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.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


By Katie Huge
This week in the RISE program, we mixed things up a bit and guided the RISErs in a(n optional) day of interactive activities. Soufian Aaraichi, Natalie Sullivan, and Alex Kochenburger were away this week, so Katie Huge and Maisie Breit took the reins and had two “fun” sessions with the students.
In the first half of the session, we conducted what is known as the “Marshmallow Challenge.” In teams of three and four, the students had to compete to build the tallest structure with a marshmallow on top in only eighteen minutes. Each group was given only twenty pieces of spaghetti, one yard of tape, and one yard of string. It was interesting to see the different ways each group interacted and assembled their structures. All of the groups started with elaborate plans in mind, but by the end of eighteen minutes, less than half of the groups were left with a standing structure.

Afterwards, students discussed the various factors that made them successful or not. For many, the marshmallow had been much heavier than anticipated and their base was not strong enough to support it. Some groups spent too much time planning, leaving little time to construct and test their plan. The marshmallow challenge was useful for the students because it physically demonstrated the difficulties of working in a group, and different strategies to solve a problem.

In the second half of the session, the students watched Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” In her speech, Chimamanda Adichie talks about her own experience with single stories and stereotypes, and she explores why people are so vulnerable when diminished to a single story. The students led their own discussion addressing common stereotypes they face in their own lives as well as stereotypes they have heard about other places. They discussed how the media impacts the way in which stories are received, and how that subsequently determines people’s perception of one another. The students stressed the importance of creating and sharing many stories in order to give people around the world a better idea of what Morocco is like.

We hope the students had fun working with their peers and leading a group discussion today. We think they got a lot out of the discussion and had a good time trying something new in the classroom setting. We hope to do an outdoor field day in the future in order to help the students get to know each other better as well as offer new perspectives that they might not be exposed to during our usual sessions.

Friday, December 8, 2017

First two RISE Sessions!

By Katie Huge
Our first two RISE sessions -- orientations on Tuesday and Thursday -- were a huge success. The Dar Si Hmad offices worked hard to prepare for the incoming class and were excited to meet our new students. We were impressed by how quickly the groups came together and started getting to know one another.
During the orientation, the students learned about the history of RISE and why DSH started the program. There are very few programs like RISE in the area, and we are excited to offer such a unique a professional development tailored program. The orientation also touched on Dar Si Hmad’s other projects and organizational mission. Dar Si Hmad directs the largest fog collection project in the world, and we felt it was necessary that the students understood the roots of the organization and its mission of sustainability and educational opportunity.

As we went over the curriculum and schedule of the program, we mixed in a few fun icebreakers and games to get everyone talking. The students drafted their own constitution to set rules and expectations for the RISE program. This allowed them to take ownership over their group constitution, as well as to hold themselves and each other accountable.

To finish the session, the students wrote down and discussed their goals for the next seven weeks. We loved hearing everyone explain their passions and ambitions, and it really set the tone for the program.

The next week, we had our first official lesson in the RISE program. Led by Natalie Sullivan and Alex Kochenburger, the classes went over how to write resumes and cover letters. Most of the students are around the point in their careers where they are applying for jobs, graduate degrees, abroad programs, or scholarships, so it is important for them to be comfortable in this area.

The students were engaged as they discussed what a good resume is comprised of, how to distinguish between an American resume and a French CV, and how to write a compelling cover letter. We showed various examples of resumes and cover letters and students critiqued good and bad features in each one. We found that the visuals gave them a better feel for what to avoid and what to aspire to.

One of the biggest challenges for RISErs is writing formal English without being misleading or unprofessional. Because many languages have their own cultural context, there is often confusion when something does not have the same meaning when translated. We found that the students face this difficulty when writing in a professional setting, and did our best to clarify a lot of misconceptions. We hope the session was helpful in clearing up multiple misunderstandings.

The students in both the Tuesday and Thursday RISE groups are eager to improve their skills and take away as much as they can from the sessions. The lesson was a strong start to the program and we look forward to the upcoming weeks!