My time at TYO, much like my experiences in Nablus and Palestine as a whole, has been without a doubt one of the most valuable learning experiences I have had and could dream of having in my life. There are so many things that make this organization what it is, from it’s mission in Nablus and Palestine at large, down to those staff, interns, volunteers and beneficiaries that make up the organization. I was brought back to TYO after coming here for another session as a fellow in the Fall 2015 session, and though my role and responsibilities were quite different in comparison, the unique environment and opportunities that branch out of TYO were similar in the way they have helped me develop both as a person and a young professional.
There are 2 aspects that I can point to specifically about my time here that I feel best describe what being in Palestine and TYO can do for anyone, and that I feel have done incredible things for me. The first is the human aspect of being a part of the TYO community, rather than the humanitarian side more commonly associated with many international NGOs. When people think of coming to work and live in a place like Palestine, they often have an image of coming into an intense, and somewhat negative environment given all of the external issues that take place outside the walls of the centre. What you learn quickly at TYO, is how so many who have experienced tragedy and loss have also taken equally if not more concerted efforts to take every possible opportunity afforded to them to make a positive impact in their lives and the lives of others. You learn to match those stories with faces, people who you interact with day after day as your students in class settings, with local staff in meetings, or simply some of the familiar faces you see day after day and talk to by the water cooler. I have been exposed to the human side of local Palestinians in a way that would be hard to do anywhere, even in other organizations in Palestine, and I have TYO to thank for that in large part.
The second aspect I would like to point to is what our main role has been through this experience. It is true that I, along the other fellows, are brought here to teach. Whether it be English as a Foreign Language, Exercise and Nutrition, or sports, when it comes to our day-to-day tasks and duties, our role is quite literally to teach and give instruction to others. However, something interesting happens when you step back and look at the experience as a whole, and all that it consists of, which is that you begin to realize your role is really to be a student. Most of us come here to teach, but every interaction you have here, primarily with locals is actually a lesson of some kind. Even the smallest conversations end up meaning more when you think about the progression in your understanding of the life of a refugee from Balata, or a student coming to the center from a village like Beita or Awarta. Since the day I arrived at TYO, I have been told consistently that the real teaching process begins upon returning home, and I can confidently say I now fully appreciate and understand that in a way I did not before. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience what we have been privileged to experience here, so personally, my real role as a teacher will start when I return home.
As the son of Palestinian refugees, Palestine has been an omni-present theme of sorts throughout my life. This experience took that theme and made it a reality for me, and for that I will be forever grateful.
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
Moh, EFL Teaching Fellow, Spring 2016