Monday, June 27, 2016

Hello, Boleys!!!

The Boleys are coming; the Boleys are coming!

You may recall that I had Hannah with me Summer 2014 for an insane time of country-hopping delights. See, for example,

Well...she's back! One summer in the UK wasn't enough to scare her off, it seems, and so Summer 2016 is witnessing the return of the Boley British Invasion. And this year it's bigger and better. Mama and Papa Boley are also joining the circus. 

The three of them have been prancing about Ireland and Scotland this past 10 days or so. Today, they are getting on a train from Edinburgh and coming my way. I'll meet them at King's Cross Station and off to their first London dinner they go. 

The parents will be with us through Friday. Then we do a crazy night (we will likely stay in and watch "Star Wars") on Saturday in preparation for her older brother's arrival early Sunday morning. He's about through the following Saturday, and then it's me and my girl for a few weeks. 

Let the overabundance of theatre outings and picnics commence!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back to The Brilliant Club!

As you may recall from last year's posts, I work for The Brilliant Club, a charity placing young reseachers in non-selective state schools and sixth form colleges serving low participation communities to deliver programmes of university-style tutorials to small student groups.

I've developed a course on "Does the Telly Lie? Media and the Middle East", which I've had lots of fun teaching to students across a variety of ages in the last year. Last week, I visited the University of Warwick for the first time on a launch trip. Students from Dormers Wells High School came for a day of campus tours, study skills sessions, and an introductory tutorial from me. My first session teases them about the Middle East and geography - they try to label a map, have a quiz with no real answers, and learn how to write their names in the Arabic script.

I'll go to their high school for the first time tomorrow to dive into the real stuff. I will have two groups of six students for an hour several times over the next few weeks. Then they'll leave for the summer and write their essays. I'll see them again in September when school is back in session to give out feedback and have a reunion party.

I also get to teach an intensive version of the course at the end of July at King's on their K+ Summer Spotlight Programme as part of their Widening Participation initiatives.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

May there be peace

The tears finally came today. Since waking on Sunday, I have been on autopilot, incapable of concentrating on work and unable to properly engage with people. The emotions were too raw, too poignant, too conflicting.

And finally, finally, the dam released. And the tears came.

Tears for families who lost their loved ones in such a tragic way.
Tears for survivors who will grapple with horrific memories and what ifs for the rest of their lives.
Tears for dear ones who were viscerally reminded of the unjust dangers accompanying their sexuality.
Tears for beloved friends who, while fasting during one of the most beautifully reflective celebrations of their holy year, saw their religion cited as a motivator for horrific violence and faced accusations against their entire community.
Tears for a man so broken and failed by the system that his confusion, hatred, and rage came out in the form of a senseless massacre.
Tears for a nation that has seen this time and time again and still fails to take adequate action on gun control, mental health care, and hate speech.

America, you are broken.
World, you are broken.
Humanity, you are broken.

But oh, you are beautiful.

For also this week in the world, a couple gazed adoringly at their adopted daughter as she laughed for the first time.
A man unhesitatingly embraced his transgender son.
A woman gleefully accepted her girlfriend's marriage proposal.
A Pakistani Muslim shopkeeper donated money to rebuild a Christian chapel destroyed by monsoon rains.

We must let the tears come.
There is a time to weep.
This is that time.

But we must also let the smiles come.
Because there is a time to laugh.
And this is that time too.

May you mourn. May you rejoice. In the beautiful, broken mess this thing called life is. And may you know peace.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Triple Baby Day!

I am working. Honestly I am. Though it's possible I am not transcribing interviews for my PhD, which I probably should be.  Yesterday I was in Norwich all day for meetings about the environmental education residentials I help lead. 

And today...teehee. Today I have suddenly been pulled into last minute emergency baby coverage for a friend. So in addition to my usual Tuesday play date with Rafael, I get to flirt with a three-month baby girl for a few hours. And this is after I scheduled a lunch with another mate who also has a five-month-old. 

So Raf and I are going to lunch with another mum and very slightly older infant, and then going to pick up a slightly younger baby. I will take Rafael back to his mum, and then baby girl back to hers. And then I am going to a film screening with Rafael's parents, to which we are going to attempt bringing him and see how he does in the theatre. 

In short: ten solid hours of under six-month-olds today. 

A very grand day. Who needs dissertation data when you can cuddle babies?!

(I promise I'll get back to environmental peacebuilding soon.)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Morocco, je t'aime

I am now back in London after an emotionally intense week in Morocco.

You all read about my work at the International Conference on Water, Energy, and Climate Change. That was a fun three days of attempting to follow hydrology and reverse osmosis chemistry in French (ha!).

That conference was in Marrakech Wednesday-Friday. Saturday I drove with one of Dar Si Hmad's staff members to Agadir and was privileged to attend the RISE & THRIVE graduation. The Integration Day and programme launch for over 200 urban youth happened my first week in the office back in November. The students have since invested seven months in weekly training around professional development skills. They've been following and encouraging my adventures in Kuwait and Lebanon via Facebook, as I've been following their modules online. Sharing their success was such a joy!

Then a heartfelt few days in the office, getting updates on Dar Si Hmad's programming. Most cool is the start of a new initiative. The Environmental Youth Ambassadors are RISE participants selected to be journalists and community advocates. They attended some of the Water School and are creating videos and blog posts about Moroccan environmental issues. They are also organising a series of public engagement activities around Agadir - including a film screening, a rubbish pick-up day, more youth education programming, and a media campaign for ocean health. Follow their activities on Facebook to hear more!

Back in London, I am happily reuniting with the various kids I occasionally baby-sit. Mostly, though, I am attempting to bully myself into cracking down on transcribing and analysing interviews. The far less glamorous part of the PhD! A very happy summer to all...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy World Oceans Day!!

It's World Oceans Day!!! Celebrate our very blue planet by taking action to protect the most insanely large and diverse ecosystems we've got.

Seriously, friends. The ocean is awesome.

Things you can do:

Read about the dangers of plastics in our oceans, the theme of this year's global action movement, on Dar Si Hmad's blog:

Read a book about the Kuwait Dive Team (you can download it for free!):

and then organise a clean-up on your own beach - or in your neighbourhood. No matter how far from the ocean you live, your plastic rubbish may well end up in it!!! Clean it up and make sure it gets disposed of properly:

Encourage the US to ratify the Law of the Sea, and read about why we should:

And virtually come on a sail across the Atlantic Ocean with Marshall Scholar oceanographer Grace Young:

Protect our beautiful world - love the ocean today!!! And every day. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"Net Change" at WECC2016

The following is a re-post from Dar Si Hmad's blog. Please check out the original!

Dar Si Hmad's flagship fog harvesting program and its spinoff Water School, Women's Empowerment, Water for Sanitation and Hygiene, and Fog Forest projects were presented at the International Conference on Water, Energy, and Climate Change hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech 1-4 June.

Director Jamila Bargach and PhD Research Consultant Rebecca L. Farnum spoke about "Net Change: Harvesting Fog for Resilience in Southwest Morocco" on Wednesday.

A sample of their remarks is below. You can see the accompanying presentation online here.

Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture (DSH) runs one of the world’s largest fog collection systems. After a decade-long experimental phase, the project was officially inaugurated in 2015 and now pipes potable running water into the homes of five rural villages in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Southwest Morocco. Incorporating from its outset user-centric planning and embracing the interrelation between justice, livelihoods, and sustainability, the fog project serves as a case study for the potential of holistic development.

One of the saddest realities of climate change is its unequal impact. Already marginalized communities “bear the brunt of environmental degradation” [1]. Vulnerable populations and fragile landscapes intersect to further jeopardize livelihoods. Recognizing this, Dar Si Hmad’s fog project is guided by principles of environmental justice, purposefully integrating gendered and pro-poor analyses to generate maximum impact. On their own, fog collection nets are an innovative technological solution to water stress and the environmental uncertainties wrought by climate change, an ancient idea revitalized for modern demands in fog dense areas [2]. By leveraging the trust built over the course of the project’s feasibility study, Dar Si Hmad has built a comprehensive development program delivering not only potable water but also literacy and numeracy support, capacity building, and STEM-based education to some of Morocco’s most at-risk villages.

Women hold an ancestral role as water guardians in much of the world. Building from ICCD models linking ICT, climate change, and development [3], Dar Si Hmad created a fog monitoring system valorizing this role. Literacy and numeracy trainings in partner villages enable women to govern household supply via SMS message. Expanded literacy capacities have proven useful for much more than capturing fog data, demonstrating the mutual benefits of engaging beneficiaries in the planning and implementation of development projects [4].

Prior to the fog water inauguration, women in partner villages spent up to four hours collecting water every day. Fog water is creating a de facto equality of time between the sexes. To ensure women are able to use the newfound time in ways that benefit them and mitigate the potential negative impacts of alterations to local gender norms, a series of capacity building trainings explored agricultural co-operatives as routes to economic empowerment. Sustainable, locally led businesses further boost resilience as communities have access to multiple income sources.

Complementing adult education is the Water School, a hands-on curriculum engaging area youth around issues of water, sustainability, and conservation. Activities combine art, engineering, science, and math to teach societal and natural realities, equipping rural youth to be makers rather than victims of global change.

Additional spin-off projects include WASH trainings improving community health; the installation of eco-friendly toilets reducing disease and helping retain girls in schools; and a fog water fed reforestation program engaging new stakeholders.

Successfully navigating the water, energy, and climate change nexus requires creative approaches to adaptation and development. Dar Si Hmad’s fog harvesting project is one such holistic project that might serve as a pedagogical blueprint for applied resilience projects.

  1. L Hansen and J Kerr, “The Justice of Water Conservation: NGOs and Civil Society”, Proceedings of Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship, 2010
  2. Vicky Marzol, La capitatiĆ³n del agua de la niebla en la isla de Tenerife, Caja Canarias: Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2003
  3. R Heeks and AV Ospina, “ICTs, Climate Change and Development: Themes and Strategic Actions », Centre for Development Informatics, 2012
  4. Leslie Dodson, A Foggy Desert: Equitable Information Flow for a Fogwater System in Southwest Morocco, University of Colorado Boulder, 2014

Rebecca L. Farnum, a PhD researcher from King's College London, visited Dar Si Hmad in November and December to explore how our Ethnographic Field School and intercultural programmes engage nature in peacebuilding. Becca returned to Morocco especially for the conference. Though she presented in Marrakech, Becca will come down to Agadir this weekend to take part in our RISE Graduation Ceremony and visit the rest of our amazing team. Thanks for coming "home", Becca!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Morocco again!

I am off to Morocco this morning to speak with Dar Si Hmad at a Water, Energy, and Climate Change Conference ( Since the country is hosting the next really big international climate change conference (COP22), there is currently quite a lot of focus on environmental issues in the country.

Happily, I get to use this attention as an excuse to nip back to my people. :)

I'll be in Marrakech for a few days at the conference and then will head for Agadir and the NGO's offices to catch up on happenings around their projects. 

May the beautiful photos of mountains, fog water, camels, and friends recommence. !!!