate high school accomplished;
2.    Go to a good college and major in neuroscience;
3.    Get my PhD and do research on the brain;
4.    Get tenure at a university so that I can be a professor and have my own lab;
5.    Amongst all of this, travel the world
Truthfully, this was not entirely my dream. It was a mixture of the dreams of the people I’ve looked up to and it was sculpted by how society views success. I was equipped for this specific version of life and did not expect to deviate from it. I had such certainty chasing after these goals. Everyone was in awe of my drive and determination to reach the end; but it seemed like even if I did reach the end, I would never reach satisfaction. I felt empty without praise because my worth was based off of my achievements. It was no wonder that when I reached a new goal, I would either become stalled or feel like there was still something lacking. The thought that there is always someone better than me out there constantly seeped into my mind. This led to a cycle of chasing prestige, recognition, and anything else that I could use to make myself feel better about my worth. I never knew that success and despair could happen simultaneously, and that the former could cause the latter. I didn’t know how to just be.

Taken by Ambar

What do people do in the in-between of life? The in-between is what I refer to as the space that occupies the emptiness between my failures and my successes. It’s my worst mental enemy, but if handled correctly it can be my best mental friend. I would like to point out that this space that baffled me is actually just called life by most people, and that the accomplishment-hungry-me just didn’t know what living actually was yet.
While my goals and accomplishments were a large part of my life, they weren’t the only part, and I was neglecting the rest of myself. I was becoming unaware of the many other layers I contained as a person, leading me to be hollow.
At times like this, far away from home on another continent, where people speak another language and I know virtually nothing, I am sitting in my room reflecting and writing about the changes I have noticed in the month and a half I’ve spent here. Worries are less, small mistakes are forgiven easier, and I am not basing my value on achievement. Here, people do not care about what you have done as much as they care about the kind of person you are; whether you are kind and how willing you are to try and learn. Finally, in a place where I know nothing, I can learn everything without self-judgement. I do not have the pressure to always be doing something in a society that puts emphasis on busyness. What a privilege. Finally, I am learning to act in the in-between. I am emptying the pot that everyone poured their hearts and souls into and putting it in storage so that I can begin to fill my own. Each is important. One is what I came from and what I am made of, and the other is what I will become.

My community pumped me with love and purpose, so even though I didn’t expect to deviate from my original life plans, I was prepared for it. My family, mentors, teachers, and friends are only some of the people who helped inflate me so that I could learn to fill up my skin. Creating a community for myself was a conscious choice. Yes, I am uncertain about my future place in the world. My plans are changing, and I don’t know what I am meant to do. Purpose is such a heavy word that calls my name. At a time like this, I have found that my immense skill of worrying is truly no help to me, but the simple human action of breathing serves to be the best mechanism to assist me. Life has taken me this far, and the universe has created a path and given me all the signs I need to follow it along to my destination.
Every day I may find myself in the foggy place, I remember the top of the mountain I’ve always reached, regardless of my worries, confusion, and uncertainty. Faith is showing me my way, step by step. I need to take the time to pause and remember the grand scheme of the universe. Every small mistake I have made will not crush me, and every person who doesn’t like me doesn’t diminish my value.
Where do I go from here? Besides wherever life is taking me, I have learned that I need to place more effort into self-validation rather than external validation. I need to remember to learn from everyone, because everyone has something to teach me, whether good or bad. It’s silly to think that any given life has nothing of substance. I should not be so quick to judge others and instead I should grow my patience by realizing that I too have made mistakes. However, I need to continue to become better at discerning those who are toxic and become wiser with how I invest my energy and who I invest in. Above all, I want to become a person that jumps into the unknown quicker because it is always an opportunity to grow, and I must always make time to reflect on how far I have come and where I want to go next.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

RISE Citizen Journalism 2019: Session 6, 7 and 8 Run Down

Written by Ms. Hafida Mazoud
Group picture with Peace Corps Volunteer Ms. Cassandra
We cannot believe how quickly time flies! It is already Week 8, and we have one more extra session. The upcoming meeting with our all of our RISERs will be at the Closing Ceremony. Before jumping on how this session went, let us first give you a brief recap.
The fifth session that was conducted back on May 19th was about photojournalism. We invited a Peace Corps Volunteer, Ms. Cassandra Broadwing, to facilitate this session. The objective of this session was to enable the RISERs to identify the components of a compelling image to articulate the ethics of photojournalism and to pitch their own ideas for a photo essay to promote social change and social justice in Agadir.  
Ms. Cassandra started the session by projecting the photo of an Afghan girl taken by Steve McCurry. She asked our participants if they recognized the picture first and what they could describe by taking a closer look. After she then told them about her story and projected a short video documenting the rest of the story about this girl and how 17 years later the National Geographic team found the girl and took the second picture of her.
The Egg Activity
Between the two pictures, that girl had faced and experienced many things, and her unrequested fame didn’t help her but instead made her life even harder. This led our facilitator to start a discussion about whether what the photographer leaves out of the image is just as important as what he or she captures. She also addressed the strengths of using photography to tell stories as well as its weaknesses.
This session was an opportunity for the participants to learn about the elements of photography, what makes a photo compelling and how a photo can make you feel something. Ms. Cassandra asked one of the participants to help her do an activity where the participants shined a light on an egg with a drawn face in order to use light to portray an evil face, a sad face, or a happy, angelic face just by changing the light angles.
Photojournalism is photography, but the reverse is not necessarily true. To illustrate the differences between these two concepts, they talked about photojournalism and ethics, empathy, media bias, and how it is a journalist's duty to remain emotionally aware and empathetic.
Before closing this session, we gave a handout to our participants that helped them brainstorm the idea they want to tackle in their photo essay assignment and explained the tools and the data they need in order to research the idea.
RISERs taking shots of their partners
Video Journalism was the theme of the following session. The session was led by Ms. Katie Tyler and our intern Ms. Imane Arjdal who helped our RISERs define what is videojournalism and its different forms. Later, they were introduced to the different phases of videojournalism from pre-production, production, and post-production.
Practicing videojournalism as an amateur or a professional was also brought up during the discussion. This led to explaining what digital and visual storytelling is, its ABCs and how you can exercise these principles through video production. We also covered how video editing can help to refine the final product to achieve a smooth, unbroken flow of the narrative.
In regard to the narrative, we talked about narration and the use of a strong narrative voice. As an example, we played a video of Morgan Freeman and studied how the use of his voice gives a different perspective for the story.
We are not contradicting with what we said above, but we always love to challenge our RISERs’ creativity, and we asked them to produce a video with a journalistic approach about any topic they want without spoken words. They could use subtitles, infographics or background music to help deliver their story. 
Game time during the session
Now we arrived to the eighth week which was the last taught session of the RISE Citizen Journalism Program 2019. This session was about environmental journalism, and its goal was to show that the environment is not a faraway issue that only affect glaciers, but it contains crises that touch us every day, and this is why having a journalistic coverage is a must!
We then distributed two different printed articles and asked the participants to compare the different writing styles, such as whether the style was descriptive, narrative, or both. One of the articles we chose for them was about how climate change is creating a rise of child brides. They were blown away by the connection and realized that if they analyze many environmental issues, they would find a direct consequence of that issue in their lives or the lives of others around them. We concluded this session by watching a video that discusses the differences between facts and opinion as well as and what is truth.
The participants requested many times to conduct a session where they can learn about how to study abroad and find scholarships. Our RISE team could not be happier to answer their request and provide them with the opportunity to discuss and learn more about this topic for one more extra informative session organized during the first week of Ramadan. 
Group photo with Ms. Tasnim

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

RISE Citizen Journalism 2019: Recap of the 2nd, 3rd and the 4th Sessions!

Written by Ms. Mazoud and Ms.Arjdal
RISE Citizen Journalism 2019 and RISE team are committed to giving our participants all the proper training to become young citizen journalists and we are also committed to keeping you updated on how our programs are going on.
During our second RISE session, led by Ms. Tasnim Elboute, she introduced our participants to the structure of good storytelling and how to enhance the way of storytelling in journalism. We started the session with an icebreaker to go past the barriers between our participants and to enable them to be more open during the discussions. We watched then a video of a stand-up comedy in English to show the aspect of good storytelling not just in written pieces, but also in oral ones. Later, our RISERs had to brainstorm and find the key differences and similarities between the two forms of storytelling.
We learned more about what are the elements that make a story “make-sense” and what the elements of a story are. The participants were introduced to different story structures they can follow and Ms. Tasnim gave them an example of a Juha story and how Freytag’s Pyramid exhibited in it.
Our participants were previously asked to read different Investigative Journalism pieces and during the session, they discussed their thoughts, reactions to the stories. They also identified the elements of the story they thought were compelling and they ended the discussion by citing the elements they think compose a good investigative article.
Each session we give our participants an assignment to enhance their writing skills and motivate them to be creative. Our assignment for this session was to write a short story on any topic they like. We gave them some ideas for the story, such that it can include any personal experiences about school, gender, education, the environment, etc.  
The following week, the session was dedicated to learning about writing Mechanics and The Opinion-Editorial (OpEd, for short). Ms. Katie Tyler started the session by asking when is opinion relevant in media. Following this, she taught them about the uses of pathos, ethos, and logos also known as the Aristoteles “mode for persuasion.”  As an exercise, our participants were asked to highlight where the author in each of the articles uses these tactics.
We later explained to the participants the importance of articulating their motives and how to use them during writing. This session was full of interactive activities and group work like when the RISERs had to read an op-ed and identify the motivating moves that the author used. At the end they learned how to refine an argument and work on a thesis and that a thesis does more than just point out something they can observe, instead, it creates an argument that builds from one point to the next.
In the fourth session, we moved out from the written form of journalism and we decided to give a glance to the world of audio journalism. we started first our session by discussing the differences and similarities between podcasting and broadcasting.
As known one of the most important things that any podcaster should know and master the art of conducting an interview, and that why we decided to teach first our RISERs about the fundamental techniques to become a good interviewer. Also, they were introduced to active listening methods that will make the interviewee more engaged during an interview. To practice what they have learned, we organized a short activity where our RISERs formed groups of three. Each RISER picked a piece of paper out of a hat and enact a scenario the RISE team created for them with a partner. Each person in the group rotated between taking on the roles of the listener, the speaker, and the observer.
Summing up the session, Ms. Katie shared the tools our participants might need for getting a better sound and also showed them how to use a free audio editing software. We are looking forward to the next sessions and please stay tuned on our social media to get updates and know more about the RISE Citizen Journalism 2019 sessions and stories.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Another Month, Another Capacity Building Workshop!

Written by Ms. Tyler and Ms.Mazoud

Our participants during the workshops

Dar Si Hmad organized the last TWO workshops for the Capacity Building Program! Our participants have gained so many insights on their experiences and aspirations, and we can’t wait to see how they use their new knowledge to benefit their communities.
The third week of March marked the fifth workshop for the capacity building program for NGOs. Our trainer Soufiyan Saaoudi led this workshop which was about Leadership, Team building Skills, and Communications. 
We were very lucky to learn from the experience and expertise of our trainer, Mr. Soufiyan and to bring his own perspective on how to manage an NGO, as the president of the Youth EmpowermentSociety - YES organization.
Throughout these sessions, we trained our participants to create a communication strategy with an emphasis on the importance of digital communication and marketing. 
For our team building skills session, we took our participants to the roof where we played many games that encourage and teach our participants how to work within a team.
The trainer Soufiyan during the fifth workshop

For April’s workshop we gave the opportunity to our participants to choose the topics they still want to learn about, they voted for finding funding! Our final training session occurred April 21-22, where our trainer Imane El Ouizgani led two sessions for our participants, one on fund generating activities and the other on finding and writing grants applications.
On the first day, participants brainstormed ideas for fund-generating activities for their own NGOs in order to strengthen their NGOs’ financial viability and expand their available resources. Participants gave feedback to each other on how they could make their programs more competitive and profitable. 
We also worked with our participants to develop business plans for their fund-generating activities that they could use to propose their ideas to their boards and potential funding sources.  Participants also made SWOT analyses and GANTT charts of their proposed projects, so they could visualize the necessary steps they need to take to make their ideas into realities.
Our participants during one of our rooftop activities 

On the second day, we explored another source of income for NGOs—grants! Imane covered the grant application process from start to finish, including the technical challenges of understanding grant requirements and registering for application portals.
Participants gained experience in using effective keywords when searching for grants and were introduced to components of effective storytelling in writing grants. We also introduced our participants to crowdfunding platforms, focusing on our partner, Global Giving.
The ultimate purpose of this workshop was to make progress on applying the knowledge participants have gained during this training to creating social impact in their own communities. 
One of the greater objectives of this DSH initiative is to equip our participants with the skills to launch new projects at their own NGOs. So far many of our participants have exciting ideas for new initiatives they intend to launch after honing their skills through the Capacity Building Workshop. 
We hope to meet individually with our participants soon so we can learn more details about their progress in launching these new projects and provide advice as needed. We look forward to meeting with our participants for one final time as a complete group for our closing ceremony in June!
Trainer Imane during the sixth workshop

Thursday, April 11, 2019

RISE Citizen Journalism 2019: The Two First Weeks

Written by our intern Ms. Katie Tyler 

Risers during the workshops
With the rise of social media, we live in a world where citizens have more power than ever to share information and news. Citizens are now able to share their observations and thoughts with more people than has ever been possible before. Citizen journalism will become even more important in the future, as we need more voices from everyday people to speak out against environmental injustices that tend to affect marginalized communities disproportionately.
For the past decade Dar Si Hmad has been committed to empowering young people and protecting the environment of southern Morocco. Creating a new edition of RISE that specifically focused on citizen journalism and environmental justice seemed like the most effective way to meet both of these goals.
Our vision for this new edition of RISE is to equip young leaders in Agadir with the skills to effectively share stories and information both within their local communities and on a national and international platform as citizen journalists. We have recently wrapped up our first two sessions with our new class of RISERs! 
During our orientation session, we got to know our RISE participants and discuss our hopes and goals for this workshop series. We played a lot of different games to learn each other’s names and get to know about our interests and aspirations. For one game, we passed around a roll of toilet paper and instructed RISERs to “take as much as they needed.” When we finished passing around the roll, we told them that they had to tell the group one fact about themselves for each piece of toilet paper they took!
Besides spending time getting to know each other, we spent time on building a new community of dedicated citizen journalists. We wrote a constitution for the rules that would shape our RISE community and agreed to uphold this social contract. We made goals for our involvement and left with a clearer vision of the kinds of citizen journalists we wanted to become.
During the second week of programming, we focused on journalistic ethics. Using the guidelines from the Society of Professional Journalists as a model for our curriculum, we explored the different facets of ethics in journalism. Because Dar Si Hmad believes that students learn more if they are involved in activities and must think for themselves, we included many interactive activities. 
We had one activity where participants read real-life news articles and had to use their critical reading skills to investigate whether the articles were fake news or real headlines. We also encouraged participants to work together on teams. For our session on minimizing harm as journalists, we presented groups with different ethical scenarios in which they had to decide whether to grant interview subjects anonymity, and if so, how they would take measures to protect their subjects’ identities.
Of course, we made time for fun games so that we could continue to bond as a group! We created a BINGO sheet where each square had a characteristic or attribute (such as: “Never had a cavity” “Has three siblings” “Plays soccer”). Participants were instructed to find different RISERs who could sign the different squares that contained an attribute that described him or herself. Whoever could find enough RISERs who fit the different descriptions so that their BINGO sheet had a complete signature in a horizontal, diagonal, or vertical line would win!
As a facilitator I also learned a lot from these RISE sessions. All the participants have very thoughtful perspectives on the value and uses of citizen journalism and have articulate visions for how they want to create change in their communities. I am very excited to continue working with our RISE participants on honing their skills as journalists. They already have so many exciting stories to share, so I can’t wait to sharpen their storytelling abilities and work with them to investigate new stories to spread! 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Preparing for RISE Citizen Journalism 2019!

Written by DSH Intern: Imane Arjdal

After so many months, the time has finally come to launch our newest edition of the RISE program. Since 2013, during each academic year, Dar Si Hmad offers a training program for various beneficiaries, students, and apprentices living in Agadir that contains workshops, conferences and personal and professional development activities that run for 2 to 6 months.
This year marks the seventh edition of RISE program which will be under the theme of citizen journalism. This program aims to offer training on how to use media to promote environmental justice and a wide range of social issues including educational and global topics.
This edition of the RISE program will include sessions on citizen journalism ethics, writing techniques, photojournalism, videojournalism, podcasting, broadcasting, and many other interesting topics. This year’s RISE program will be different from the traditional classroom sessions and will instead give the beneficiaries the best knowledge in a welcoming atmosphere filled with dialogue, positivity, and support.
At the end of each session, participants will have to do an assignment to apply what they have learned and eventually to work toward publishable contents. Late June will mark the conclusion of the program, participants will present final projects in order to graduate the program.
We launched the applications on February 14th. We were surprised by the number of applicants we received and of the high quality of the applications. We selected more than forty applicants to be interviewed. Through the interview, we knew more about our potential risers, their background, their interests and their motivation for the program.
After many discussions, we were finally able to decide the foremost and best-suited applicants based on their applications, essays, and performance during the interview. We ultimately selected 24 applicants that showed the most motivation for the program.
Dar Si Hmad’s team is really excited for this year’s RISE program on Citizen Journalism, and we can’t wait to meet the participants and for them to start a new journey of knowledge, support, gaining new skills, setting objectives, and experimenting with new approaches that will help them become creators of their own future.  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Capacity Building Program: January and February's Workshops

Written by DSH Fellow: Katherine Tyler
The participants with The trainor Imane
In this past two months, Dar Si Hmad has had TWO successful workshops for the Capacity Building Workshop! Our participants have gained so many insights on their experiences and aspirations, and we can’t wait to see how they use their new knowledge to benefit their communities.
In January, the workshop’s themes were Organizational Management and Partnerships and Advocacy. We were lucky to draw from the experience and expertise of our trainer, Hassan Achrwaw
Our workshop on Organizational Management focused on how NGOs can translate their visions for change into efficient, sustainable actions. While we discussed theories on how to create strategic plans, we also equipped our participants with tools on how to plan for change most effectively. For one exercise, participants learned how to develop SWOT analyses to implement new organizational strategies and changes. 
Trainor Hassan during the workshop
The Partnerships and Advocacy Program covered how NGOs can successfully launch awareness campaigns to promote change in their communities. Because we believe here at DSH that you learn more when you’re having fun, we had the participants join in on funny debates. Each of the three groups was assigned to defend the rights of… common pests! One group defended the right of lice, another the right of rats, and the third group represented cockroaches. We then had judges vote on whether the participants gave convincing defenses. We all ended the session laughing, but the participants demonstrated that they had absorbed the trainer’s advice on rhetoric and the elements of a convincing argument.
This past month in February we specifically focused on project management and evaluation with our trainer Imane El Ouizgani. We covered project development from its inception to the very last stages of evaluating a project’s success. Participants learned how to conduct a feasibility of a new project with PESTLE analyses and brainstorm their assumptions on challenges and outcomes related to new projects. We also discussed the practical measures necessary for implementing a successful project by introducing the GANTT chart tool. 
For our daylong workshop on project evaluation, we brainstormed solutions to data collection challenges and thought in new ways about how to find accurate and relevant indicators for projects. We also began to delve into the topic of how to convey the results of projects to different audiences, as your communication of data with your donors, staff, and beneficiaries often requires different focuses. 
Trainor Imane during the workshop
Throughout these sessions we incorporated fun activities to energize our participants and encourage networking. One memorable energizer was when we played some calling and name games on the roof. We might just bring our participants onto the roof again next month for some activities next month, if the weather stays pleasant!
Each week we assign the participants homework so that they apply what they have learned in our workshops to improve their own NGOs. Now, as we’re coming towards the conclusion of the training series, we are working more closely with our participants on developing and launching new projects and campaigns. In the next four months we will be seeing our efforts materialize with new initiatives in southern Morocco!

Our participants during the workshops

Friday, February 15, 2019

EFS with Miami Valley High School (January 2019)

A testimony from one of our beneficiaries, Ikram Bouchama

Students from Miami Valley High School
Last month we received a group of 18 students from Miami Valley High School at our Ethnographic Field School. We developed a rich curriculum for the students to enable them to understand more about Moroccan life, identities and culture.  
Our program consisted of lectures, excursions, and activities based on the culture and histories of southern Morocco. The program's excursions included a visit to our fog project, an old Medrassa in the Ait Baamrane region, Association Aicha in Guelmim, and historical tours of Agadir and Sidi Ifni, led by our EFS Manager and Executive Director.
One of the activities is a cultural exchange between the American and Moroccan high school students.  This initiative enabled both groups of students to learn new things about their ways of life, to overcome negative stereotypes and to make new friends from overseas. We are very grateful to the Ibn Maja High School administration, its students, and the delegation of national education of Agadir for helping us organize such an enriching activity.
The group of students with their teachers
Weeks later, Ikram Bouchama, a student from Ibn Maja high school and a beneficiary of the cultural exchange activity, reached out to Dar Si Hmad’s communication manager and sent her side of the story. You will find below Ikram’s testimonial:
“The most fun yet exciting event that our Ibn Maja High School has experienced took place on Friday the 18th 2019 at 9:30 a.m. I couldn't believe that I was going to be a part of that event. When my teacher Mrs. Aaouatif first told me that I was chosen to participate in it, I got extremely excited to meet American students my age, some of whom are now my friends.
The morning event started with the American students arriving at our school. They looked like any typical American teenagers, which I was pretty nervous about. Before getting to the core of the event, we got in a circle and introduced ourselves in a fun way so that we could get rid of the awkwardness that was surrounding us. Then, we started to create these small groups of four or five where we had to find common things within the group, which was super entertaining; we sang, laughed, and had an unforgettable time.

The students playing baskeball with each other
After a while, we got in groups of three Moroccan students and three American students to discuss the main purpose of the event. American students reflected on their understanding of Moroccan culture, as well as Moroccan students on American culture. We heard some positive stereotypes from our American friends which surprised us. They said beautiful things about Morocco, the people and how nice they were to them. There weren't really any negative stereotypes.
We also shared our perceptions as well. Mostly, it showed how we liked American culture. We liked how open-minded and generous Americans are. Thereafter, we got in a huge circle so that each group could share their final thoughts.

The students drawing graffiti
Afterward, we all went to eat from a buffet full of different snacks, and after some of the students went to draw graffiti on the school walls (FYI, we are allowed to draw graffiti in our school), while others went to play basketball. At the end, the students got together to play a football match with American students playing against Moroccan students, which was incredibly fun.
It was sadly the time for the American students to leave. We took pictures, exchanged each other's information, and said our last goodbyes. I'm grateful that I was part of this event, I'm also very happy that we created memorable moments with our American friends, and we are more than welcome to have them again for more events in the future.”
Ikram with her friend