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.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

UIRMAL 2018: A Fulfilling Process And Experience

Written by RISE Alumna & DSH grantee: Intissar Blila

Intissar in the Moroccan Parliement
“Great things never come from comfort zones”; this is what I told myself recently in order to challenge myself to get out of my shell and do things I have never done before.
Before I start telling you about my part of the story, let me introduce myself. I am Intissar Blila, a 21-year-old student attending Ibn Zohr University, studying faculty of juridical, economic and social sciences. I participated in the program for personal and professional development called “RISE & THRIVE” during the period from November 2015 until June 2016. Rise was an enriching experience which allowed me to make new friendships and learn a lot of things in each module we went through.
Friday, October the 5th, I received an email for an application from Dar Si Hmad stating that they would sponsor their Rise Program alumni to attend an international conference. I opened the email and read it and luckily I was eligible for the opportunity, but once I saw the four essays we were asked to write, I felt bad. It was the kind of feeling you get when deep inside you know you can do something but at the same time there is something that stops you.
Intissar during the training with her fellow Risers
A few hours later, I reread the application form again and asked myself, “why not, Intissar? Why would you let this opportunity slip through your fingers again?” At that moment I told myself that “this is a new challenge that you need to take up”.  After three tiring days of reading, gathering information and writing, I finally submitted the application form. I could not believe that I finally did it! 
Days later, I received an email which told me that I passed the first application phase and that I was accepted and needed to come to Dar Si Hmad for an interview. The interview was also scheduled on a Friday! I still remember how stressed I was while walking to the Dar Si Hmad office. On that day I got the chance to meet Anna Cizek, an amazing woman who marked this whole experience. She asked me different questions concerning my essays and gave me more details about the conference.
Finally, I received another email where I was informed that I was one of the three people whom Dar Si Hmad would sponsor to represent Ibn Zohr University at the Arab Model League Conference, organised at the International University of Rabat. Weeks before heading to Rabat, we had many training sessions with our university advisor and Dar Si Hmad Intern, Anna, who helped us broaden our understanding of parliamentary procedure and the Model Arab League in general, in addition to the country which we were going to represent, which was Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Anna helped us boost our self-confidence with different exercises. It was in these sessions that I met Ayoub and Imane, the two other lucky chosen students!
Intissar during the MAL conference
Once we got to Rabat, we were warmly welcomed by the organisers of the conference. On the first day, we visited the Moroccan parliament, and for the two other days, they were busy and full of hard work in the committee sessions. It was difficult and challenging at the very beginning but was still a fulfilling process and experience.
I cannot put into words or describe the significant impact this experience had on me. Not only did it show me that when I really want something I will surely do it, but it also gave me the opportunity to live unforgettable moments and meet amazing people I could not have met otherwise. 
From left to right : Anna, Imane, Intissar and Ayoub

UIRMAL 2018: A Challenge That I Was Able To Overcome

Written by RISE Alumna & DSH grantee:
Imane Arjdal 
Imane at Model Arab League conference
Participating in an international conference has always been a goal for me. My involvement in Model Arab League (MAL) is a story of personal interest, institutional support, and faculty-advisor mentoring and training. Model Arab League is a multi-regional competition where students from across the world learn about and compete as representatives for member states of the Arab League. Through Dar Si Hmad, I was able to reach this goal.
My name is Imane Arjdal, and I’m 20 years old. I am in my second year at Ecole Supérieure de Technologie, majoring in business management. I am also a former RISER from Rise 2018, the contemporary issues, critical thinking, and creative expression program. 
Imane during the training led by Anna
When I first got the email from Dar Si Hmad informing me that they wanted to sponsor RISE alumni to attend this conference, I felt hesitant to apply because I thought I didn’t have any experience in politics or defending country policies, but after more thinking and encouragement from a friend, I finally decided to apply. The process of applying was difficult, but it was an opportunity for me to increase my knowledge about different subjects and to enhance my skills in public speaking and diplomacy. I wrote four different essays for the application related to my chosen council, which was Arab Social Affairs.
I got accepted to attend the MAL after a highly-competitive application and an intensive interview, so I considered this conference as a challenge that helped me step out of my comfort zone and learn more. Before attending the conference, Dar Si Hmad provided us with a training held by their intern Anna Cizek, who was also our instructor and Ibn Zohr University advisor. She taught us everything about the MAL, starting from what it is, to parliamentary procedures, and how to talk and debate in the council sessions. Since it was my first time doing Model Arab League, the sessions were extremely helpful. After two weeks of training, the time had come for us to travel to the International University of Rabat (UIR). My feelings were scattered, jumping from stress to excitement.
Imane and her faculty advisor Anna and colleagues Ayoub and Intissar
After a long night on the bus from Agadir to Rabat, we finally made it to the university, which became very fascinating to me. The participants came from a variety of universities from all over the world, including Georgia State University, NYU Abu Dhabi, AALIM center, Wilmington College, UIR, and Ibn Zohr University, which was represented by our team.
The first day of the conference was the most interesting because we got to visit the Moroccan parliament and network with the other participants for the first time. In the evening, we attended the UIRMAL opening ceremony and listened to a lecture about “challenges, transition, and promise for sustainable development in the Arab world “discussed by the UNIC Rabat director. Afterwards, many other professors gave speeches, one of which was a welcoming speech held by Dr. Aaron Ashby, the director of the UIRMAL conference.
A visit by some of the participants to the Moroccan Parliament 
Model Arab League had more than four sessions a day that were two hours each. Going through my first session was really hard due to me being unfamiliar with the procedures. In the sessions, we got to debate, discuss and come up with new policies for our council’s agenda points as representatives of Model Arab League countries.
I represented the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a challenging country that I had so much fun representing in the end. As the sessions advanced, I became more and more efficient at debating and discussing new policies about the issue in front of us. With the encouragement of my faculty advisor, Anna Cizek, and the chair of our council, Carissa, supporting me from afar during the sessions, my confidence increased.
Imane during the conference
Being a part of Model Arab League’s second edition was a life-changing experience. From applying to debating, discussing my ideas, and helping write position papers as a sponsor, everything felt like a challenge that I was able to overcome. Not only was this experience an opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone, debate, and talk in front of people, but it was also an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge on political developments throughout the Arab world, diplomacy, and parliamentary procedure.
I developed important skills like critical thinking and how to assume leadership in a group, not to mention that I met amazing people from different nationalities and I have got to learn more about their life, culture, language, and perspectives.
Model Arab League was an unforgettable experience. I returned to Agadir with both new experiences and new friends. I want to thank Dar Si Hmad for sponsoring me to attend this conference that I will be forever grateful for, and I hope to work with them again in the future.
Imane with fellow participants at the Social Affairs Council

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Learning Across Continents: Promoting American Values

Written by Fulbright ETA  & DSH Intern:
Anna Cizek

Anna at the Arab League Conference in Rabat 
As a new member of Dar Si Hmad’s team, I see that an introduction is in hand. My name is Anna Cizek, and I am from Chicago, Illinois. Although, I have spent the majority of the past five years traveling abroad or studying in Macon, Georgia. In 2017, I came to Morocco for the first time. Despite the fact that there was more snow in Ifrane than I had ever seen in Chicago, I yearned for the opportunity to come back once my five-month study abroad had finished.
I am in Morocco today, because those ambitions came to light, and in the spring of 2018, I was awarded a Fulbright Grant. Having lived in Morocco for a total of eight months thus far, I feel confident in my assessment that it is truly an amazing country. The hospitality I have experienced, although commonplace amongst Middle Eastern and North African countries, is truly something unique in the world. I cannot express how grateful I am to be in a country with kind and welcoming people. I have always found it imperative to be grateful for opportunities.
Anna while she was visiting Marrakech
Considering that the hard-earned money of American taxpayers and donors has funded my Grant in Morocco, I feel obliged to take my responsibility seriously as a representative of the United States. As a result, I will give further insight into one initiative I have led to put those finances to good use while simultaneously promoting American values.
Recently, I had the ability to take one of my biggest opportunities full circle. Throughout University, I was fortunate to have professors invest their time and energy into my professional development through extra-curricular activities. One of these clubs was Model Arab League. As a youth leadership development program, Model Arab League aims to equip students to be successful speakers, debaters, and writers while collaborating in an international context.
During my first conference in 2016, I represented the policies and perspectives of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I went on to represent other Arab countries, organize a conference through the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, and finally take three of my Moroccan students to their first conference.
Anna with our Risers in Rabat Model Arab League
As I am currently on a flight to Jordan, I recognize the doors that can open with both hard work and attuned mentorship. I am very grateful to have been given instruction on both of these fronts over the years. American culture encourages and rewards those who work hard in pursuit of their goals. However, the American Dream is not a universal concept, so in many countries, hope and ambition fall short. Unfortunately, this resonates with my students, as few of them optimistically perceive their futures to be full of possibilities.
The Rabat Model Arab League opened my eyes to the challenges facing young Moroccan students. Originally, I thought my attendance as a faculty advisor would entail instructing and encouraging my students. However, it is possible that I learned even more than the three of them that weekend. During the four-day conference, I was able to compare and contrast my Moroccan students with American students the same age and adapt my teaching accordingly.
My students were three of six Moroccans at the conference of nearly fifty people. The fact that the conference was held in Rabat sheds light upon that stark contrast. When my students (aka RISE Program Alumni) told me that teachers rarely spend time with them outside of class, I could not help but think of the numerous teachers who have invited me into their homes, and invested time in me over the years. Taking my students to their first Model Arab League conference was the least I could do to share the opportunities I have been fortunate to receive.
Anna and our RISE Alumni