Tag Archives: Morocco

Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (2)

This is the second in a short series about my two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire (Paulo Freire International Center for Languages, Art and Culture). In addition to Spanish grammar and conversation each morning, our group benefitted from a variety of talks (“charlas”) on social justice topics.

Migración: Testimonios de una familia guatemalteca: Our first speaker shared his difficult experience as an immigrant many years ago from Guatemala to Mexico, and his continued work for political change, particularly to benefit indigenous people like the Maya, at the same time as making a living and raising a family in his new country. Two of our questions after his presentation:

  • “What can the US do to help?” – Make sure that donations actually get to the people in need and are not taken by someone else along the way.
  • “What was most difficult after moving to Mexico?” -The family had to repress their home culture until they could get their legal status sorted out in Mexico. It was difficult not being able to speak Mayan with his wife during those first years. His kids understand but speak very little Mayan.

El Método de las CEBs: Our next talk was the first of several about base communities (Comunidades Eclesiales de Base, or CEBs), which were also the subject of one of the papers we read before we came to Mexico: “Back to Basics Mexican Style: Radical Catholicism and Survival on the Margins” by Elsa Guzmán and Christopher Martin, Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 16, No. 3 (1997), pp. 351-366.  The CEBs are small groups that meet monthly long term, using liberation theology, prayer, and radical community action to live out their Christian faith. Their method (método) is:

  1. Ver – see and identify community issues
  2. Pensar – think and prioritize with eyes and heart
  3. Actuar – act as a group to work on the community issue
  4. Evaluar – evaluate the action and progress
  5. Celebrar – celebrate, give thanks with hospitality

Each group’s scope of action is small but may include civil disobedience to resolve a community issue, such as trash not being picked up. We were able to join a CEBs group in their regular meeting, including a prayerful reflection about a collection of objects related to the ongoing celebration of the three kings. We ended the reunion (meeting) with the Prayer for Peace, below, followed by cookies and hot juice. CEBs were started in Cuernavaca by the beloved Bishop Sergio Méndez Arceo, who is locally called Don Sergio.

¡¡Viva Cristo Rey Y Juez!!
Señor Jesús, tu eres nuestra paz, mira nuestra Patria dañada por la violencia y dispersa por el miedo y la inseguridad. Consuela el dolor de quienes sufren. Da acierto a las decisiones de quienes nos gobiernan. Toca el corazón de quienes olvidan que somos hermanos y provocan sufrimiento y muerte. Dales el don de la conversión. Protege a las familias, a nuestros niños, adolescentes y jóvenes, a nuestros pueblos y comunidades. Que como discípulos misioneros tuyos, ciudadanos responsables, sepamos ser promotores de justicia y de paz, para que en ti, nuestro pueblo tenga vida digna.
Viva Christ the King and Judge!!
Lord Jesus, you are our peace, Look at our Homeland damaged by violence and scattered by fear and insecurity. Comfort the pain of those who suffer. Give success to the decisions of those who govern us. Touch the hearts of those who forget that we are brothers and cause suffering and death. Give them the gift of conversion. Protect families, our children, adolescents and young people, our peoples and communities. That, as missionary disciples of yours, as responsible citizens, we can be promoters of justice and peace, so that in you our people may have a decent life.


Mexico and Morocco: Something I did not expect while in Mexico was a number of similarities I noticed with Morocco. I was a member of TechWomen Delegations to Morocco in 2011 and 2014, and in 2018 was a TechWomen Impact Coach for Morocco. I find much to admire in both Mexico and Morocco – not the least is the grace with which those nations manage their centuries-old and complex relationships with the USA. While the countries are different in many ways, some of the similarities I saw were architectural: the homes I visited were focused inward and designed to keep things cool, often using traditional building materials with thick walls, ceramic or stone floor tiles, and decorative ironwork that stand up well in a hot climate. Other similarities were cultural, including remarkable hospitality to strangers and generosity toward those in need. There were also simpler commonalities like terra cotta cooking pots (“flameware“) and embroidered linens in regular use, plus a long history of excellent artisan work in silver, leather, and weaving.

Household pottery markets: in Cuernavaca, Mexico (2019), and Fez, Morocco (2014)

Dogs on roof: in Cuernavaca, Mexico (2019), and Fez, Morocco (2014)

Embroidered linens: from Oaxaca, Mexico (2019), and Marrakesh, Morocco (2011)

Photos Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Team Morocco – Connect to Impact

I have been proud to team up with Mercedes Soria and Fatema Kothari for a third year as TechWomen impact coaches, to work with five remarkable leaders from Morocco: Safaa Boubia, Nisrine Oukacha, Fatima Zzahra Meziane, Fatima Zahra Oumenni, and Imane Nassif. We have been working together since the ladies arrived in September to create Connect to Impact – a new online platform offering resources for nonprofits in Morocco to showcase their actions plans, increase their awareness and access to donors, and in time, improve their skills through fit-for-purpose training. Connect to Impact will provide a bilateral matchmaking algorithm between donors and nonprofit organizations.

Team Morocco presented about Connect to Impact at TechWomen Pitch Day yesterday. We find out at the Community Event on Monday, 22 October 2018, which of the twenty country teams won.

What is TechWomen?
TechWomen empowers, connects and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and inspire women and girls in their communities.

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). TechWomen, launched in 2011, supports the United States’ global commitment toward advancing the rights and participation of women and girls around the world by enabling them to reach their full potential in the tech industry.

Part of the joy of TechWomen is its large and supportive community. My daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman is also a TechWomen mentor, again coaching Team Palestine, which also gave an excellent pitch yesterday.  During the intermission, we got to see videos from TechWomen Fellows of prior years, including Solve24, created by our own 2017 Team Lebanon. Wish us luck in winning the pitch competition!

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Delegation to Egypt

Katy Dickinson TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

I was honored to join the TechWomen Delegation to Egypt: my tenth TechWomen Delegation. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. We had an inspiring and enjoyable trip.  I got back to the USA a few days ago and am still getting used to California’s time zone (but am enjoying our clean air!).

Some of us mentors arrived in Egypt early so that we could acclimatize and see the sights.  I was part of a group that toured Alexandria on 24 February, the day before the Delegation officially started.  We had three flat tires on the road but were able to visit the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century fortress on the Mediterranean sea coast on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some of the lighthouse stones were used to build the fort.  We also saw the remarkable 2002 Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria) and the Montaza Palace.

Katy Dickinson at the Citadel, Alexandria Egypt Feb 2018 aty Dickinson at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria Egypt Feb 2018

The first day of the Delegation, we had a short tour of Giza and Cairo. The Great Pyramid is another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was delighted to discover so many of us Mentors and Fellows from the inaugural 2011 class of TechWomen were part of the Delegation.  We also welcomed Fellows from Lebanon, Libya, South Africa, Palestine, Morocco, Jordan, and Kenya.  All three of the 2011 mentees who were hosted at my company were part of the Delegation: Sukaina Al-Nasrawi and Maha Akkari (Lebanon), and Reham Nasser (Egypt).  I was delighted to catch up with 2011 mentees Maysoun Ibrahim and Huda Alwahidi from Palestine, as well as Eman Ezzat, Ghada Bahig and others from Egypt. Sukaina and Maysoun and Reham have been on TechWomen Delegations before but I had not seen Maha for years.  The Delegation included mentees from all TechWomen years, although Lara Chikhani (from my Team Lebanon) was the only Fellow who came from 2017. I was very happy to see Sara Abdelhafez (Egypt) for the first time since she was hosted at my company in 2012 – and to meet her new son who came to our Farewell Dinner on a Nile river boat.

Giza, TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 Sphinx, TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018
We were very busy during the Delegation, sometimes being on the bus as early at 7:30 am and getting back to our Cairo hotel in the Zamalek district at 10:30 pm.  Activities during which we interacted with hundreds of girls, women, entrepreneurs, and technologists included:

  • Briefing from U.S. Embassy (Monday, Feb 26)
  • The Power of Mentorship at the American Center (Monday, Feb 26)
  • Meet & Greet with U.S. Embassy Colleagues (Monday, Feb 26)
  • Workshops with Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship at the GrEEK Campus (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Pitch Practice and Speed Geek Sessions at the GrEEK Campus (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Girls in STEM Career Fair at Mentor Graphics (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Networking Reception at the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center – TIEK (Wednesday, Feb 28)
  • Discussions with Professionals in STEM at Vodafone (Wednesday, Feb 28)
  • Hands-on STEM Activities at High School (Thursday, March 1)
  • From Silicon Valley to the Nile: Soft Skills Workshops at the American University in Cairo – AUC (Thursday, March 1)
  • Reception with U.S. Embassy at INJAZ (Thursday, March 1)
  • Visit with Teenpreneurs at FabLab Egypt (Friday, March 2)
  • Professional Development Sessions with Alwan wa Awtar – AWA – Youth at Montessori Mokattam (Friday, March 2)

We were delighted to visit many projects started and supported by TechWomen Fellows in Egypt. Cairo traffic is as bad as that of the Silicon Valley so we spent about 1-1/2 hours on the bus to get from event to event. We enjoyed the time to catch up with dear friends and learn more about each other.  Unfortunately, over half of the delegation came down with a respiratory illness and fever so we had to swap speaking slots quite a bit. On Monday, I gave a TED-style talk about mentoring then lead a panel discussing mentoring at the US Embassy’s American Center. Later, I helped Jill Finlayson teach girls to brainstorm and develop solutions to community problems, lead another discussion at AUC with Mohna Dhomse on how to Find a Mentor, joined a panel about life challenges, and gave two talks with Rekha Pai-Kamath on self-branding.  All of us in the Delegation participated in speed geek sessions at several venues.

The day after the Delegation ended, groups of us Mentors and Fellows were able to tour the amazing Egyptian Museum and get some shopping done in the old city of Cairo – with 2015 Fellow Doaa ElEraqy of Egypt as our patient guide and negotiator.

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018

 TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson, TechWomen, and Lara Chikhani.


Filed under Mentoring & Other Business, Mentoring Standard, News & Reviews

Honoring STEM Mentoring

ECR Simple Servant Award to Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017

At the 37th Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real annual convention last weekend, I was honored by Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves with a second Simple Servant Award for my work since 2010 with the TechWomen mentoring program of the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The award certificate reads:

Simple Servant Award
Presented on November 3, 2017 to
Katy Dickinson
The Diocese of El Camino Real honors you. May God bless you for your
faithful ministry mentoring women in Africa and the Middle East in STEM
professions, and for your contribution to the creation of a “virtuous cycle” of
knowledge and wisdom sharing in the world of technology.

It has been an honor and pleasure to work with TechWomen and my mentees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Watching this program thrive and touch so many lives is a great delight. Since I worked in 2010-2011 as the TechWomen Process Architect, I have been a volunteer with this life-changing program as a mentor, working with groups of STEM leaders who travel to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to be hosted by 122 science and technology companies and organizations for a month (and then continue a mentoring relationship once they have returned to their home country).

Beginning with the first cohort of 37 from 6 countries in 2011, there have been 518 TechWomen Fellows from 22 countries and 698 mentors. I have formally been assigned to mentor 14 women in Lebanon, Algeria, Gaza-Palestine, Jordan, and Tunisia – and have worked with many more who have asked me to be their mentor. I have also participated in nine formal TechWomen Delegations with the State Department, to: Jordan (twice), Kyrgyzstan, Morocco (twice), Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, as well as making informal trips with TechWomen mentors to visit our mentees in Lebanon, Gaza-Palestine, and Sierra Leone.  Learning from my sister mentors as well as from my mentees is part of the joy and value of this excellent program for Citizen Diplomats.

Want to make a different in STEM? Please consider joining TechWomen as a mentor yourself!

ECR Convention Simple Servant award Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017 by Elrond Lawrence

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Photo Copyright 2017 by the Diocese of El Camino Real, Elrond Lawrence.

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Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher 2014 Church of St. George Lalibela Ethiopia

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation to my home congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) about my nine trips to Africa since 2010. The talk is called “Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business”. I have linked the talk here so that my audience can access my pictures and stories after.  My bold intention in giving this talk is to present a small part of the wonderful complexity of the African continent, and to encourage them to visit and get involved in African enterprises.

“If you only visit two continents in your lifetime, visit Africa – twice.” – R.Elliot

TechWomen and TechGirls in Tunisia 2015

Katy Dickinson presenting to AIMS and TechWomen at in Cape Town by Rejoyce GaVhi Feb2015

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Images Copyright 2010-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Extra Gear? Gifts for Sierra Leone

Gifts for Sierra Leone trip June-July 2017

My daughter Jessica and I will be visiting Families Without Borders in Sierra Leone next week with Terri Khonsari. If you have any extra laptops or smart phones we can bring – no matter how old or dead – the students will be delighted with your donation. Please contact me soon!

I have visited the inspiring and fascinating continent of Africa at least once a year since 2010. With TechWomen Delegations, I have been to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, plus participating in Delegations to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa below the Sahara. With People to People, John and I visited Ethiopia. My only actual vacation in Africa was to Egypt in 2010 – a much longer trip than planned since our family was stranded there by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  This will be my first trip to West Africa.

I bring gifts on each trip for our generous hosts and for new friends and colleagues. For my first TechWomen Delegations, I had custom pencils made but more recently, I have brought San Francisco keychains and geeky pens and toys given away at events like the Grace Hopper Conference.  For this trip, I bought keychains, the Willow Glen Wells Fargo Bank branch gave me a big bag of red pens, and I am also bringing packages of stickers for the children.

However, the best present for the students in Sierra Leone would be empowerment and greater connection to the wider world.  Your outdated computer gear can help them.  I hope to hear from you!

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Image Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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How to Display Stones in Earthquake Country

Sea Lily crinoid fossils Scyphocrinites elegans from Morocco on wall plaque

Displaying stones can be a challenge, especially in California where we regularly have earthquakes. If you are lucky, a decorative stone will come with a suitable base. Or, if the stone is small, a store-bought plastic stand may work. However, for large, heavy stones custom design and fabrication are needed for the best presentation. If you are handy like my husband John, you can make stands and pedestals yourself.

Here is what we are avoiding. This is a large cloisonné metalwork vase John and I bought in China which was flattened in an earthquake when it fell to the floor:
Chinese cloisonné vase smashed in an earthquake

Example 1: Small Fool’s Gold Sphere

iron pyrite, fool's gold sphere 1 Aug 2016

Basic hoop: My son Paul gave me this pretty iron pyrite (fool’s gold) sphere along with a clear plastic hoop for a stand.  The hoop keeps the sphere from rolling but it is only held in place by gravity. In an earthquake, this heavy sphere will probably smash something.

Example 2: Ruby Crystals on Quartz

Ruby Crystals on Quartz on a stand, from China
Simple pedestal: John brought this rock to Paul as a present from China some years ago.  It is ruby crystals on quartz, on a custom pedestal. The quartz has been carved away from the crystals to show them off. You can see in the photo below that the pedestal it came with has a trough or fitted hole carved into it the exact size and shape of the stone.
pedestal or stand for a rock

Example 3: Zimbabwe Shona Sculpture

Large fitted pedestal: I carried home this Shona sculpture of carved serpentine for John when I was in Zimbabwe with the 2016 TechWomen Delegation. I asked the sculptor, Martin Chirenda, to sign it before before wrapping. The sculpture weighs over sixty pounds and is top-heavy. We were concerned that it would break or hurt someone falling over in an earthquake. John made a low oak pedestal by carving a trough and then filling it with epoxy to fit the stone exactly. The stone is fixed to the dried epoxy with a thin pour of Karo (corn sugar syrup). Using Karo is a museum display trick that does not damage the art but keeps it firmly attached to its base.

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016 . Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare

sculpture stand

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare on pedestal 10 July 2016

Example 4: Sea Lily Fossil from Morocco

Mounted on a Plaque: We bought this ancient double Sea Lily or Crinoid fossil at Consolidated Rock & Mineral in Vacaville for our anniversary. It was found in Morocco originally. The stone is heavy but the fossil itself is fragile. We wanted to display it so that it could be admired but not broken. John just finished making this wood plaque with hooks. The plaque is mounted to the wall with a French cleat.  These are the best flowers John has ever bought me!
Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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