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Oh, the Knafeh!

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The view of Nablus from the TYO Center on a beautiful day.

The view of Nablus from the TYO Center on a beautiful day.

I have lived in this region before, but moved back to America for about two years.  In that time, I hadn’t returned, but coming to TYO I felt like I was returning to a second home.  Though I have visited Nablus and lived in the region before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Two years is just long enough for everything and nothing to change at the same time.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by the overwhelming familiarity of Palestinian hospitality.  Everyone was excited to meet the ajnabi (foreigner), welcoming me to Palestine and making sure I had everything I needed.  The kids I am to teach English to flash me broad smiles and big, curious eyes.  They speak whatever English they know to make me feel welcomed in their classrooms.  However, I also notice some changes in the community.  American food chains had now found their way into the traditional city with not one, but two KFCs.  Buildings and scenery had changed over the past two years.  Some changes noting positive progress, while some of the growth I had hoped to see, never materialized.

Delicious Nabulsi knafeh.

Delicious Nabulsi knafeh.

Feelings of happiness quickly shared space with those of confusion and sadness.  I wrestled to process everything I was feeling.  At this time, we took a trip into the old city of Nablus and went to eat some of the famous Nabulsi knafeh.  When I sat down and took a bite of that knafeh, I was flooded with happiness (probably due to the large amount of sugar in the knafeh) and memories of the last time I ate Nabulsi knafeh.  At that point, I realized this is Nablus.  It is a beautiful, living city.  Some things change when you do not want them to, while others remain stagnant when you want them to progress forward.  Frustration is inevitable, but so is joy, because two things will always remain the same in Nablus: the delicious knafeh, sure to bring a smile to anyone who eats it, and the warmth of its people.

Thank you to the knafeh and all of the wonderful people at TYO for welcoming me back to Nablus and Palestine.

 

Samantha, Spring 2017 Intern

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Earth Day Everyday

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Plastic bottle caps of different shapes and colors create the TYO logo.

Plastic bottle caps of different shapes and colors create the TYO logo.

Art is a universal method of communication that does not depend upon language or structure to share a message. At TYO, the importance of art as a form of expression and source of joy can  be viewed throughout the building through paintings, photographs, and creative projects. Participants across TYO’s programs have the opportunity to create and build their message through various art projects with special emphasis placed on using recycled materials. By using recycled materials, it becomes clear that something beautiful can be made with items other people might consider to be without value.

Children make flowers out of recycled paper towel rolls during their Core class.

Children make flowers out of recycled paper towel rolls during their Core class.

For the children in TYO’s early childhood education program, or Core, art is an important aspect of the classroom experience. It is through art that children learn shapes and colors, express their creativity, and bring their imaginations to life. Using recycled materials also allows children to recreate art projects, or develop projects of their own, from items found in their neighborhoods or homes without cost to their families. Diminishing the barriers to creative methods of expression gives children the tools needed to have their imaginations flourish while also taking care of the earth. For us here at TYO, every day is Earth day!

 

– Lindsey, International Internship & Fellowship Coordinator

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A Home Away From Home, But With More Hummus

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Spring 2017 interns hike along the edge of Wadi Qelt the first weekend after they arrived in Nablus.

Spring 2017 interns hike along the edge of Wadi Qelt near Jericho the first weekend after they arrived in Nablus.

So, where to start? Nablus, here I am. It’s almost as if I have been dropped here from the sky like the human icon from Google Maps is, straight from Western Europe but naturally without the dragging aspect. At first glance, Nablus is almost like a scene from a movie, a Hollywood blockbuster where white ajnabi (foreigners) visit a distant land in the East, shrouded in mystery which is heightened by a rich culture and unique attire. The dusty landscape rises and falls at every turn, with thousands of years of history etched into its surface. The cuisine is just as indescribably wonderful in how the flavours blend and contrast, completely overshadowing anything that I attempt to pass off as good food. And the language ties all of it together in the flow of the writings and the unfamiliarity of the foreign sounds.

Yet, despite these discernible features that diverge so distinctly from my normal life, the city already feels like somewhere I could call home. Because, for all the differences that exist between my country and this one that make them both so inimitable, my three weeks here has shown me that there are almost as many similarities between the two.

For one, the hospitality of the local people, and the TYO staff in particular, remind me the warmth of those back home in my community and places I have worked. Reflecting on the highlights to date, there are so many memories that I would like to share. However, there is a distinct common link between many of them; the people I’ve met. This cannot be overstated. I find that wherever I travel that the people I meet are always a huge deciding factor in how I feel about any place. Everyone working at the organisation has been so kind, welcoming us interns with open arms and many of the locals mirror this friendliness as we explore the city after work. Here is no different. From the smiling local shop owners who occasionally give us free food, to the groundskeeper who makes us tea and plays the guitar, the staff at TYO and the small family that has formed on the seventh floor, there are so many people who have contributed to my happiness here. It really feels like a new home.

Painted trees near the park in Nablus provide a colorful path for exploring.

Painted trees near the park in Nablus provide a colorful path for exploring.

Another key parallel to home I can see is in the children of all ages with whom we work. I have previously had the opportunity to volunteer with kids from a range of different countries including Ireland, South Africa and Germany in different activities. What is abundantly clear to me is that children are the same no matter where I go. They want to play, laugh and be loved just as any other kid does. The four year olds that I teach want to colour in pictures, they want to sing and dance, they want to high five. The boys and girls that I train for football are no different; one group wants to train to become the next Ronaldo or Messi and the other wants to giggle, socialise and, more increasingly, actually kick the ball.

What does stand out with these children versus others that I have worked with before is the resilience that they have in the face of their ever-changing situation and challenging conditions. I’m sure that this is something I will experience time and time again during my internship here, in my new home. I hope that I can bring a little happiness to them through my teaching as they already have brought to me.

 

Niamh, Spring 2017 Intern

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Humans of Nablus 38

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Masarah spending time in TYO's Nablus center playground where many of her students play after their classes conclude.

“The children aren’t looking for someone to improve their lives through donations or monetary contributions but by feeling heard and understood by others.”

“In general, I don’t need money but I work here because I want to help others and help build my community in order to grow a brighter future for its inhabitants.”

.الاطفال ليسوا بحاجه لفلوس و تمويل ولكن بحاجة لمن يؤمن بهم و يسمعهم و يفهمهم
في الغالب انا لست بحاجة ماسه للمال و لكن انا اتواجد و اعمل هنا من اجل مساعدة الاخرين و اشارك في بناء غد مشرق لمجتمعنا

Masarah is a volunteer for the Early Childhood Education classes at the TYO Nablus center, as part of the Core Child Program. TYO’s Core Program sets children ages four-to-eight on a path to self-discovery through play and non-formal education.

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Welcoming Our Spring 2017 Interns!

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International Interns Haya, Niamh, Samantha, and Connor.

International Interns Haya, Niamh, Samantha, and Connor.

Introducing the Spring 2017 Intern team! 4 international interns from the United States and Ireland have been selected to lead a variety of classes with children, youth, and women. Read all about them!

 

Haya

Haya is from the United States of America and has lived in Houston, Texas since the age of 3. Haya graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in History with minors in Psychology and Health from the University of Houston. She also has worked in the nonprofit sector at an international branch of the YMCA serving as a refugee resettlement agency. Haya hopes to obtain a graduate degree in Social Work, bringing her varied interests and experiences together to work directly with individuals in a clinical setting as a trauma worker. Her hobbies and interests include reading, writing, the arts, trying new food and cuisines, traveling, languages, and learning about other cultures. She enjoys connecting with individuals and really looks forward to meeting everyone and the Nablus community and learning how she can be of service during her 3 months in Nablus.

Niamh

Niamh grew up in the west of Ireland. She moved to Dublin to complete an undergraduate degree in Medical Research and obtained a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Action in the Netherlands. Niamh became interested in Palestine at the age of 16 when she traveled to the area to attend a summer course on conflict resolution. The community-focused approach that TYO takes towards its work and the love and appreciation that is felt by local people really drew her towards TYO. She is excited to be a part of such a positive environment. She is really looking forward to learning as much as possible about the people of Nablus, the organization, doing some good work, and having a bit of fun in the process.

Samantha

Samantha grew up in many places in the United States America, but currently calls Niceville, Florida home.  She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from New College of Florida and a Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Samantha’s desire to work in youth development began in 2009 when she started working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).  She has been working for the YMCA in a mostly camp and outdoor center setting and brings a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and positivity to TYO. Her desire to work in long-term youth and community development, combined with my degree in Middle Eastern Studies, led her to TYO.   She can’t wait for this amazing opportunity!

Connor

Connor grew up in the United States and has a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies, with specific emphasis on water conservation policy. After college she spent time as an ESL teacher and working in the humanitarian field in various countries focusing on women’s empowerment programs and psychosocial support. She is excited to be a part of this team and to begin volunteering for TYO!

 

Welcome to TYO!

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Our Deepest Condolences

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Ken-Freeling

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ken Freeling. A dear member of the TYO family, Ken served as a committed member of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization’s board of directors for years. As a member of our board, his mentorship and support helped TYO bring education as well as social and economic empowerment to hundreds of families and thousands of children in need. Those fortunate enough to have worked with him lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. We will always remember him for his commitment to serving vulnerable communities through TYO. Our deepest condolences to Ken’s family and friends.

 

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Traveling Through Palestine

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EFL fellows Leah and Marina, along with the Women's Empowerment program assistant Rawan, visit with some students of The Women's Program.

EFL fellows Leah and Marina, along with the Women’s Empowerment program assistant Rawan, visit with some students of The Women’s Program.

As I finish my time at TYO, I am reminded of the fun times I had with my thoughtful students and the locals I encountered throughout my travels. During my time in Palestine, I had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and meet people from all Palestine. Not only was my time here impacted by the local staff and students, but also by people I met throughout my travels.

One of my favorite memories I will take is the brief Arabic Language Class that local staff member Rawan gave me that provided endless jokes. She taught me a few local terms to joke with people and this proved invaluable in a number of circumstances when people would ask me what I know in Arabic. This small cultural lesson created a conversation starter with people as I traveled throughout Palestine. And Mike’s students never tired of my quick insults that I could throw at him in a jovial way.

Lastly, on my final weekend in Nablus I had the opportunity to go to Balata Refugee Camp with Rawan and international fellows Mike and Marina to visit the house of one of the women from The Women’s Group. This was an incredible experience and gave me so much insight into the communities we work with at TYO. These ladies provided us with a delicious lunch, henna tattoos, and dancing. It was a great way to finish up our time and learn just a little bit more about the local culture.

In the end this experience really gave me some insight into the lives of the Palestinian population. Between the students I met and the locals I engaged with throughout my travels I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Palestinian. My hope is to take my own experiences to be an advocate for the support of the local Palestinian Community.

– Leah, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow

 

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.

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Knafeh, Mujadarra, and Olives

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EFL Fellow Catalina enjoys knafeh at a shop in the Old City.

EFL Fellow Catalina enjoys knafeh at a shop in the Old City.

I traveled to TYO with both interest and an open mind, frankly not knowing what my next three months would entail. Upon my arrival and continuing throughout the fellowship, I was received with warm, welcoming, and compassionate Palestinian hospitality.

As I reflect on this experience, I recognize three elements that made my experience especially meaningful: knafeh, mujadarra, and olives. These three foods were the means in which I learned about what Palestine means to the community in which I have lived.

It was over eating knafeh everyday after work that I met locals and heard individual stories, perspectives, and lived realities.

It was through making mujadarra that I understood the importance of family, and the notions of community and a collective identity in Palestine.

It was through enjoying a variety of green olives that I learned the richness and the history of this Palestinian land.

And so, though I often joke about how much I enjoy knafeh, mujadarra, and olives, it really is because they hold a deep rooted significance for me and provided me with awareness and new understandings on life.

I hope to carry this awareness and my new understandings with me as I travel from Palestine, remembering always the elements of this society that provided me with fulfillment and growth.

I thank TYO immensely for the space it provided me to be present in this community, to be exposed to this culture, and to learn about the lives of many Palestinians.

– Catalina, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow

 

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.

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Farewell to Gerizim and Ebal

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nablus

View of mountains Gerizim and Ebal

In his novel, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Milan Kundera writes, “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.” As I say farewell to Nablus and to Palestine, I think of the many people I met who charmed and touched me. They are too many to be named. Thus, when I say farewell to Nablus and to Palestine, I think of Gerizim and Ebal, for they represent each of those people and each of those moments.

TYO Student Abdallah and Fellow Ronaldo saying goodbye

TYO Student Abdallah and Fellow Ronaldo saying goodbye

There was the little kid playing soccer with his big, innocent and joyful smile. Then the group of friends that, sensing my being lost, welcomed me in their group. The taxi driver who patiently deciphered my directions in elementary Arabic. And the countless others who truly cared about me and about other people, and were ready to sacrifice for me and for others, over and over, in myriad petty little ways, every day.

Farewell to Gerizim and Ebal, the beautiful mountains of Nablus. They delineate the city’s contours; they offer many breathtaking sightseeing spots; they echo the call for prayer; they reflect the light of starry nights; they hold the homes of many Nabulsis, as Gerizim held mine while I was in Nablus.

“Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when something or someone enters into our poetic memory,” said Kundera.

Gerizim and Ebal are in my poetic memory.

– Ronaldo, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow

 

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.

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From the Warmth of Palestine Back to the New England Cold

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As I get ready to return to bitter, frozen New England (in both senses of both words), I, like all of the fellows, am reflecting on my time here in Nablus.  Waking up to the sight of Dunkin’ Donuts and snow up to my waist will be an unfortunate change from the view of the Nabulsi mountains from my very window.  While I will obviously miss the beautiful vistas of Palestine, and the amazing knafah, it is my students that I will miss the most.

The cold of Rhode Island looks even worst next to the beautiful view of Nablus from the balcony.

The cold of Rhode Island looks even worst next to the beautiful view of Nablus from the balcony.

This was my first experience teaching students who are my own age. Previously, I taught very young Palestinian children in the camps of South Lebanon.  This time, teaching my peers, I am leaving feeling that I have made many new friends.  Luckily, the students in my class were lively and hilarious.  I am almost fundamentally incapable of remaining serious for a four hour language class, so I was excited that my students had a similar sense of humor.

While I would like to say I am proud of my students, that is not quite the proper word.  I cannot take very much credit for the incredible work they have done in my class.  I guided their learning, but it is their dedication that will advance them in life.  I could not count how many times different students would stay after class and show me a piece of writing they had been working on, or reveal they had a secret, quite extensive, vocabulary list tucked away in their notebook.

Watching my class write, direct, and perform a complicated short skit was amazing.  My only concern is that my students are better writers than I am, though they were always more creative. I am left only hoping that one day I could eventually accomplish in Arabic what they have accomplished, with ease, in English, inshallah.

EFL Fellow Mike and his EFL class get a few laughs in following the mid-session celebration.

EFL Fellow Mike and his EFL class get a few laughs in following the mid-session celebration.

As always, I find myself stunned and awed by the resilience, strength, and openness of the Palestinian people who always extend the warmest possible reception to foreigners.  I am often told I cannot stop talking, and I appreciate being surrounded by people who share the same problem.  I actually enjoy being unable to walk into a cafe or a falafel shop without having a fifteen minute conversation about where I’m from and what I’m doing in Palestine.

Thoughts of Palestine will surely comfort me through the frigid northern winter, as I sit by a fireplace, or rather, curl up around the slow-burning coals of my argeeleh [hooka], and remember my students and friends. Thank you for welcoming me into your country and تعيش فلسطين [long live Palestine]!

– Mike, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow

 

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.

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