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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TYO and Google One Today


Have you heard of the One Today app by Google? One Today lets users easily give $1 each day to causes and nonprofits that inspire them. It’s a way to make an easy, affordable, one-time donation to causes that you want to support. Each organization presents a compelling statistic that explain why the work they do is so crucial, and you’ll learn how just $1 truly can make a difference.

We’re excited to announce that TYO is now on One Today! Here’s our story:

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 93% of children in Palestine have faced domestic violence. At TYO, we implement holistic, therapy-based educational programs for more than 1,000 children per year, offering nearly 800 hours of art, sports, drama, music and storytelling classes. Our programs give refugees and other disadvantaged children in Palestine an educational environment that fosters safety and security, while providing them with key outlets to express their feelings, anxieties and emotions.

$1 = 1 hour of art therapy classes for children. By making a simple $1 donation to TYO, you can help bring education and a smile to the most disadvantaged children in Nablus, Palestine.

OneTodayDownload the app today for Android or iPhone, iPad and iPod to get started!

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Intern Alumni Guest Post: Amanda


This blog post features former intern Amanda as she reflects on her time as a TYO intern last summer in Nablus.


I had been studying Kathleen Hanna directly prior to my arrival in Nablus. Kathleen Hanna was the original Punk Rock girl in the 80s. She started a feminist movement because she used her fame to preach about the necessity for equality for women. She would often be heard at her shows screaming “GIRLS IN THE FRONT, GIRLS IN THE FRONT” to make men move away from the front of the stage and create a safe environment for women to dance at her concerts. She did this because both men and women would go to her shows to enjoy her music and start these mosh pits where people would really get hurt. Kathleen Hanna was a protector of women and TYO is the Kathleen Hanna of Nablus.

I had literally no idea what I was going to step foot into. The only people I knew who had heard of Nablus were found on my laptop – random strangers I’d find while looking Nablus up on Google and YouTube. After my flight and my eventful cab ride, I arrived to TYO around 1 or 2 in the morning. Two women greeted me – I’m pretty sure they were each wearing different matching pajama sets and I immediately thought, “These women are classy.” One helped me lug my giant suitcase up 6 flights of stairs – enough stuff for a month and a half and some change. These classy women had also been strangers from Google and YouTube – they had both been the ones to interview me for an international intern position at TYO on Skype. They showed me to my room and I remember immediately being taken aback at the realization I hadn’t fully appreciated the fact that I would be working with so many educated women up until that point. It was liberating for me, the girl with the family full of men.

Some of my most empowering moments came from the classes I taught for The Women’s Group. I had the disarming pleasure of teaching women ranging from 20-60+ about nutrition and fitness – these were women who got to leave behind their cramped houses, hungry children, husbands with varying personalities, cleaning duties, cooking duties, and coping mechanisms for a few hours. In exchange they received psychosocial programming provided by TYO like IT classes, group therapy, and my fitness and nutrition classes. They were initially skeptical of me, the ajnabeeya [foreigner], but once they learned I spoke a little bit of Arabic and wasn’t afraid to speak my mind they lightened up. They came to class excited, counting loudly, proclaiming their pants fit so much better now. They screamed, shocked that ice cream wasn’t a healthy snack option – “But it has milk!” – and then concurred among themselves that each woman had secretly known all along it was unhealthy, of course. I got to play soccer with women who thought sports weren’t for women. I’ve grown up around lots of boys and men because I come from a big Assyrian family – the only woman in my life has always been my mother. My strong, genius, great chef, beautiful single mother. It’s always been us: two strong women in a sea of big, loud, Mr. Fix-it’s.  Suddenly, at TYO, I was in a sea of mothers. For two hours everyday – before I was surrounded by college students and later, 6 year olds – it was all mothers. It was difficult to contain my enthusiasm and genuine love for them. They sat on their yoga mats and told me stories of their homes they wish to see again – if I went to their old neighborhoods, could I visit their house? Would I come over for dinner? Would I be a guest at their daughter’s wedding? Would I marry their son? I made them close their eyes and meditate on the floor for 2 minutes. I would always chastise my women jokingly when they began to fidget – in reality it was extremely difficult to get them to be still for 2 minutes because they simply were not accustomed to the concept of relaxation – they could not do it. “Give yourself two minutes of silence, ladies. Otherwise, you will go crazy.” I could see their facial expressions in somber agreement and I wondered whether or not they’d heed my advice in the future. I hope Hayah or Obaida or Falasteen is out there meditating somewhere.

Now I am finishing up my student teaching experience at a Chicago Public School (I’m teaching History to Juniors and Seniors) and in many ways it is TYO who prepared me best for this. Although a generally outspoken person, I had extreme anxieties about whether or not I would be able engage classrooms full of students eager to learn. I had anxiety about my teaching efficiency – could I actually get through to anyone, could I give access to anything important to my students? I know now that I was able to engage my students and, although in hindsight we can always be more efficient, I felt I communicated key concepts across to the beneficiaries at TYO after being trained in best practices by the staff before full immersion in the program. Working in Nablus has made me a more empowered activist for human rights and a firm believer in the transformative powers of psychosocial educational programming. These two lessons translate themselves into tangible parts of my life today – I work with a group of young professionals who organize voter drives and meet with local congressman to ensure the dialogue on human rights in the Middle East continues and is productive. I implement psychosocial learning in my Chicago Public School classroom as frequently as possible because I know it works. TYO taught me that – not a classroom, not a book. TYO released in me an empathy I did not know I had – it brought out my inner Kathleen Hanna and she’s here to stay.

– Amanda, TYO Intern Alumna, Summer 2014

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Communication: the key to getting ahead in today’s world


Last week, TYO attended an event at Brookings entitled: Ready to be counted? Incorporating noncognitive skills into education policy. Several great speakers and policy makers spoke about the value of non cognitive skills and how they should best be incorporated into the formal education system. Although the speakers had various opinions about how bed to successfully incorporate non cognitive-based learning in the classroom, everyone agreed: non cognitive skills are critical for healthy life development. Sometimes, extracurricular or after school programming is left filling the gaps.

Non cognitive skills, as defined by Brookings, can otherwise be “referred to as social-emotional skills, soft skills, or even character.” A recent survey from the Pew Research Center asked a sample of adults to select from a list of 10 skills (including reading, science, math, logic, communication, etc.), and determine which “are most important for children to get ahead in the world today.” Most respondents cited that communication skills were the most important. At TYO, we most definitely agree that soft skills – like communications, teamwork or collaboration – are just as important as hard skills (like math and science).

In Palestine, schools put little-to-no emphasis on learning soft skills. Youth in Palestine may graduate from university and never be presented with an opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively with their peers – especially with those of the opposite sex. They graduate without ever having worked on projects as a team and are denied opportunities to build their leadership skills.

At TYO, we create a learning environment that is designed to promote these social-emotional skills like determination, collaboration, communication, self-efficacy, leadership and perseverance. TYO’s Youth Service Learning program gives university students and graduates the opportunity to volunteer and experience on-the-job training and increase critical employability skills that aren’t taught in Palestine’s classrooms. Similarly, TYO’s Core Child Program teaches non cognitive skills through play for children ages 4-8 years old, and children ages 9-15 work to build life skills through the International Internship Program.

Mustafa, Ahlam, Salam, Ibrahim, Shaima, and Shahd work on a team building activity during sports class

In intern Eleanor’s class, eight and ninth graders work on a team building activity during sports class

By promoting these skills among university students and graduates through YSL, we aim to fill the gaps where the formal education system has failed. But through the Core Child Program and the Internship Program, we’re ensuring that children and adolescents in Palestine are getting the best possible start towards living happy, successful lives.

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Welcoming Zahi Khouri Fellow Vanessa!


TYO is thrilled to introduce our newest Zahi Khouri Fellow, Vanessa.

Vanessa Faraj_ZKF

Vanessa received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Georgia State University and before joining TYO, she was a Lead Designer at the Racial Justice Action Center in Atlanta, GA. While in the US, she was very active in women’s rights and empowerment. During her fellowship at TYO, Vanessa will lead incubation courses for women entrepreneurs from the Northern West Bank as a part of the WISE II Program and lead fitness and health seminars in The Women’s Group. In addition, she will support TYO’s youngest beneficiaries through the Core Child Program. Vanessa is a Palestinian-Iraqi American and although she was born and raised in the US, she has very strong connections with her Middle Eastern heritage and is excited to be joining the TYO team!

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Poverty Affects a Child’s Brain Development


Children who come from affluent families tend to academically outperform children living in poverty. While this may not come as much of a surprise, new research from Nature Neuroscience reveals a correlation between affluence and brain size. According to the Huffington Post and Dr. Elizabeth Sowell, director of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the study reveals that the brain of “the kid whose family makes less than $25,000 is about 6 percent smaller in surface area than the kid whose family made $150,000.”

They saw that this disparity in brain size widens more drastically towards the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Researchers controlled for genetic factors and were able to conclude that children who come from higher-income families have healthier brain development likely due to “their exposure to better nutrition, health care, schools, play areas, air quality and other environmental factors known to play a role in brain development.” And the best way to try and close the gap is to engaged children living in poverty through “after-school programs, healthier school lunches and other initiatives.”15266492725_9384a4ccb6_k

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 27.2% of children in Palestine are living in poverty. This rate is even higher among refugee camps where 38.6% of refugee camp households suffer from poverty. To best address these needs of these households living below the poverty line, TYO implements high-quality early childhood programming to children ages 4-8 years old – which are some of the most critical years for a child’s brain development – by creating a structured environment for active learning and self-discovery, and by providing healthy meals.

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Educated Women in Palestine Remaining Unemployed


There’s a global trend that more women are pursuing university degrees than men. And in Palestine and the greater Arab world, the same reigns true. The World Bank states that the ratio of female to male tertiary enrollment in the region is 108%. And according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, during the scholastic year of 2012-2013 in Palestine, 81,052 males were pursing higher education degrees at universities versus 120,256 female students who enrolled in university.

While this all sounds extremely promising for the women in the Arab world, a report from the World Bank entitled Jobs for Shared Prosperity: Time for Action in the Middle East and North Africa states that 3 out of 4 women in the Middle East remain outside the labor force. And a report from Brookings (Arab Youth: Missing Educational Foundations for a Productive Life?) confirms that “only about 18% of working-age Arab women actually have jobs.”

arab women 2012 employment chart_full image

(Click this chart to enlarge the data)

In Palestine in particular, in 2012, a mere 12% of women were working and engaged in the labor force. The chart below, from Brookings, highlights just how poorly Palestine preforms. Palestine ties for the lowest participation rate in the workforce along with Jordan and Algeria, but has the highest female tertiary education enrollment – outperforming countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Bahrain!

Studies report that women reinvest 90% of any income in their family, versus an average 30% among men. In order to effectively leverage this opportunity and help lead the greater Middle East towards a brighter future, women need comprehensive support. So what is being done to help these females not only engage in the workforce but also succeed in it? At TYO, we strive to ensure that women have the right to thrive:



Learn more about the importance of women’s empowerment at TYO and why it’s so crucial!

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The Multigenerational Approach: Serving Children’s Support Networks


The World Bank has released a new report entitled: Stepping up Early Childhood Development. Education advocates all over the world talk about the importance of investing in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and that it is “essential for a child’s growth and development. The returns to those interventions also tend to be higher than the returns to investments in human capital taking place later in life.” But more people are pushing for multigenerational approaches to ECD – to best support children, their support networks must also be empowered.


The report explains that “the wellbeing and involvement of families play a critical role in addressing children’s holistic development needs because young children depend entirely on their families and spend the most time with them in the home environment.” But how can organizations provide support to children through multigenerational interventions? The World Bank report shares these four of many ways we can approach families:

  1. Maternal Education: When females attain high levels of education, it benefits their future children when they become mothers. Educated women are able to make smart decisions about their lives and in the lives of their children.
  2. Family Planning: According to the World Health Organization, a woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy.
  3. Education on Child Development: Reaching parents through parenting support programs and home-visits can promote early stimulation, optimal caregiving, and healthy feeding practices and thereby improve outcomes for children. These programs can deliver messages to parents about the health, growth, and overall development of young children.
  4. Prevention and Treatment of Parental Depression: When parents are depressed, it is likely to have adverse effects on ECD and quality of parenting and therefore treatment of parental depression is important. This is especially prevalent for populations who face regular trauma.

TYO’s multigenerational approach targeting children, youth and parents – makes it one of the most unique centers in the Northern West Bank, tackling these issues head-on in Palestine. The Core Child Program for early childhood education, The Women’s Group for mothers, and the TYO model for family intervention ensure that TYO can meet the needs of children and their support networks.

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International Women’s Day 2015


Int'l Women's Day 2015

Learn more about International Women’s Day!

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8 Facts about Computer Usage in Palestine, 6 Ways TYO Fills the Gaps


Just recently, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics published a report about access to technology in Palestinian homes entitled: Household Survey on Information and Communications Technology, 2014. At TYO, we understand the great value and importance IT literacy plays in today’s modern age. As such, the findings from the report are surprising – as access to technology around the world is growing, Palestine is still far behind. The following are 8 starling facts about the current computer usage in Palestine:

  1. 36.9% of households in Palestine don’t own a computer
  2. 51.7% of households have no internet access
  3. 20.4% of children ages 10-14 do not have any access to a computer
  4. 45.2% of females in Palestine do not use computers
  5. 45.3% of Palestinians use the internet to study
  6. 17.9% of Palestinians use the internet at school/university
  7. 10.6% of Palestinians use free public internet at youth centers
  8. 39.1% of children living in refugee camps, ages 5-17, do not use computers
Core AM girl computer

A five year-old Core Child Program participant in the IT lab

How can TYO strive to ensure we’re filling the gaps for children, women and youth in Palestine with little-to-no access to computers or the internet? In Nablus, we not only have noticed a strong need for computer literacy, but also a strong desire from people of all ages in learning more about computers. In direct response, TYO implements IT lab classes, seminars and trainings in every single one of our programs! Here are 6 specific ways that TYO aims to provide IT education for all:

  1. Basic computer functions and operation lessons for children 4-5 years old, aiming to improve upon their small motor skills.
  2. Game-based ESL computer programs for children 6-8 years old, working to strengthen their mastery of the English language.
  3. Internet research-based computer activities for adolescents 9-15 years old, striving to foster healthy and educational relationships with computers and the internet.
  4. Essential Microsoft Office programs for women and mothers, seeking to empower Palestine’s primary caregivers’ knowledge in IT literacy, programs, and the needed tools to protect their families.
  5. Business IT trainings for aspiring female entrepreneurs, building upon their budgeting, marketing and social media skills to strengthen their businesses.
  6. Employability skills for youth and university students, teaching seminars on CV/resume writing, cover letter writing, and tools for online job searching.
Intern kids on computer

12 year old program participants work together to learn about search engines

To learn more about TYO and the IT programs we offer to Nablus’ most disadvantaged beneficiaries, learn about the success of IT in the International Internship Program, CV clinics for university students, business IT classes for FWEME participants, and social media & internet safety tips for mothers.

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