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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dar Si Hmad: A Source of Inspiration

I have never felt more alive than I do now. I feel that I'm a fully functioning member in society. I participate in lots of workshops, attend numerous seminars, conferences, and activities. I'm an active member in several clubs and associations. A great deal of this is thanks to the Moroccan NGO Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture and others. I met many active community members and was introduced to some amazing people who widened my horizon and opened up new doors for me.

I still remember the first time I set foot in Dar Si Hmad; it was September 17th for a discussion in celebration of International Literacy Day. Ever since that day, I have attended each and every activity that the association organizes, including the professional development workshop series which is conducted by an American Peace Corps volunteer, Em Nidiffer, which aims at improving the professional skills of students and recent graduates. 

Participating in these workshops was such an amazing experience. I have learned lots of tips about CV and  cover letter writing, but the thing that I admired the most is the workshop which was dedicated to career discovery. When I was younger, about six years ago, whenever I was asked about what I wanted to be in the future, my immediate answer would be “a teacher.” However, as time went by my perspective has changed, and this workshop helped me more than I ever thought it would.

On the right, Zaina Dali, attending the screening of
Hakim Belabbes' Film Ssi Bourhim: Imam et Poète. 

During this workshop,  Em had us do a career survey in which we went through several fields and learned about the careers that would best fit our personalities and capabilities. At this point, lots of things were brought to my attention: I recalled that in primary, middle and high school, I won most of the class president elections; in fact, I had just become class president in some TEFL workshops that took place in my university. 

Moreover, every time a professor wanted to assign a student to take responsibility for something in the class or lead a group in a presentation, he would choose me or I would volunteer for it. When Em divided us into groups in the workshop and asked us who wanted to be the leader of their group, my hand arose immediately without having second thoughts about it, and so I was the leader of our group.

I have come to realize that leadership is what I'm most passionate about, and according to members of our group in the workshop, I did a pretty good job at it.  To tell the truth, the more workshops I attended at Dar Si Hmad, the more I discovered new interesting things, particularly about myself. I have gained so much knowledge from them, and for that I would love to thank Em Nidiffer for being such an amazing and brilliant mentor, and special thanks to Dar Si Hmad for always being so helpful and for organizing so many beneficial events.

Zaina Dali

Sophomore, the English Department, Ibn Zohr University, Agadir

Astonishing Experiences at Dar Si Hmad

The first time I went to the non-profit organization Dar Si Hmad, it was for a presentation about education in Morocco. The attendees were students and teachers from different backgrounds. The American presenter, Ms Renda Nazzal, encouraged me to participate and voice my opinion. I enjoyed the conversation between the participants and Renda.
I was happy to discover a space where I could speak English whenever there is a chance to do so. As a student of English, I benefited a lot from Dar Si Hmad’s activities which include personal development workshops, presentations and seminars. The activities taught me the power of sharing ideas and opinions with others, especially in the workshops where the participants work in groups and share their points of view. In addition, the cultural seminars and presentations which are held by anthropologists and other researchers taught me a great deal of things about my culture as a Moroccan.
On the left, Nora Azeroual, a fimmaker, and on the right Sara Bouderqa,
engaging in a conversation about Nora's film; "The forbidden Fruit". 
The fact that the activities I participate in are presented by native or native-like English speakers helped me sharpen sharpen my English skills, and made me confident to communicate and eager to learn. Other than benefiting from the native speakers, I also had the chance to meet, learn and network other Moroccan students, researchers and professionals leading the rest of the activities such as film screenings, seminars, and debates. I became more active in my studies and able to increase my participation in class. In addition, I have learned a lot of useful basic and professional knowledge which is very helpful to ignite my education, work in my society, and contribute to various fields.
My involvement with Dar Si Hmad has been a turning point in my life, giving me a great chance to meet new people with diverse minds and mentalities. I have acquired new skills, learned how to cooperate with others, and have become able to express myself in many situations.

Sara BouderqaSophomore, English Department, Ibn Zohr University, Agadir

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Reflections on Dar Si Hmad's Argan-Oil Seminar

"I am paving the way for future generations."
-Naima Said, Argan-Oil Cooperative Member

Naima is a worker, she seems to be 65 years old, but she must be a lot younger. Her face bears the imprint of the sun and the tough conditions of the rural areas. But, like many rural women, Naima is a warrior of sorts; she fights the harsh conditions and continues an ancestral tradition of Argan-oil making. It was coming together, creating a collective body under the aegis of a cooperative that has helped pave the way for these women to make a significant change in the world of Argan. Thanks to all these women’s labor, they have given an international breadth to the Argan industry. As a member of this community, Naima’s role in the cooperative is to distribute the raw Argan nuts to the women and then to collect the fruit after they have finished cracking it open.  This may seem small, but its importance lies in creating a sense of equity between all the workers, all getting the same share.

I had visited the cooperative, meeting with all these women was a powerful moment. I was given the opportunity to witness a small part of their daily life. In the room, the women line up against the wall, sitting facing each other, and crack the nuts.  Often times, one starts humming, the other picks up and then we have a chorus of beautiful singing, the cracking of the Argan giving the tempo.

Dar Si Hmad hosted a seminar on Argan Oil Cooperatives in celebration of the International Day of Rural Women (October 15). We invited students, Naima, and two professors to join the discussion. We asked Naima to speak about her experience, the challenges she faces and her aspirations. By inviting her, we wanted Naima to access a space that has always been reserved for officials and decision-makers who, often times, speak on behalf of the women.

The women are one part of the “chain” that produces the oil; there is the labor-intensive gleaning of the fruit, the packing, the delivery to the cooperatives, where the women then do the hand-cracking of the nuts. Each component of this chain is essential and while the gleaning or packing may be outsourced or is community-based, the cracking is exclusively a women’s job. However, and perhaps because of the gender-stratification, cracking the nuts open, cause these women to have little room to grow in the Argan industry. Naima is one of these women, this collective body, who are today active contributors to the regional economy.

Thus, Naima was very anxious during the seminar, she felt intimidated and thought that not being fluent in Arabic and being low-literate low made her less important. However, and as the discussion progressed, Naima, contributed to the panel with her unique perspective, enriched the discussion and added the real, human dimension to the exchange. Naima believes she and the women are “paving the way for future generations of women to prosper in the field of Argan.”

-Fatima Matousse Project Coordinator & Language Instructor Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture

Moroccan Argan Oil; a National Treasure

Morocco is known as the only country to have land covered with Argan trees. Argan oil, which is produced via many stages of transforming Argan seeds to a liquid form, is believed to have many medical and cosmetic beneficial properties. Argan Oil is becoming an important product within the international markets.

Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture, a Moroccan NGO in Agadir, conducted a seminar focusing on the Argan tree as a natural resource and economic sector. The seminar hosted community members such as one involved in Argan oil production and marketing, a member of the Social Development Agency and a member of a cooperative working in the Southwest region.

The first person to speak, an activist in many Argan associations, shed light on the national and international attention given to the Argan tree.  He discussed the price and marketing of Argan oil in national and international markets. Argan oil is exported in the pure (unaltered) liquid form to many international companies. The latter mix it with other items to create other cosmetic products, earning 20 more times the price they bought it from the Moroccan cooperatives, a considerable loss for the Moroccan market. The pharmaceutical transformation of Argan oil is not yet possible for local cooperatives or associations given this requires investment, training and research.

Argan oil producers are predominantly females in rural areas. These women have the know-how of traditional Argan production and use these skills to earn an income in order to meet their needs and that of their families. However, inability of accessing the progress in the field of Argan production limits them and the local industry alike.

Another challenge facing the Moroccan Argan market is the lack of unity within the companies and cooperatives in Morocco. As long as each cooperative is working on its own, the Moroccan competitiveness remains weak in the international markets. The recommendation that the professors presented is how local producers should form one unified alliance if they are to challenge the international companies. There are some efforts to bring all the cooperatives in Morocco together, however the process is long and requires collaboration and dedication.

The Social Development Agency promotes the development of remote areas by engaging the people in the economic sector. The Agency representative stated  that they conduct trainings for female Argan cooperative members and companies, aiming to improve their knowledge on production and distribution practices, management and literacy. The Agency has helped in creating many Argan oil partnerships in Morocco, especially in the areas surrounding Essaouira and Agadir, where Argan trees spread the most.

In brief, Argan oil is a treasure that the people of Southwest Morocco hold close to their hearts. Its profits have contributed to the growth of the local economy and has offered income-opportunities for thousands of rural women. I am happy to have had the opportunity to attend this seminar; I learned a great deal about this special tree and its impact on our communities. I am hopeful for the future of Argan production and the opportunities that it can bring to the people of Morocco.

-Ali Tataousst
Student at Ibn Zohr University, English Department
Argan-Oil Seminar Participant & Community Member

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dar Si Hmad joins the IIE Generation Study Abroad Initiative

We are thrilled to announce that Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture has joined the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad initiative to help more Americans to gain international experience through study abroad programs. Dar Si Hmad commits to conducting new and expanding activities that help encourage international participation in study, internship and research in Southwest Morocco.

Morocco is increasingly becoming an important destination for scholarship and language education. As a result, Dar Si Hmad is positioning the organization to lead these efforts in the southern region of the country. Since 2010, Dar Si Hmad has invited university students and professors to participate in our Ethnographic Field-School, engaging firsthand in the culture through our experiential approach. Since then, Dar Si Hmad has grown to offer language instruction in three different Arabic dialects and the local language of the South, Tashelhit Berber, research support, a home-stay program and internship opportunities in meaningful rural development projects.

Under this new partnership with the Institute of International Education, Dar Si Hmad is taking concrete steps to expand opportunities for study abroad. Take a look at our info-graphic below, and please contact Dar Si Hmad for further information on our programs. We welcome students, faculty, interns, researchers and all "movers and shakers" to join us!

Dar Si Hmad
Tel: +212 (0) 528 84 3065
Sidi Ifni & Agadir, Morocco

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Road Back Home, Evocation and Sentimentalism Through Sahraoui Poetry

As a Sahraoui woman, I was curious when I heard that a presentation about our poetry was being given at the Association Dar Si Hmad. Like many others, I have grown to ignore a lot of aspects of my own culture even if I still liked to consider myself as a proud Sahraoui woman. Yet, and after many years in the North, I felt a distancing from my community. In particular, poetry as a vital cultural asset was something unfamiliar to me and a part of my culture that I left unexplored.

The presentation was given by an American anthropologist as part of Dar Si Hmad’s Speaker Series, a program which invites national and international researchers to present on their academic fieldwork in Morocco. Dr. Tara Deubel, a cultural anthropologist and professor in the United States, conducted research about Sahraoui poetry, a world that was not familiar in the world where I was growing up as a child.

 In her talk, Dr. Deubel went through a brief description of the anthropological research she conducted about poetry in particular, but which addressed the Sahraoui culture as a whole. Among different types, she mentioned the Hassani feminine poetry, the “Tebraâ,” which refers to intimate themes associated with women and related to love and flirtation. The everyday Hassani language is full of metaphors, analogies and symbols, making it quite difficult to decipher exactly what one is saying without the cultural familiarity and linguistic background. 

For instance, the verse  أًلاَ يَكَــدَرْ يَنْعــــ لخضار فْعِيمان الجَفافْ  roughly means “who can insult greenness in drought years.” Here, greenness is not only about the color or the natural world, but suggests a man as well. Although this may not be clearly articulated, this is the very essence of the metaphor in which the poet appears to be talking about nature, when in fact the poet is referring to a man, a lover.

Dr. Deubel also gave an informative description of various genres that establish the rules for reciting poems. Such a thing requires a strong linguistic and academic background in Hassania itself. Since poetry and music have a strong presence in the Sahraoui culture, the researcher didn't miss to mention how rhythm and recitation have played a fundamental role in literature and gave examples of important poets and musical bands.

To be able to carry out her study, Dr. Deubel, like all anthropologists, had to live for several months in the South of Morocco as well as Mauritania, experiencing the similarities and differences between these two lands. Traditionally, poetry in Sahara is transmitted through narratives and oral discourse. Thus, I can only imagine the complexities and challenges for a researcher to learn in a context which is absent of written references. It is impressive that Dr. Deubel managed to study poetry within a culture that is based on the memory of its inhabitants more than on written works.

I am aware that studying such topic requires anthropological training, linguistic and familiarity with the long-standing Hassania language and culture. However, I also believe that a major component for research is founded upon a strong sense of curiosity and interest, which Dr. Deubel clearly expressed in her fieldwork.

Finally, this presentation has touched me personally, emotionally and reopened my mind to a charming part of my culture and language that I had not explored. It sent me several days later to ask questions about the world I grew up in.

Mbarka Essaidi
Presentation Participant and Active Community Member

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Power of Expression and Mediation: Dar Si Hmad Benefits from a Training on Conflict Resolution

“Nonviolent Communication shows us a way of being very honest, but without any criticism, without any insults, without any put-downs, without any intellectual diagnosis implying wrongness.”

-Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Is conflict always destructive? How can we consider conflict as an opportunity instead of a danger? How can we better manage differences in opinion and power among partnerships and community members? These questions, and more, were explored during a two-day training for Dar Si Hmad staff on Conflict Resolution by renowned international NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG). SFCG works in over 30 countries from around the world and promotes peaceful resolution of conflict.  

SFCG’s mission is to transform how individuals, organizations and governments manage conflict by helping conflicting parties understand their differences and act on their commonalities. This training session was part of a SFCG project entitled Everyone Gains: Promoting Women's Socio-Economic Empowerment, supported by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).  

We’d like to take a moment to share some main points that we learned from this informative training, and we hope that you too (as the reader) will be able to benefit from our comments and reflection.

Dar Si Hmad staff brainstorming the levels and causes of conflict within their own work environment

Through series of exercises, SFCG distinguished for us the three main types of conflict: open, silent or simmering, and violent, with levels of conflict ranging among personal, groups, national and international. Conflicts mainly arise from tension of ethnicity, interests, values, interactive (or lack thereof) relations, structures and lastly, (mis)information. Here, SFCG taught us that differences among people and parties will remain, however, it is how we approach and react to these differences that determines an opportunity for collaboration or a threat to our stability. To solve conflicts, we learned, one must acknowledge and respect the perspectives of all parties; belittling others is ineffective and disrespectful.

Instead, we must separate the person from the problem. Consider these two components that distinguish nonviolent actions from violent actions: First, one must not consider the other person or party as an enemy and second, one must not intend to make the other side suffer. To put it simply, one must view a conflict as such: “me and you vs. conflict,” rather than “me vs. you” or “me vs. conflict.” This perspective avoids the assumption that the other person IS the problem (while also preventing the difference to escalate to a stage of controversy or violence) and encourages individuals to react and manage their differences with peace and understanding.

Dar Si Hmad and SFCG staff engaging in an interactive "ice-breaker" activity

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, often considered the “father of nonviolent communication,” has written extensively on how nonviolent communication encourages self-awareness and verbal expression, ultimately helping people to avoid conflict. Dr. Rosenberg guides us with tools for communication with others without guilt, judgement or violent emotion, teaching us how to grow long-lasting and mature relationships. One of the most important skills that we learned from Dr. Rosenberg’s work is how to listen to others with empathy. SFCG gave an excellent example of two animals, the crocodile and the giraffe. On the one hand, the crocodile, with its big mouth and small ears, is very good at talking and poor at listening. The giraffe, on the other hand, has a long neck able to rise above the situation in order to see the bigger picture, which leads to greater understanding of all perspectives involved.

Last but certainly not least, Dar Si Hmad staff learned about the positive effects of mediation. Mediation is a peaceful tool for conflict resolution because the presence of a neutral third party can help the two parties better understand the conflict, maintain a peaceful environment, and assist the parties in reaching a compromise that satisfies all. The main goal in mediation is to find a common ground that is mutually beneficial for all involved.

We at Dar Si Hmad are honored to have had the opportunity to work with Search for Common Ground and participate in their Conflict Resolution Training. The information we learned from the workshop has helped each of us to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and  improved our communication both professionally and personally. We've all come to value the power of nonviolent communication and the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully, and we believe that these skills are contributing to a positive and inspiring work environment for Dar Si Hmad.

-Renda Nazzal, Ethnographic School Liaison & Manager

For more on this and related topics, consider reading:

  • Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: Puddledancer Press. 2003.
  • M. Scott Peck M.D. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. Simon & Schuster. 1978.
  • Martin E.P. Seligman., Ph.D. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize You're Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press. 2002.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reflections from the Field

This summer, I had the opportunity to join Dar Si Hmad’s work on water and sanitation in the Ait Baamrane region in Southwest Morocco.  As an Environmental Engineering student, I gained valuable technical experience, but further, I grew greatly in my understanding of key elements in sustainable development.  I was tasked with designing a pilot Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) project at the fog net project.  EcoSan centers on the principle that waste streams can be resources if we handle them properly.  Many development agencies are adopting EcoSan for their sanitation projects, particularly in places with no human waste management and a need for soil improvements.  In short, the toilet designed here would separate the feces and urine, allow the feces to compost, and produce two valuable resources – compost and nutrient-rich urine fertilizer (both free of pathogens).  This concept excites many of us, with its environmental sustainability and sanitation improvements.  However, expanding this project to the nearby communities will pose a great obstacle.  We had the opportunity to conduct surveys with some locals, and the attitude was a resounding “ew”.  With that being said, Dar Si Hmad’s commitment to education and environmental stewardship provides a valuable resource for promoting technology.  I hope that the pilot EcoSan project can be used as a demonstration for us and for the community.  As I’ve learned throughout my education, learning by doing is powerful.

 This summer with Dar Si Hmad was full of education!  Dar Si Hmad staff is rich in knowledge of where they work.  Their dedication to one people and place, along with their diverse skill sets, has allowed them to gain deep understanding of the culture and the needs of the people.  As an engineer, it was valuable and humbling to see this.  I cannot just come into a new place with a new technology and expect to make a difference; I must humble myself to learn about who I’m working with.  I also had the opportunity to be a part of the Water School, where I saw more of Dar Si Hmad’s heart for education.  Watching the children experience many firsts, such as looking in a microscope, speaking in front of the class, and going to the ocean, was incomparable to anything I’ve experienced in education.  I saw the power it has to bring life and excitement to everyone. 

I want to close with a personal lesson from this experience: addressing cultural barriers.  I was by any standard an outsider during my stay in Morocco, but the warm-heartedness of the people there slowly broke down unnecessary barriers I had put around myself.  I was blessed with amazing friends in Dar Si Hmad who taught me about their culture and themselves, and provided necessary friendship while there.  I formed meaningful connections with people across huge language barriers.  I witnessed first-hand the miracle of human connection.  As I stepped out of my own comfort zone and into the lives of those around me, I found understanding and humility as a key to peace between people and shared joy among people.

--Jeanette Neethling, Summer 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Her name is Fatima and She is a Singer...

Her name is Fatima, she is the leader of a Berber women’s music group near Agadir. I invited Fatima and her group to Dar Si Hmad to share their art with American students from Quinnipiac University; the students were participating in our ethnographic field-school this past May. I called Fatima on the phone, introduced myself, our organization and our objective to facilitate cross-cultural exchange between American students and female Berber performers. We wanted to expose the students to local culture, arts and tradition and wanted the performers to be part of a contact zone, where more than one culture meet.

From her voice and manner of talking to me on the phone, Fatima seemed curious, filled with questions as to why an organization would be interested in their music and performance. These hesitant vibes which I sensed, if I can so say, gave birth to an anxiety that these women would never show up for the event. I called continuously for days to confirm our encounter despite the anxiety of her not knowing who I was. I could already visualize Fatima and her group playing their ravishing music at our space.

On the evening of the event, Fatima arrived, accompanied by five women and a male, their driver, who sat patiently in the room as they performed. I did not appreciate his presence and thought of him as an outsider, a distant figure in these women’s world. The women began to apply their make-up and get ready for the show. Fatima asked me to close the door and I asked every male in the room to leave, including the strange man that accompanied the group. Fatima told me, and I could hear the voices of the other women in the background, that he is allowed to stay, that he is “one of us.” What a strange surprise. It was then when I began to change my preconceptions of the man.

The women did not wait for us to sit down for the performance; it did not seem they needed an audience to mark the start of their instruments and voices. Though we, the audience, were scattered throughout the room, the moment the women began to play, their magic-like music charmed us all. Their unique Amazigh (Berber) music filled the air with positive, healing energy. I watched everyone in the room dancing with joy.

The American students danced to these Berber rhythms. The students were interested to learn more about their history as a group and the meanings of their songs. After the performance, Fatima, her group and our students engaged in a cross-cultural encounter where each was curious to learn about the other. The women felt they could not communicate because they could not understand or converse in English and forgot that the American students also could not converse in Berber. They were equal and agreeable on this, so they announced that their communication is best through music.

Since childhood, I have been attending Laabat music performances and I speak honestly when I say that they are pure and genuine stars. They have always charmed me with their pride, special charisma and unending courage. They joke and the presence of males does not bother them, an unusual behavior for females within a male domain: the public space. Female performers in Morocco cross the lines of gendered space. Their speech and laughter trespass the boundary that their patriarchal society has imprisoned them in.

Laabat is a tradition that we must value. This recent performance makes me wonder if there are young women who are still wanting to become Laabat. After deep thinking, I concluded that as long as these women exist, this art will always thrive.

Fatima Matousse,
Project coordinator & Language instructor 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

E-learning Project: a pilot initiative in Southwest Morocco

Dar Si Hmad launched a new project in collaboration with the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, aiming to enhance rural students’ academic performance via Information and Communication Technology and E-learning techniques.
The pilot project targets rural students from Ait-Baamrane region in southwest Morocco and aims to help the students study for national and regional exams. These exams are mandatory for high school seniors and juniors in Morocco, and since they sum up all the lessons that have been taught during the school year, they require effort in preparation. Unfortunately, unlike students in urban areas, rural students do not have the opportunity nor the means to take extra-classes to study for the big tests. 
In this sense, we are coaching the students to manage exam-fright and give them hands-on experience through the passing of many mock exams.
The first tutoring session started on Monday May 19th and the coaching sessions address six subjects including scientific subjects such as Mathematics and philosophy then literature subjects such as Arabic, French and English.

This pilot project is the first of its kind in the region and through this first experience, we plan to generalize the experience and apply it on large scale in other rural areas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflections on Our Pilot Water School

The stormy wind is blowing strong dust, forming a small whirlwind in the middle of the barren, reddish school yard. There are two prefabricated classrooms, both with a rundown feel and a sadness to them when the children who give them life are absent.  Opposite the classrooms are two toilets with no running water.  There is a fence enclosing these buildings and a metal blue door, chipped here and there, revealing a low-grade of rusting iron which makes a high squeaky noise when it is opened.

This is the locale for our summer camp, or water school, that provides remedial classes for some 50 children attending the rural schools of the villages of the Ait Baamrane, a region we service with fog-water.  The school is managed by the Delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, a partner of ours in this quest.  For these past couple of weeks, the Dar Si Hmad team has been working for some five hours a day with the children, conducting a fully-rounded program on all issues relating and related to water as well as fun and interactive learning games.  We came with the intention of teaching the children and we have found ourselves, all of the Dar Si Hmad team, being their students.  We may have the technical know-how, the toys, the books, the computers, but the children have turned us into better and more attentive teachers.  They are inspirational.

Let me count the ways, ten reasons why we, as the staff, are moved by the Water School:

10. The children are far from being hidebound, they are eager to change even when such change doesn't exactly bring them immediate reward or even if it strips them of what they have grown to know as their privileges (especially boys regarding girls);

9. The children are willing to eat all the different food we have been bringing for their lunch-boxes.  Perhaps to the exception of one child,  they have been eager to try new food, new textures and to discover a different world of smells and tastes;

8. At the onset the children had difficulty playing in organized, rule-bound games.  They felt they had to wait too long or that their turn never came, but now they have fun and follow what their peers are doing even when it is not them who do it.  They have illustrated for us an amazing sense of organic complicity and understanding amongst themselves we did not anticipate in the beginning;

7.  The children walk an average of five kilometers each day to get to school.  They always come early and wait; they are patient and excited to have this opportunity that not even their elder siblings had.  They have fashioned an enduring relationship with the institution they are proud of;

6. One of the children, the youngest in the group at six-years old, has a motricity problem in his right hand and right leg.  He wanted to participate in the program as did his parents, but the teacher and all the other kids treat him as though he cannot accomplish anything.  We established rules of cleaning after oneself and though he remonstrated in the beginning (being used to having everything served), he participated and we all discovered an extremely smart and funny child.  Everyone sees his new identity now and he has taught everyone that one has the ability to adapt to new circumstances;

5. The children have grown in small villages where family and neighbors’ support are essential to survival.  We have witnessed how they help and lend a hand to each other, and was neat to see them turning competitive games into real moments of joined fun;

4.  All children are eager to learn with sparkles in their eyes.  The girls have new role models such as the women engineers, teachers and doctors that come through the region. The girls are now convinced that there are valorizing paths for women in education;

3.  Curious, the children are so curious and ask and ask and never tire of asking when we give answers.  As though a peel of onion, once you peel one layer, there is another and another… until there is none left. This curiosity, the sparkles in the eyes, come from children who participated very little as subjects (at home or at school).  In the traditional understanding of childhood in the region, a child only listens and doesn’t speak their voice. This is not the case here;

2.  The children have won us over with their trust and willingness to be kind and accommodating to some hurdles.  They are inhabited neither by malice nor by bad intentions, they are not  conniving or calculating.  There is simply pure positiveness;

1. The sense of happiness coming out of their eyes and laughters is overwhelming, genuine and true.  How lucky we are to have had this beautiful lesson and learn from this source of happiness!

This is the Water School. We will run this school yet again and will scale it, covering more issues, more science and be sure to learn from our touching experience with the children.