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, 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


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Capacity Building Program: First two workshops!

Written by DSH Fellow: Katherine Tyler
Our trainer Zainab mentoring a group of participants
A lot of exciting activities have been happening at the Capacity Building Project since we first posted about it! The second week of December marked the second workshop for the capacity building workshop for NGOs after our first workshop on Governance and Administration in November.  Our trainer Zineb led a module on Human Resources Management, and our trainer Mustapha led a workshop on Financial Management. We had a lot of ground on management training to cover, and our staff, trainers, and participants rose to the challenge with grace and enthusiasm!
When we are planning the content for these workshops, we make it a priority to include interactive activities. We want to be able to hold people’s attention for an entire daylong event after all the participants already been working for an entire week-- so long lectures are not going to engage our audience very well!
When I was identifying a volunteer’s motivation to serve, I found out that there are three motivations to volunteer: a spiritual or personal connection to the cause, a desire to build skills or gain experience, and an interest in making social connections.
Ilham, a Rise Alumna during her participation in our activities 
When I was drafting our module on volunteer management, my co-manager Hafida pointed out that Dar Si Hmad has already worked with some strong volunteers who could share their experiences and expose our participants to more perspectives on how NGOs can best engage their volunteers. So, we designed a module where we invited three alumni from Dar Si Hmad’s RISE program, a youth empowerment training series, to adopt the profiles of three imaginary volunteers who had different motivations to serve and currently experiencing some difficulties in their work performance. The participants were placed into three groups and took on the role of an NGO board and had to brainstorm solutions so that they could better engage the different volunteers.
Another goal of the Capacity Building Program for NGOs is to get a bunch of smart, ambitious people working to better their communities in the same room together to share ideas. For one session during the Financial Management module, we challenged NGO leaders to work in groups to brainstorm income-generating activities for an imaginary NGO that supports the Mikhaleen, workers who sort garbage for collection and recycling in major cities throughout Morocco.
The participants engaging in the workshop activities 
In addition to envisioning creative ideas to support the financial viability of this NGO, participants also had to assess whether this idea would generate a substantial profit for the NGO based on the project’s estimated start up and operating costs. When these participants were trying to brainstorm a feasible income generating activity, they shared their own professional experiences with each other and ultimately came up with a list of ideas that no one participant would have created entirely on his or her own. These NGO leaders are also getting to know each other better over the course of six months, so we hope that they will be creating mutually beneficial partnerships to support each other’s missions. 
Although a lot of our activities are based on responding to hypothetical situations, we have several strategies to have our participants apply their training in a practical manner. After each session, we assign homework for the participants to use what they have learned to benefit their NGO. One of the assignments from this past session was to have the participants write job descriptions for their staff and volunteer positions. This assignment will help NGO leaders better organize, delegate, and outline workers’ duties and responsibilities, improve their recruitment strategies and provide a template for providing feedback and performance reviews. Each NGO leader has also agreed to launch a new project or campaign based on the management training they have received from the Capacity Building Program.
Team building activities
There are so many people at Dar Si Hmad who work incredibly hard each month to make this workshop training series happen. In addition to working very closely with Hafida, Jamila, our Executive Director, provides feedback and guidance on how to structure the content more effectively. We also collaborate closely with our trainers to draw from their extensive experiences in NGO work so that we can share the most critical aspects of management with our participants in the most engaging format possible.
When it comes to running the logistics of our program, Hafida and I rely on Dar Si Hmad’s driver and caretaker, Abderrahman, to assist us with ironing out the details, which includes a lot of running errands and literal heavy lifting. Aatika works very hard to provide delicious meals to our participants and staff during the training sessions.
Our trainer Mustapha during the Financial Management workshop
There are so many people who have put a lot of time and energy into making the Capacity Building Program a reality, and I am so excited to be working with and learning from so many Moroccan dedicated to social impact.
If you are involved with civil society in Morocco and would like to get more involved with the Capacity Building Project, hang tight! We are planning to release a training manual for trainers and NGO leaders written in Arabic at the end of the project. And, hopefully, we will be able to launch a similar workshop training series again in the future.
The participants during the speed interviews activity

Monday, January 14, 2019

Reflecting On My Internship Experience: Ambar Khawaja

Written by DSH Intern: Ambar Khawaja

Ambar during her trip to the desert
I have just finished my time as an intern at Dar Si Hmad, so I wanted to reflect on the four months I spent here. I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people on some amazing projects, and I will remember being here as a formative experience in my life.
Through Dar Si Hmad, I worked on two main projects, GRACE and planning the EFS 10th anniversary celebration. Both have helped me develop my professional and interpersonal skills. I learned how to be an effective teacher and manage a classroom, while still providing fun and exciting content to make my students interested in the material. I also grew from learning how to continue when things aren’t going my way.
With GRACE, I started off with around 40 girls, but due to some scheduling conflicts, about 10 girls had to drop out, leaving me with only thirty students. While slightly disheartening, I was reminded that it isn’t about the quantity but rather about the impact. With EFS, I developed the capacity to think about many different aspects of one project, particularly from the logistical side.
Ambar and some of her students (Grace beneficiaries) 
What really felt like the most insightful aspect of working here was simply being around the daily activities of a well-functioning NGO. I was surrounded by different ways of thinking, and I got to understand how gears are constantly turning even in the absence of active projects. I feel equipped with these new skills, and I am excited to see how they fare for the rest of my gap year and once I start school.
I recently walked past the hotel I stayed in during my first night in Morocco. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “wow, this doesn’t feel so daunting anymore”. Looking back at myself being terrified, too nervous to walk more than 5 feet to a restaurant, and staying hidden in the hotel, I can safely say I have grown a lot. To be completely honest, it makes me laugh. Who was she? I don’t know her anymore.
A picture from her trip to Essaouira
I remember a list of goals I wrote down before coming here, one of which included being able to hold a basic conversation with another person only in Darija, which is the colloquial Arabic spoken here. I am pleasantly surprised with my ability to communicate in Darija now and have learned quite a bit through my language classes with my tremendously helpful teacher, Lahcen. I love being able to come home and talk to my host mother about my day with her being able to understand me (for the most part).
While I am definitely going to miss being at Dar Si Hmad, I know I will be staying in touch with the organization and hope to visit it again in the future. My heart feels happy knowing that I have done good work here, and it has motivated me to continue working on what I hope to accomplish in the future.
Ambar with Dar Si Hmad Staff at her last day of the internship