5 Ways to Strengthen ECE


The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science recently published a new Call to Action and Policy Brief about how to fill children’s potential, through Early Childhood interventions. Through their extensive research they concluded that following five actions can make the greatest difference in children’s lives:

  1. Integrate nutrition and child development interventions for young children and their families, wherever possible. This includes interventions that have both nutrition and health components delivered simultaneously to the families and their children, with the objective that they reinforce each other and are cost-effective.
  2. Focus on learning and nutrition in early childhood by promoting high-quality family care. Early in life, adequate nutrition and consistent, responsive parenting promote brain development, social-emotional competencies and school-readiness.
  3. Adapt interventions to address the local capacities and constraints of families and communities. The setting and location of interventions should be adaptable to meet unique local needs. A combination of home and center-based delivery models can ensure a broad reach, while still recognizing and supporting the family’s role in promoting children’s well being.
  4. Identify the best practices and appropriate indicators in an integrated delivery of interventions through focused research and program evaluation. A globally accepted set of measures and indicators is needed to ensure the successful evaluation of integrated interventions. An accepted set of indicators standardizes reporting procedures and allows for the comparison of effective components across locations.
  5. Mobilize the endorsements of leaders across intergovernmental and government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and others in civil society to bring effective interventions to scale and sustain them. Just as the science of early childhood development and nutrition requires a consensus from multiple disciplines, the support of integrated interventions must also come from a wide array of stakeholders. These partnerships allow for the alignment of priorities, the pooling of limited resources, and access to the evidence base necessary to ensure effective scale-up.

Core relay race

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a major priority to us at TYO. Through our multi generational approach to learning, parents and children participate in parallel programming to promote healthy lives. We target mothers, Palestinian children’s primary caregivers, in our approach to strengthening our ECE programs, conduct parent-teacher conferences and make frequent home visits to continue follow-up. We also understand the value of mobilizing leaders in the Nablus community to take a stand in support for ECE interventions. This is a global priority and more can be done to ensure optimal growth and development of the world’s children — how will you help?

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In Memory of Thomas Wolfe


TYO mourns the passing of Tom Wolfe, our dear friend and long-time supporter of TYO and its work in Palestine. Thank you for all that you have done to change the lives of children, women and youth in Nablus.

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World Day Against Child Labour 2015


In 2002, The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour to bring international attention to the issue of child labor. Every year on June 12, the world comes together to work towards combating this crisis.

Child labor is a problem that plagues some of the poorest regions of the world. And Nablus is no exception. Children feel pressure to help support their families and often, children must forgo schooling in order to work and make money. Workplaces where children frequent – factories, landfills, markets and streets – are not safe environments. Laboring can negatively affect a child’s education, limiting his potential to grow and and become successful in the future. Students end up spending all of their free time working instead of studying, or spending no time in school at all.

ahmad child labor

Ahmad digs through trash dumps outside of his refugee camp in Nablus to find scrap metal to sell at the market. Everyday, he finds wires that must be stripped of their plastic in order to be resold.

The 2015 World Report on Child Labour has startling statistics (click the download link at the bottom of this page to view the full report) that shed light on the subject. The World Report states that “children benefiting from good education and from a healthy developmental environment are more likely to be equipped with the necessary competencies and life skills to make a successful transition to working life during adolescence and early adulthood.” The report continues to explain, “Hazardous work among adolescents who are above the general minimum working age but not yet adults (i.e. those in the 15–17 years age group) constitutes a worst form of child labour and a violation of international labour standards.” With regards to Palestine in particular, studies reveal that early school leavers, particularly children under the age of 15, are at greater risk of remaining outside the world of work altogether as adults, by nearly 50%. Jordan and Egypt are also facing challenges as the majority of their adolescent laborers are involved in hazardous work: 61.3% and 64.4% respectively.

Child Labor 2015 Pic

Ibrahim works as a tailor in the Old City of Nablus, making $5. He faces pressure to do more in the factory, but he only glues and threads buttons because he is scared of the dangerous sewing machines.

The report continues by saying, “Children are not simply smaller adults, they are physically and mentally different; and regardless of cultural perceptions or social construct, the transition to biological adulthood extends past puberty well into the late teen years.” Communities must work together to understand this basic biological principle. It is our responsibility as families, parents and community members to protect our children, to foster a love of learning and to promote education. Parents need to become better informed about the harmful affects of child labor. At TYO, The Women’s Group allows us to help mothers work towards raising healthy, happy children. We will continue to support children’s psychosocial needs, academic well-being among all community members and educating mothers. We hope you will too.

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World Environment Day 2015


Today, is World Environment Day (WED). WED is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. WED is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change.

“Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

At TYO, we believe that children should take action in their communities and that they can become critical drivers for change. We encourage our students to participate in a variety activities that help protect, maintain and give back to the environment including: trash cleanups, recycling, water conservation, energy conservation and gardening.

TYO students pick up trash at a local park

TYO students pick up trash at a local park

Two friends make trash bins out of recycled materials

Two friends make trash bins out of recycled materials

Core Child Program Teacher Haitham teaches a student how to plant a flower at the TYO center

Core Child Program Teacher Haitham teaches a student how to plant a flower at the TYO center

This World Environment Day, what will you be doing to give back? We hope you are inspired to protect earth today and always. It’s never too early to learn about protecting the environment.

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Introducing Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs


TYO CBFW header

We are so excited to share the latest news regarding TYO’s entrepreneurship programs! Following the success of the two-year regional Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East (FWEME) project in Palestine and Lebanon, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and TYO will continue to support women in northern Palestine with the launch of Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs in April 2015.

The objective of the project is to empower women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation.
The four key objectives of the project are:

  • Increase enterprise development skills of 45 women entrepreneurs
  • Potential for business growth for 25 women increased through coaching and market linkages
  • Scale up businesses of 15 women through incubation and/or investment
  • Elevate women’s position in the Palestinian economy through public policy dialogue that highlights women’s leadership roles and potential in business.

FWEME training pic


International Day of Families 2015


Today, May 15th, is International Day of Families! This year, the UN chose the theme: ”Men in charge? Gender equality and children’s rights in contemporary families.” The aim is to raise awareness towards promoting gender equality and rights of children within families. This day is especially important to us at TYO because multigenerational programming and gender equality are both cornerstones of our programming.

Mohammad in the Core Child Morning Program completes his family chart

Mohammad in the Core Child Morning Program completes his family chart

In The Women’s Group (TWG), we work with mothers, offering seminars on health, mental health, parenting & children’s needs, education & literacy, and women’s & girl’s empowerment. We work with mothers to help them understand their role in the family and in society. Men and women should be equal decision-makers in their homes and in their families. Mothers must also feel empowered to take charge of their lives and seek personal happiness – benefiting themselves and their children.

We promote gender equality in our classes for children as they are all mixed gender. In Nablus, social, cultural and religious norms and expectations, put a heavy emphasis on gender separation – every UNRWA refugee camp school and every local Nablus school that TYO children attend are separated by gender, starting at the first grade. At TYO, we try to break the cycle of thinking that mixed gender environments are harmful for children. We promote the idea of equality between the genders and have seen a great shift in children’s willingness to cooperate with both boys and girls.

While changing people’s conceptions about gender is a big challenge, TYO and its staff have witnessed great breakthroughs! Parents and children alike are breaking down barriers and heading towards greater gender equality.

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Soap, Not Soup!


I had just landed in Palestine and was to begin working at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) as a Zahi Khouri Fellow. I was overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity, but was nervous and unsure of what to expect during my tenure at the organization. Before I began teaching TYO’s entrepreneurs I was filled with first-day jitters and self-doubt. My fear and hesitation quickly blossomed into one of the most positive and enriching experiences I have ever had while traveling abroad.

Zahi Khouri Fellow Vanessa, alongside Psychosocial Program Manager Suhad with the WISE II participants.

Zahi Khouri Fellow Vanessa, alongside Psychosocial Program Manager Suhad, pose with the WISE II participants.

As a Zahi Khouri Fellow, I was tasked with the responsibility of teaching The Women’s Group (TWG) fitness and nutrition courses. TWG is for women residing in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Nablus, with a focus on mothers of children in TYO’s Core Child Program. Classes include health, nutrition, and exercise alongside IT classes.

In addition to TWG, I would also provide intensive Business English and Social Media and IT courses to women participating in the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE) II Program.  WISE II  enhances women-led, small enterprises in marginalized areas of northern Palestine. It is the first of its kind to serve women of northern Palestine who cannot access services offered in Ramallah or other areas.

I had limited experience teaching English, Social Media, or IT upon arrival. Now, I was tasked with the responsibility of facilitating a successful educational experience for TYO’s entrepreneurs. What if they didn’t like me? What if my lessons were boring and uninteresting? What if they left feeling as though the classes were a waste of their time? Fortunately, TYO believed in me. Additionally, my experience building community-based infrastructure with Palestinian and Iraqi refugee women in the United States would help inform my classroom time with the WISE II entrepreneurs. Rather than mire myself with worry, I decided to enter the classroom with enthusiasm, excitement, and determination.

Equipped with three weeks of lesson plans, I entered class expecting the women to bring an ample amount of sass, brilliance, and personality. The women brought that and so much more. For three weeks, the women pushed themselves and each other to learn conversational English that they will undoubtedly use while promoting and running their businesses. Some of the subjects we covered included how to properly pronounce words associated with their businesses, how to speak in formal English about their business over the phone and in person, and how to craft and articulate a business pitch. We often erupted in roars of (loving) laughter when one of the women just couldn’t grasp the pronunciation of a difficult word or when many of the women would refer to their “soup” business instead of her “soap” business.

Many of the entrepreneurs had one and a half hour commutes in order to get to our center yet always came to class with dogged determination to tackle the day’s lesson. For their final assignment, the women had to present a business pitch to a mock potential investor. Each woman confidently stood before the class presenting their pitches. I stood and listened, feeling overwhelming pride for the progress the women had made in such a short period of time.

Their final presentations proved to me what I had suspected: upon completion of the three-week class, the women had not only garnered more command over English, but they also gained more self-confidence in themselves, and love and respect for each other.

I have had the pleasure of traveling to Tulkarem and Jenin to visit many of the WISE II entrepreneurs. I felt tremendously honored to have been able to visit the women’s villages and homes, eat their delicious food, and connect with them outside of the classroom. In retrospect, it is hard to believe I was ever nervous about teaching at all.. Together we have built genuine relationships based in mutual respect and I am so honored to have been a small part of these women’s entrepreneurial journeys. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Vanessa, Zahi Khouri Fellow

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Mind the (Gender) Gap



Today we wrap up week four of The Women’s Group (TWG) program at TYO. TWG focuses on supporting women residing in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Nablus, with a focus on mothers of children in TYO’s Core Child Program. The classes focus on health, nutrition, and exercise seminars as well as IT classes. The IT classes are a critical component of TWG curriculum. Led by a TYO entrepreneur, Sahar, the class offers soft and hard IT skills, but also demonstrates the power of mentorship as women see first-hand that the program is offered by another woman on a volunteer basis.

The majority of the women enter the computer lab unable to even turn on their computers. In just three weeks though, women have begun to shift from an “I can’t” attitude to an openness and willingness to learn fundamental technology and computer skills. The Women’s Group participants remind us of the importance of teaching women in the Middle East and North Africa IT and computer skills in order to make sure they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

TYO Entrepreneur, Sahar, teaching IT skills to TWG.

TYO Entrepreneur, Sahar, teaching IT skills to TWG.

In a March 2015 Microsoft On the Issues blog, Director of Microsoft Research Connections Rane Johnson states that “despite all the efforts, wide gender imbalance still exists in innovation worldwide, with number of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields decreasing from secondary school to university, laboratories to teaching, and policy making to decision making.”

She continues to state that “At the same time, most developed countries are forecasting an alarming shortfall in the number of skilled people to fill these jobs. The International Telecommunications Union predicts that 90 percent of future professional positions will require information and communications technology skills as well as a solid background in science or technology. Developing women’s competencies will widen the pool available to perform these tasks, while opening opportunities for women to pursue their dreams.”

Participants enter The Women’s Group IT classes with limited computer skills. In addition to not knowing how to turn their computers on and off, many of the women were afraid to touch the computer’s mouse, unsure how to grasp and wield it. TYO helps foster skills in not only wielding the mouse and typing on the keyboard but also utilizing Microsoft Suite and creating professional email addresses. Through these skill building classes participants have shown more confidence, and not just in front of the computer. The words, “I can’t,” no longer ring through TYO’s IT classes. Alongside this newfound confidence, our long-term vision is that these fundamental skills will enable women in Nablus to become more employable in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math.

Upon entering class, the women proclaimed that when at home, whenever they needed to use the computer they would ask their husbands or their sons for assistance. By addressing this gender gap inside the homes of Palestinian women, we will ultimately narrow the divide outside the home in the professional world as well.

Sahar – TYO Entrepreneur

Vanessa – Zahi Khouri Fellow

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Youth in Focus: An Interview with Wasfiya D.


Wasfiya D. is from Tubas, a village in Palestine northeast of Nablus. When Wasfiya was in sixth grade, she was forced to drop out of school. Her family’s home was on a mountain just outside of Tubas, and getting to school was not easy. Typically, Wasfiya’s father would take her and her brothers to school; but when her father was arrested, Wasfiya’s brothers decided that she should drop out of school and stay at home. They believed that it was enough for Wasfiya to read and write, and that anything more was a waste of time and money.

In 2007 at age 25, Wasfiya decided to go back to school. She insisted on finishing high school, and afterwards pursued both vocational training and a college degree. Currently, she studies management at Al-Rawda College in Nablus.

Wasfiya assists a student with her math.

Wasfiya assists a student with her math.

What sparked your interest in TYO’s Youth Service Learning Program? How did you hear about the organization?

I heard about TYO’s volunteer program from my classmates in university. I had lived isolated from the outside community for so much of my childhood that I was thrilled at the idea of working at such a large center, working with children, and meeting many people from different backgrounds.

What are your career goals, and how do you think volunteering at TYO will help you achieve those?

I am so happy to be asked that question. I am used to my extremely conservative home community, where people do not see a future for me because I am a woman and also because I dropped out of school so early.

I know that I enjoy studying management and would love to work at an organization like TYO where there is a diverse staff to learn from, as well as an environment where there are daily opportunities and challenges to grow my management skills and also grow personally. Already, in my experience as a TYO volunteer, working with children has made me more energetic and more confident moving forward in my own life. I am more comfortable in pursuing my goals and less anxious about what society thinks.

What is the greatest challenge for youth like you in the current labor market?

In university, everyone has high expectations for their future careers; when students graduate and cannot find work in their field – or any work that they are excited about – it kills their motivation. I have seen many youth my age who would rather be unemployed than work in a less-than-ideal job after university. I am not like that. I will gladly take any job or work experience – whether paid or volunteer – because I know that part of getting the job I want is the learning process and growing my professional skills before that. At TYO, I appreciate the high level of responsibility volunteers have in the classroom. It makes me feel like a valuable and important part of my community.

What can your generation do to overcome the challenges of entering the labor force?

Our generation needs to accept the reality and magnitude of unemployment issues in Palestine, and we need to look to those ahead of us and make sure that we do not make the same mistake in assuming that university education is enough. Youth my age need to accept that to reach the top of the ladder, you cannot go straight to the top; you need to move up step by step – some of those steps will be easy and enjoyable, and some will be hard. That means accepting any work or volunteer opportunity that you are offered.

If there was one skill you wish you had, what would it be and why?

Public speech. Again, I spent so much of my youth isolated from the outside community and being surrounded only by my family, that my self-confidence is low when speaking in public. I need to take courses to overcome that.

Also, my English is very poor, and I would love to join a course to practice English conversation. For now, I am practicing English through an online program and internet resources until I can join a more formal English course.

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Child’s Play You Say?


Last week, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) launched The Women’s Group Summer 2015 program for women residing in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Nablus, with a focus on mothers of children in TYO’s Core Child Program. This week concludes our second week of health, nutrition, and exercise seminars alongside IT classes. These seminars have made it overwhelmingly evident that the power and importance of play does not stop in childhood, but continues well into adulthood.

The importance of creative play for children is well-known. Imaginative games help young kids express themselves in a positive way, as well as learn empathy through the experience of make-believe. It is widely believed that children who engage regularly in creative play grow up to be smarter, more emotionally intelligent and better able to cope with stress than their non-playful counterparts.

So, why do we stop working on these skills as adults?

According to an August 2014 National Public Radio report, healthy play leads to a healthy adulthood. In the report, Dr. Stuart Brown the founder of The National Institute for Play states that play teaches children how to get along with others, develop empathy, roll with the punches and learn resiliency that carries through to adulthood. While what occurs in adult play is slightly different, it is as equally beneficial. Play for adults helps maintain their social well-being, connect with others and uphold cognitive functioning throughout aging.

Zahi Khouri Fellow, Vanessa, and The Women's Group take it outside to enjoy the summer weather

Zahi Khouri Fellow, Vanessa, and The Women’s Group take it outside to enjoy the summer weather

TYO understands the importance of play for adults, including sports and games in our curriculum. Participants lose track of time, forgetting that they are receiving a cardiovascular workout, as they play games that keep them entertained, laughing and running around. They waste no time diving into whatever new adventure awaits them, often demonstrating a competitive edge they seldom have an opportunity to showcase.

Given how complicated life is in Nablus, many of the participants in The Women’s Group did not enjoy traditional childhoods filled with sports and games. As a result of this deficit and the tremendous responsibilities that await them at home, the women seize any opportunity they are given to have some fun.

In merely two weeks, the women participating in The Women’s Group have proven Dr. Stuart Brown’s argument: play is powerful.

After an hour of play, the women demonstrate remarkably improved moods and more confident demeanors. They come to the following class ready for the fun, challenge and relationship building that awaits. At TYO, we are proud to offer women in Nablus an opportunity to explore their more playful side, as the benefits of are too great to ignore.

-Vanessa, Zahi Khouri Fellow

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