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, March 16, 2018

RISE Session 2: Gender & Society

This Blog post is by UNC Global Gap Year Fellow and DSH Intern Georgia Morgan

This week in RISE we discussed the complex social issue of gender. To introduce
the topic, we asked the students to respond to the following writing prompt: “What
are some experiences you have had that led you to realize there were different
expectations for different genders?” After about 15 minutes of thinking and writing,
we shared some of our thoughts. A lot of us had similar stories that shared the
common theme of restricting people of a certain gender in their behavior and what
they were “supposed” to like and dislike. Through our shared experiences, we found
that the expectations for men and women in society were very limiting and even
possible to visualize in boxes -- which led us directly into our next activity.

For the Gender Box activity, we drew two large boxes on the whiteboard, one for men
and the other for women. We then asked the students to come up with the “expected”
or “stereotypical” feelings, behaviors and traits of men and women in society as well as
names for people that don’t fit within those boxes. Overall, the students decided that,
in the views of society, men were supposed to be prideful, strong, smart, emotionless,
dominant and aggressive while women were supposed to be submissive, kind, quiet,
loving, naive, emotional and irrational. Following a short break, we came back together
to reflect on the activity. “What do you notice about the influence of male and female
stereotypes on how men and women are expected to “show up” in the world?” “How
might those stereotypes influence how people think about leaders who behave in ways
that are ‘outside of the box’?” “Does women’s power change if they learn to ‘behave like
a man?’” How do we change these societal expectations? Where do you think these
expectations about gender come from?

We found that, in general, when people behave outside of their corresponding “gender box”,
they are faced with a lot of negativity and judgement, that these stereotypes are a worldwide
issue and are reinforced by things like media and culture, and that the best way to start
changing these societal expectations is to start small and address our expectations of our
family, children, friends and peers based on their gender.
Our final discussion topic was, “is sexual harassment an individual or societal issue?”
which we chose because sexual harassment is a prominent manifestation of these
gender-based societal expectations. There was some back and forth debate, but in the
end, we came to the conclusion that while individuals choose whether or not to harass,
there is an overarching societal pressure that normalizes this behavior without consequence.

The students also voted on their student choice topic session during week 9
which will be the Moroccan educational system! It’s been great to see the students
get more comfortable and open to sharing their personal experiences and voicing
their opinions. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the RISErs more and build that
closer group dynamic. I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions on immigration
and migration!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Unsung Heroes Interview 2: Alex Kochenburger

Alex Kochenburger is a Fulbright intern at Dar Si Hmad from the United States.

What is your name and how old are you?
My name is Alex Kochenburger and I am 22 years old.
Where are you from?
I am from Storrs, Connecticut.
How long have you been in/ lived in Agadir?
I have been living in Agadir for over five months, but I’ve also lived in Rabat and
Meknes in the past.

Where did you graduate from and with what degree?
I graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts with a
Bachelors of Arts in International Studies and Arabic.

What brought you to Agadir/ Dar Si Hmad?
I am in Agadir on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant. I teach English
courses at the Ecole Nationale de Commerce et Gestion (ENCG) and volunteer
at Dar Si Hmad in my free time.

Describe your role at Dar Si Hmad.
At Dar Si Hmad, I am a Rise session instructor. Along with another Fulbrighter
named Natalie Sullivan, I am responsible for designing and teaching the curriculum
for Dar Si Hmad's Rise program. Whereas last semester's Rise program focused
on teaching Agadiri students employability and professional development skills,
this semester's Rise program hopes to provide a space for Agadiri students to
discuss contemporary issues that are relevant to their lives.

What is your favorite part about coming to DSH?
My favorite part about coming in to Dar Si Hmad is having the opportunity to work
with the wonderful students of the Rise program. Throughout my experience as a
Rise instructor, I have been unfailingly impressed by the students' work ethics,
senses of humor and dedication to learning.  

What is one thing you’d like everyone to know about DSH?
I would want everyone to know that Dar Si Hmad is full of innovative and
energetic employees that are always looking for new ways to implement diverse
projects in southern Morocco. Aside from Dar Si Hmad's flagship fog harvesting
plant, the organization also runs an Oasis School, an Ethnographic Field School,
a center for language and research and the Rise program.

What is one of your most memorable moments at DSH?

One of my most memorable moments with Dar Si Hmad was last semester's
Rise closing ceremony. Not only did we Rise instructors take the opportunity
to embarrass ourselves, but it was also very fulfilling to celebrate the end of a
great program with our students.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Moroccan Identity: First RISE Session

By Dar Si Hmad intern and UNC Global Gap Year Fellow Georgia Morgan

Our first real week of the new RISE semester was a great success discussing the
topic of identity and stereotypes in Morocco. The students arrived excited and eager
to begin the new semester. Only a couple people arrived late and had to show off their
dance moves in front of the class.
We began the session with each student signing the contract they
discussed during orientation on the type of environment they wanted for
RISE and the kind of respect and open mindedness they hoped to maintain.
We then began our first activity as an introduction to identity. Around the room
were different identity cards posted on the wall that included different aspects
of one’s identity such as gender identity, religion, financial status, nationality,
race, sexual preference, family relationships, career goals, political beliefs,
physical appearance and a blank card for any aspect of identity not listed.
We then asked the group questions such as “What is the part of your identity
that you are most/ least aware of on a daily basis?” and asked each member
to walk to the card that they felt best answered the question for them. Everyone
including our facilitators participated, and each person had the opportunity to
share why they chose their answer. Some questions were very challenging
while others were easier for people to answer.
It was really interesting for me to participate too, as I learned a lot about myself
in the process! The activity made me reflect a lot more in depth about my own
identity and think about what I am more/ less aware of about myself. I also really
enjoyed hearing what the RISErs had to say about their experiences and it was
interesting to see the similarities and differences between American and Moroccan
experiences as well as male and female experiences.  

After the activity and debrief, we had the creative writing portion of the program where
the RISErs responded to the following prompt: “What does identity mean to you?
After completing this activity, what do you believe are the most significant parts of
your identity?”

Dar Si Hmad’s executive director, Jamila Bargach, joined the last half of the RISE
session to discuss jokes about Moroccan stereotypes. Some of the jokes were
very silly while others proved to be a bit risqué and problematic. Everyone enjoyed
a good laugh, but it was important to discuss why we found these jokes funny.
What did these jokes say about Moroccan identity and culture? Who was telling
these jokes? We discussed the ‘standardized’ point of view from which these
jokes were told and explored that while they do initially make us laugh, they can be
dangerous because they reinforce stereotypes and normalize bias.

We are very optimistic about the rest of this semester based on the
RISErs impressive engagement and participation this week. Next week
we will be discussing gender and society and are looking forward to those discussions.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

RISE Orientation Session

By DSH Intern Sara Saba

Last Wednesday and Thursday, we had our very first RISE sessions
of the semester! Although they were just orientations to introduce our
participants to the program, the energy was high, and everyone seemed
very excited for the coming weeks. Wednesday’s session was led by Alex
and Hafida, and Thursday’s by Natalie and Ayman, both assisted by Maisie,
Georgia and Sara. The session began with an introduction to Dar Si Hmad
and a presentation about the fog project by Maisie, followed by an explanation
of the lesson plan for the next 10 weeks.

A fun RISE policy for late-comers is that they have to dance in
front of the class. On Wednesday, only one person was late, and
the class enjoyed his dancing very much. On Thursday, there
were quite a few late comers, who happily danced to Lady Gaga
as they arrived throughout the class. After the background on Dar
Si Hmad, we then re-energized with a fun name game, where we
went around the circle, and said our names and a descriptive adjective
beginning with the same letter as our names. This definitely presented
a challenge for people whose names begin with letters like “I” or “O”
(we got intelligent and outstanding).

After a short break, we regrouped to discuss and develop the ethical
constitution for this RISE semester. The participants were mostly self
guided in this, given only small helpful suggestions by our staff and interns.
They decided on several important mandates, such as practicing active
listening, having open minded discussions, talking without interrupting, positive
attitudes, among others. We were very impressed with their abilities to work
together and develop their ethical constitution as a group. We also discussed their
individual learning goals for this RISE session, and asked participants to share
some goals they had.  Common answers included developing critical thinking
skills, working on public speaking, communicating better in English and learning
about other people’s ideas. We hope to address all of these learning goals in the
coming weeks. Next week, we will officially begin our discussions, starting with
Moroccan Identity and Stereotypes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Dar Si Hmad's Unsung Heroes, First Interview: Sara and Mohamed

Dar Si Hmad’s new ‘Unsung Heroes’ Project aims to highlight the people that work behind the scenes to help the office run on a daily basis. While the staff at Dar Si Hmad work hard everyday to develop and implement the organization’s many projects, there are additional members behind the scenes that bring light, laughter, determination, order, and passion to the office. The goal of this project is to give recognition to these additional team members in a fun and creative way. We will be conducting interviews and photography sessions with some of these members, including: current interns, our language instructors, homestay families, cleaning and food delivery personnel, furry friends and more!

Interview of Sara and Mohamed Lamghari

Sara and Mohamed Lamghari are homestay host siblings for international interns
at Dar Si Hmad. They are currently hosting American intern Georgia Morgan.

  • What are your names and how old are you?
My name is Sara Lamghari and I am 13 years old, and my name is Mohamed Lamghari
and I am 14 years old.

  • How long have you lived in Agadir?
We were both born in Agadir, and we’ve lived here our whole lives. Our parents are
from the town Tafraout.

  • What are your favorite school subjects & hobbies?

Mohamed- My favorite subjects at school are math and physics. I like these subjects
because they are logical. I enjoy playing football with my friends. I also love to listen
to music. Lartiste is my favorite musician.

Sara- My favorite subjects at school are science and technology. I like science
because I want to be a doctor when I am older. I like technology because it is fun
to me. My hobbies are kickboxing, chess and football. I also like the musician Lartiste,
and I like to watch Parodies Bros on YouTube.

  • What do you like about hosting international students?
Mohamed- When we have people stay with us, we go outside more to show them
around the city. When it is just us, it’s easy to just stay inside and play games or
watch television, so I like having them [international students] stay with us because
we go out and have fun.
Sara- Everyone that we have hosted has been very friendly. I like going to the
beach, walking and eating at restaurants together with my guests. I love playing
chess and baking with you [Georgia]. I would also go for runs and bake with my
previous host siblings, and I enjoyed that.

  • Do you have any funny stories from hosting international students?
Mohamed- One time Sara, Georgia, my mother and I were driving home and I had
the best idea for a prank. I just got this toy snake from a party, and I decided to scare
my mother. When the car came to a stop, I put the toy snake on the emergency brake.
When my mother reached for it to park the car, she screamed and ran out of the car.
Sara and I ran out of the car too and could not stop laughing. It was the best prank ever.

Sara- Mohamed thinks it’s funny to crack eggs on my head, so one time right after
he took a shower, I surprised him and cracked an egg on his head. It was so funny,
but a couple of minutes later he got me back and cracked one on my head too!

  • What have you learned from your host siblings?
Mohamed- I learned about the stars and constellations in the night sky from you [Georgia].
I like how we go up on the terrace at night sometimes and talk about them. We have also
had some philosophical conversations about the past, present and future which I find very interesting.

Sara- I’ve learned that Americans don’t eat as much as Moroccans do. There are also
some weird foods that you [Georgia] eat, like the oats with hot water and banana [oatmeal].
I’ve also noticed that you [Georgia] sleep early sometimes. Sophie, our guest from last
year, taught me how to bake muffins and pancakes.