Investing in Girls’ Education is Going Green

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Why is everyone always so concerned about investing in girls’ education – isn’t education important for boys too?

TYO wholeheartedly believes in investing in education for all. Both boys and girls come together in TYO’s classrooms, where they are treated equally by TYO’s staff and volunteers, to learn teamwork and communication skills across gender divides.

But girls’ education in particular, is so important. When you educate a girl in Palestine, you are educating the future mothers of tomorrow. And in the West Bank & Gaza, mothers are the primary caregivers in their communities. The more educated a girl is, the better choices she will make for herself and her future children. You’ve probably heard these things before: she’s more likely to go to college, more likely to marry later, more likely to contribute financially to her household, more likely to improve her family’s nutrition. The list goes on and on. But a recent article from Brookings Institute mentions a great point – girls education can even help address climate change.

The article explains the logic behind it as, “One of the most effective strategies for curbing global carbon emissions is to slow population growth. For example, in the United States, the carbon emissions of a single person is about 20 times the reductions that each of us might be expected to achieve by being more conscious of our carbon footprint, switching to electric cars and using LED light bulbs. Slowing population growth is also far cheaper than other strategies to address climate change, such as low-carbon energy investment whether it be to solar or nuclear or biofuels.”

This was especially interesting in the context for TYO’s beneficiaries; Many of whom come from refugee camps with an average of 8 children per household – and statistics show that the population in Palestine continues to grow every year. The article points out that “the difference between a woman with no years of schooling and with 12 years of schooling is almost four to five children per woman. And it is precisely in those areas of the world where girls are having the hardest time getting educated that population growth is the fastest.” 

So investing in girls’ education may not sound trendy, but it may just be the newest way to go green!

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TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?

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Eleanor Trenary

My internship at TYO helped guide my professional decisions after I left, and gave me a stronger sense of myself as an employee, manager, and person.

Originally from Minneapolis, MN Eleanor taught Sports for adolescents, Fitness class as part of The Women’s Group and Professional Competency at An-Najah University as an intern at TYO Nablus in the summer of 2013.

What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO? 

One of the best moments from my class at Najah was a discussion my students had about their desired careers. There were strong opinions in the class about how Palestinians can best help and add to Palestinian society…by leaving and gaining professional and educational experience elsewhere, or by staying and adding immediately to the economy in Palestine. The discussion started organically, and it allowed students to challenge their own ideas about their place in society and hear from their peers about “big” topics.

What do you miss most about Nablus?

The kids! My students at TYO were the most inspirational, fun, and resilient people I’ve ever met. Working with 13-14 year olds was so much fun, and watching them grow as a community over the summer was amazing. That age (in any society) is really hard for boys and girls to work together, but as the term progressed my students became one community and one team–that was an incredible transition to be part of.

What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?

Currently, I work at a human services agency in Minneapolis as the Volunteer & Thrift Shop Manager. Our organization works with people in poverty in the Western Metro of the Twin Cities, providing food, housing, advocacy, employment, and goods. Our thrift shop is open to the public and gives people the chance to spend very little on high-quality items they need (plus it earns over $100,000 for our organization to support other programs). I love the opportunity to provide services for the community and bring together volunteers, donors, shoppers, and program participants in an equal and respectful exchange!

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

I applied to the internship with TYO because it sounded like a great professional opportunity and it definitely was, but the most valuable lessons I learned weren’t curriculum writing or classroom management or working with a translator. I learned much more about how to manage people of different cultures, how to asses and best utilize the skills of my coworkers, and I learned a lot about what kind of work is rewarding and satisfying for me. My internship at TYO helped guide my professional decisions after I left, and gave me a stronger sense of myself as an employee, manager, and person.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?

Apply! This internship challenged me and helped me grow in many ways. The staff at TYO really invest in their interns, and I gained valuable professional experience as a result of my time there. The relationships I formed with the kids, families, and other staff are invaluable and I’m still in contact with my fellow intern cohort.

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The Power of Soft Skills

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Recently, Kaiser Health News published an article about the importance of teaching soft skills to children. Researchers were able to determine that children who participated in academic programming that included parent training groups, academic tutoring and lessons in self-control and social skills, showed signs of reduced delinquency, arrests and use of health and mental health services as the students aged through adolescence and young adulthood. This positive trend in preventing problems in children’s lives, can be attributed to the social and self-regulation skills the students learned from ages 6 to 11, according to researchers at Duke University.

“The conclusion that we would make is that these [soft] skills should be emphasized even more in our education system and in our system of socializing children,” says Kenneth Dodge, a professor of public policy and of psychology and neuroscience at Duke who was a principal investigator in this study. “There’s a growing and new understanding of what it takes to be successful as an adolescent and an adult,” Dodge says. “It used to be that what we thought all it took was academic skills. Reading and math are very important for tasks that require reading and math. Self-control is important for life tasks that require self-control — that’s what avoiding arrest and violent crime is all about.”

At TYO, we too believe in the power of teaching soft skills to children – as well as to adolescents, youth and women. In TYO’s Core Child Program, for children 4-8 years old, we implement a holistic method of non-formal education. Our curricula focuses on themes of Identity and Communication, encouraging students to better understand themselves and their community, while teaching essential life skills. These skills include building self-confidence, empathy, self-control, communication, teamwork, peaceful problem-solving, and logic & reasoning.

Youth Soft Skills

And while it’s critical that TYO continues to invest in the lives of young children, we also value our work with adolescents and youth 9-25 years old. In the Middle East and in Nablus in particular, this age group is considered to be one of the greatest risks and opportunities. We are committed to engaging this important demographic, the leaders and parents of tomorrow. By integrating soft skills into our programming, adolescents and youth can make smarter, healthier decisions for themselves and become better leaders for tomorrow.

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Human Rights Day 2015

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Today is Universal Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And this year, marks the 50th Anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights.

Watch this message from the High Commissioner Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein:

Watch it in Arabic, here:

At TYO, key concepts and themes of human rights are broken down in the classroom so that children and mothers & participants of The Women’s Group, can easily understand them. With children, we discuss the right to learn, play, agree/refuse and live in peace and safety. With mothers, we discuss children’s rights, marital rights, freedom of speech, and the right protect one’s body from harm or abuse. The most important message in this video, however, is that these freedoms are the “birthright of all human beings” and that “traditional practices and cultural norms cannot justify taking them away.”

What are your thoughts about universal freedoms? Follow along with #HumanRightsDay

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Esra Q.

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Esra is originally from Ceres Village near Jenin. She graduated with a BA in Physical Education from An-Najah National University and she currently volunteers as a yoga instructor with the Women’s Program.

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Were you able to find work in your field of study after you graduated? How has TYO helped?

At first, I could not. When I graduated, I worked for a year as a teacher between public and private schools, and then I worked in telecommunications because I wanted a job even though it wasn’t my passion. After three months, I needed to quit in order to attend a yoga course in Bethlehem. My telecommunications job was in Jenin and I couldn’t take the time to commute but I wanted to build my sports resume. I really like yoga, and wanted to pursue more training in that field.

I heard about TYO from a friend and when I heard about the women’s empowerment program and all of the skills and physical activities they provide, I wanted to see what I could do to help. I came to TYO to offer my yoga skills as a volunteer.  I wanted to start teaching people about how much yoga can help the body and mind. I really enjoy the work I’m doing with TYO. I get to see women in pain, relax and heal. The women have a tremendous amount of commitment to my classes because they feel how much it is helping.  There is a lack of knowledge of yoga throughout Palestine. I work with four different classes and about 60 women, I understand the work I’m doing at TYO is helping spread the word.

Why does yoga resonate with you so strongly?

At the university, we studied group sports, but I was really drawn to the independence and individuality of practicing yoga. I believe yoga will help the people of Palestine manage many of the daily stresses we face. I’m getting feedback from the women about the importance of my classes at TYO, and how much it helps them get through the hardships of the week. The time they spend doing yoga is for them. The women TYO offers classes to cannot necessarily afford to go to a Zumba, fitness, or yoga class in town so teaching them to do yoga, something that can be done alone with minimal equipment, is something they can take and practice at home. I’m hearing they’re also including their children!

My personality changed a lot after I started doing yoga. I became more positive, calm, and more introspective. I think these skills are important in the job market, and in my personal life. I see the chain reaction of healthy individuals helping create a healthy community. It makes me happy to know I am participating in this positive change. Yoga’s healing capabilities are so important for everyone. Being able to facilitate this practice, and teaching people how it will improve their lives, is exactly what I want to do with my career. I see the change I am making and it pushes me to keep going.

In addition to your volunteer work with the women, you are also participating in the professional competency classes at TYO, are you finding them helpful?

I never want to lose an opportunity to learn new skills. When I heard about the competency skills classes, I wanted to be a part of it. I signed up for the professional competency class, and what I find to be most challenging is actually that it is held in English. At first I thought I couldn’t do it, but then I realized this was actually a positive experience because I get to learn two skills in one class. I’m still looking for a job and I know the more experience I have the better, especially in English. I am very social and I love to network so part of being in class is socializing with my peers. Meeting new people and learning about their familial background adds to my overall life and wellbeing. I am always searching for trainings, and I’m looking outside of Palestine. Right now, we don’t value yoga as a society, but I would like to continuing learning and come back a teacher. A university degree is not enough. It’s a great start and opens the door for further learning, but you have to go seek more. Life is all about learning.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator.

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Human of Nablus 6

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“Today in English class, we learned that M is for Mouse!”

اليوم في صف اللغه الانجليزيه تعلمنا بان حرف “M”هو كلمة Mouse اي “فار بالعربية “!

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Samer A.

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Samer is originally from Balata Refugee Camp. He is currently finishing his final semester at Al Quds Open University studying management. In addition to volunteering with TYO, Samer is also an employee of Rifidia Public Hospital for 3 years.

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What does TYO mean to you?

I have been here for 5 years. TYO means a lot to me. I heard about TYO from my cousin who volunteered here, and I originally joined because I knew TYO would help give me the chance to build my CV, develop skills to help me with my future career,  and meet new people. Over these past five years I’ve worked with almost all of the different programs: the Core Child Program, soccer clubs and the International Internship Program, and I’ve enjoyed each one because they were so different and I was exposed to so many situations. While I love working with the soccer program, my most memorable experience was in the Core program. In one of the sessions I was volunteering with the children in a classroom and it happened that the teacher was out sick for a couple of days. Without much notice, I was required to take full responsibility of the class due to the teacher’s absence. The trust put in my abilities and me is something rare among my peers. I cannot think of any other instance where I was trusted with such responsibility. This is a great example of how TYO has boosted my confidence. This is one of the reasons why I stay. Though I am working, I still make it a point to dedicate time to TYO. My time at TYO is mine. It makes me happy. TYO became my family and it’s my home.

As a young man in Palestine, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

This a complex question because there are many factors that create challenges. Unemployment is a community-wide problem and many of the young people think they’re to be blamed because they’re not developing their skills. This is not the case. When students get a degree and they can’t get a job in their field, it build frustration and deters the students from seeking higher education. It ultimately causes disinterest and leaves a void that can be filled with a number of really negative forces. Many think, why would I want to get a degree if I cannot use it? For example, the work I am doing at the hospital has nothing to do with my degree, but I know, and my family knows, the importance of a university degree. I think it’s a societal problem, not the youth, but the youth are feeling the full force of the problem right now.

One of the solutions is looking to leave the country for work. But this is not a sustainable solution. I mean, if I had the opportunity to travel abroad, I absolutely would for a short time, but I know it’s not healthy for the community. Young people give life to the community so if we all leave there won’t be a lot left to help these communities prosper. I think the government needs to help students transition from university to the job market. We need policies that help facilitate this education-career transition.

How does your living situation shape who you are?

I live in Balata Refugee Camp and from my experience people stigmatize those who come from refugee camps. We’re the bottom of society and I see this in the job market too. I fear that when I apply for jobs, I will be rejected, and if I get accepted my colleagues will judge me.  It is a lose-lose situation. All my life I feel like I am trying to prove myself, trying to get people to see me as merely Samer – not Samer the refugee.

One of the most important aspects of TYO is the diversity. The organization brings people from all backgrounds together. We have students, teachers, and volunteers from around Nablus and from different camps consequently working to break down the cultural barriers and fighting prejudice. There are refugees all around the world. We need to stop judging people based upon their communities or colors or languages or education.  There is good and bad in every community.  Being a refugee has pushed me to work harder and be better. It gives me the energy to work with the children at TYO because I can relate and I can connect to them.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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Human of Nablus 5

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“Through 5 weeks of professional competency classes, I would say that my favourite week was the week we worked on public speaking. I feel that it’s a valuable tool we don’t get to practice much. We learned how to market ourselves, and become more comfortable speaking in front of a large group. The activities we did on improvisation were really hard, but overall it’s been a great experience!”

“خلال الاسابيع الخمسة لصفوف الكفاءات المهنية استطيع ان اقول بان اسبوعي المفضل كان الاسبوع المخصص لموضوع الخطابة او التحدث الى العامه اشعر بان هذا الموضوع هو اداه هامه لا نقوم بالعادة على التدرب عليها او ممارستها . تعلمنا كيف نسوق انفسنا ونكون مرتاحين اكثر عند الحديث الى الجمهور .التمارين التي قمنا بتنفيذها كانت صعبة بعض الشئ ولكن بالمحصلة كانت تجربة رائعه!”

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Shurooq A.

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Shurooq, originally from Nablus, is married with 5 children. She owns her own small business, Nawa’em Art. Shurooq began creating stained glass home décor as a hobby 12 years ago, but through a micro loan and TYO’s Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs II (WISE II) Program, she has been able to expand her business from exclusively glass to now wood and ceramics. She sells her art to the public through craft fairs and specialty orders. This is her first session as a volunteer.

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You participated in TYO’s WISE II Program, why did you decide to volunteer in the Core Child Program instead of continuing with other TYO business incubation programs?

I learned so much through the WISE II program; therefore, I believe it is now my turn to give back to TYO. Volunteering with the children is how I want to do that, and I am also able to learn new skills in the Core Child Program. TYO offers so many different opportunities for professional and personal development, that I wanted to branch out and experience a variety of opportunities.

First, as a volunteer I am exposed to the different personalities of the children while getting to help them with the art and crafts. This is teaching me different ways to engage children through art and grow my business. The more I learn about the environments the children come from the more I understand what appeals to them and what makes them happy. I’ve begun to consider ways to branch out my business and I would like to start working with preschools and kindergartens. There are ways to decorate classrooms to make them inviting and comfortable, but also help the students tap into their emotions. I see how TYO incorporates psychosocial growth through art projects to help children express their identities and their emotions; I would like to help bring those aspects into Palestinian schools.

The second reason I wanted to volunteer is my love of children. Through volunteering I am becoming a more patient and am learning how to manage my frustrations with my own children. I’m learning new techniques for dealing with difficult children and their behaviors. I wanted to find a way to combine my two passions art and children. TYO is helping me bring those two worlds together.

You have so many different roles you balance, many of which extend beyond your responsibilities at home, how do you manage them and how does your family feel about it?

My personality helps me a lot! I always have to be moving and active and if I have free time I will be doing something productive – it’s a waste of time if I’m not. I am very lucky that I can manage my business at home. The glass, wood, and ceramics I work with can all be painted in my house! I have always been a stay at home mom, so I was able to figure out ways to manage my time early on. After I started coming to TYO my days became more organized because I had to develop a schedule. I am able to see the big picture of each day and allot time accordingly. Though it’s a lot work already, I would like to take theTawjihi (Palestinian matriculation exam) again and go to university as soon as next year.  My time at TYO has helped me realize how important education is and I would very much like to continue mine.

The biggest challenge is not managing my family responsibilities, but balancing my personal life – I am tired a lot! I find the time at TYO to be relaxing and this is my time. I thoroughly enjoy this. I have found a great system to keep my family happy, to uphold my responsibilities as a wife and mother, and as a business owner. My family is not giving me a hard time for coming to TYO or for working on my art/business. They support me by trusting that I can get it all done.

Ultimately, I consider myself an active person. I love to move and I think time is money. I would feel guilty if I just sat at home and did nothing. Working is more important to me. I know that making connections at TYO will also help me grow my client base.  I am also seeking out more consistent work, this is where going to university would help me I am ready to learn anything I want to be more helpful in the community. I feel I have so many different ways I can give back. Nothing is impossible in this world and I want to see what I can do.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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Universal Children’s Day 2015

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Today, November 20th has been declared by the UN as Universal Children’s Day. On this day, we want to share this powerful quote:

“The one thing all children have in common is their rights. Every child has the right to survive and thrive, to be educated, to be free from violence and abuse, to participate and to be heard. “ – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

We couldn’t agree more! We want to share with you a video produced by UNRWA, about human rights for all children. We think it’s great and we can’t wait to show it to our children in our Core Child Program.

Let us know your thoughts!

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