Five of my students stand upon the stage. One is holding a guitar, another is dressed up in a fake mustache, and two of them are having a tug-of-war match over a paper television remote. It’s all fiction of course. My after-school psychosocial class through TYO’s International Internship program is performing skits that they wrote about resolving family issues and by the end of the play, the two “siblings” involved in the argument come to an agreement, devising a way to share the remote. The kids think that they’re just playing: I know, however, that these activities are encouraging them to think critically about important concepts including self-confidence, cooperation, respect, and problem-solving.
Play is critically important in a child’s life. Through play children utilize all senses, interacting with the world not just through books and academic lessons but also through taking on agency in their learning – creating, imagining, and facilitating games and activities on their own.TYO works with the most at-risk youth in Nablus, most of which come from the refugee camps in the area. The cramped conditions, lack of playgrounds or safe spaces to simply fulfill the child’s inclination to play furthers the stress and anxiety already present due to conditions of military occupation.
At Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, we aim to provide spaces in which kids can be kids. Bright classrooms, outdoor play areas, and ample space to move around make a world of difference in the lives of these children. In this environment, their leadership skills flourish and they learn to collaborate with classmates on ideas and strategies to further their aims in the classroom. Over the course of the past four weeks I have seen my students become more comfortable in a new environment of classmates from different refugee camps and neighborhoods, a foreign teacher, and a psychosocial curriculum that challenges them to grow beyond just academics. Whether it’s an English language art project, a team game, or drama activity, I am always impressed and inspired by the ingenuity displayed by my students and the clear gains that they are making at TYO.
TYO’s after-school program engages children through fun, safe activities that allow them to develop as individuals and community members. By incorporating English language activities as well, we are furthering this objective to foster a sense of global citizenship that will prepare our students for success in university and the professional sphere later on. In this way, we seek to empower the next generation of Palestinians by providing them with the tools necessary to be the leaders and change-makers of the future.TYO’s commitment to serving youth is rooted in the belief that positive change can and will come for Palestine. All it takes is belief in our children and youth, a commitment to serving them, and a bit of play.
-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO