World Mental Health Day 2015



Today, October 10th, is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is “Dignity in Mental Health” and we’re helping raise awareness for people with mental health conditions so that they can live with dignity.

According to WHO, people living with mental health conditions are often “discriminated against, stigmatized and marginalized” and are also sometimes “subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community.” This is especially the case in the Middle East and in Palestine. A recent article from the Thomson Reuters Foundation explains how in Gaza, females are refusing mental health treatment for fear of becoming “unfit” for marriage.

According to Bassam Abu Hamad, a public health consultant at Al Quds University in Gaza, “There is a general stigma and lack of awareness around mental health. People think mental health problems are something to do with the devil and supernatural forces. They think that people with such problems have lost their minds and are crazy.” But the stigma isn’t just among the general population, even doctors in Gaza are also buying into this lie. For example, in the case of a nine-year-old girl in Gaza, her doctor said “that continuing to visit mental health services would affect her reputation and she would be stigmatised forever.”

While mental health affects both males and females, there is a much stronger resistance in seeking treatment for girls – “WHO mental health officer for Gaza, Dyaa Saymah, said part of the reason girls with mental health disorders face particular stigma is due to the misconception that mental problems are strongly hereditary.” This fear has prevented people from receiving the critical treatments and therapies they need.

After the traumatic events last summer in Gaza, people – especially children –  have being suffering from “acute levels of psycho-social distress.” And The United Nations estimated that 373,000 children required specialised psychosocial support. This crisis is large-scale and communtiies cannot continue ignoring the mental health issues affecting Palestinian communities. Despite the stigma surrounding these issues, treatment and support can help guarantee that people can live healthier, happier, more productive lives.

At TYO, we choose to tackle the issue head-on with the participants of The Women’s Group. As women are the primary caregivers in Palestinian society, we believe in empowering mothers to understand the devastating impact of denying mental health treatment. We encourage mothers to think outside of their cultural stigmatizations and learn to understand the value of psychosocial interventions. And by sending a child to TYO, s/he’s guaranteed to receive high-quality psychosocial care. TYO operates stigma-free and we’re hoping to restore #dignity for mental health patients throughout Nablus.

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Welcoming our Fall 2015 Zahi Khouri Fellow, Moh!


​Mohammad, or ‘Moh,’ is thrilled to join TYO this fall as a Zahi Khouri Fellow!

Mo bio pic

Last spring, Moh graduated from Ottawa University with a degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights. Throughout university, Moh got involved with local youth empowerment and engagement initiatives, including working with the Ottawa police as the coordinator for their Youth in Policing Initiative program; the program aimed to involve youth from at-risk communities in the Ottawa area with the programs and services offered by the Ottawa police.

Though born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, his roots are actually quite close to Nablus. He comes from a family of Palestinian refugees who left Palestine in both 1948 and 1967. His father was born in a village close to Ramallah, and has not been back to Palestine since the age of 7. For that reason, and because Moh believes TYO does much-needed work in the Nablus community, it is a dream for him to join TYO for the next couple of months.

Outside of work, Moh enjoys sports, travel, food, and photography, and is always open to trying new things and exploring new places. He is very excited to teach IT classes for our Women’s Group, offer professional competency classes for TYO’s youth volunteers, and help TYO kickstart our Khallet el Amoud neighborhood soccer team. He cannot wait to get started!

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Welcoming our Fall 2015 Intern, Sarah!


Sarah is very excited to join the TYO team and work with children and families in the Nablus community​, specifically teaching ESL to children in our Core early childhood program and volunteers in our Youth Service Learning program.​

Sarah bio pic

Born and raised in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, she graduated from Gettysburg College in 2013 with a degree in Globalization Studies, focusing on the nexus between health, gender, and development, and a minor in Health Science and Peace and Justice Studies. While at university, she spent a semester in Durban, South Africa participating in a social and political post-conflict reconstruction program.  Additionally, she interned as a research assistant for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

Prior to joining us as an intern at TYO, Sarah lived and worked in Washington, DC. While  there, she worked at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the Communications and Knowledge Management Division. While she loved her work at IFPRI, peaceful conflict resolution and social change have always been her passions, both academically and professionally, and she is thrilled to be learning about and experiencing both here in Palestine. Outside of work and academics, Sarah loves hiking, yoga, and pretty much anything outdoors, so she is looking forward to exploring more of Palestine in the upcoming months.​


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Building Relationships, Breaking Isolation


Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) is TYO’s fifth entrepreneurship program that seeks to help women in Northern Palestine establish or expand their micro-businesses. TYO provides women with the opportunity to attend psychological and social trainings with TYO’s in-house psychologist; develop or refine their business plans with Ramallah-based Small Enterprise Center (SEC); participate in a three-week business English and IT intensive; create their marketing materials after working with a branding and marketing expert; and so much more.

We are in the middle of our outreach efforts to recruit entrepreneurs from Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin, Tubas and their surrounding villages. We have been amazed by the amount of high caliber entrepreneurs we have interviewed that are eagerly waiting to be chosen to be a part of the APWE cohort. This Wednesday, TYO representatives had an opportunity to travel to Jenin’s Chamber of Commerce to interview small-business owners. We then had the opportunity to visit a former entrepreneur’s flower shop to meet and interview additional people. While our trip to the flower shop resulted very successful interviews, TYO representatives also had the pleasure of sipping tea and catching up with three former entrepreneurs. The afternoon was a reminder that TYO’s entrepreneurship programs benefit women’s lives in a tremendous way. Not only do they leave the program with a new arsenal of business skills, they find community and build friendships.

TYO representatives spend time with former and aspiring program participants.

TYO representatives spend quality time with former and aspiring program participants.

According to a February 2014 Guardian article entitled Loneliness is Killing Us- We Must Start Treating This Disease, “…friendships helped…people develop their resilience and ability to bounce back after adversity, as well as an ability to gain strength from stress rather than be diminished by it. Loneliness has dramatic consequences on health. Feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure, lower immunity, increase depression, lower overall subjective wellbeing and increase the stress hormone cortisol (at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually wears your body down).”

Isolation and loneliness are pernicious forces that can negatively women in any country, especially Palestine. Many of TYO’s former and current entrepreneurs articulate deep gratitude for the friendships and community that have emerged as a result of their time in the program. TYO is proud to not only offer women of Northern Palestine a high quality entrepreneurship program but to also offer woman an opportunity to break the isolation they so often experience.

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

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Coming to a City Near You!


Tomorrow’s Youth Organizations is moving full speed ahead with our outreach efforts for our upcoming entrepreneurial program, Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE). APWE is our fifth entrepreneurship program that seeks to help women in Northern Palestine establish or expand their micro-businesses.TYO is excited to offer a program that will increase women’s enterprise development skills and provide them with the opportunity to start or expand their micro-business. We are thrilled to recruit women to join us for psychosocial trainings, business development and coaching, branding and marketing workshops, business English and IT intensives, apprenticeship opportunities, and so much more.

this photo

New recruits concentrate as they fill out their application to an entrepreneur program.

TYO representatives are working with our organizational partners scouring Northern Palestine-Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Tubas- and their surrounding villages interviewing women to determine our top choices for the program. Some might inquire as to why we travel to women’s cities and villages as opposed to insisting that they make the sojourn to Nablus to fill out an application. In The Importance to Outreach in Underserved Populations, Edwin J. Lopez-Soto and Ray Cebula state that “Achieving an effective and inclusive community outreach program, however, does not happen overnight. It takes time, energy and commitment to build a strong and effective outreach program.” A critical part of affective outreach to underserved populations in Palestine is an understanding that women have tremendous social and financial constraints that prohibit them from making the long journey to our center. Instead we choose to figuratively and literally meet potential entrepreneurs “where they are at” in order to respect the constraints of women in Northern Palestine while also maximizing the efficacy of our efforts.

Futton Qadri, TYO’s Outreach Coordinator, states that “Outreach is such a critical component of TYO’s work with children, youth, and women. We create a strategic plan that identifies the cities we want to travel to, identify our existing and new organizational partners who can help us access entrepreneurs, and utilize newspaper, radio, and internet resources to further publicize our outreach.”

Outreach is both challenging and one of the most gratifying components of our work with entrepreneurs. Keep a look out for us as we might be coming to a city near you!

– Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Solafa

Solafa shares how the WISE II program helped her realize the importance of marketing before production.

Solafa shares how the WISE II program helped her grow her decorative soap business.

Name of Business: Zaina (Decorative) Soap

From Anabta, a small village in Tulkarem, Palestine, Solafa was instantly drawn to the idea of making soap after attending a training course offered by The Palestinian Women’s Association, Asala. Solafa valued the concept of integrating the Palestinian tradition with natural resources, such as olive oil and lavender, which are readily available in her village. In September 2014, Solafa sold the gold jewelry that she no longer wears and bought the raw materials to begin producing soap.

It was through the training course at a local community center, where Solafa heard about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Since the inception of her project, finance has been Solafa’s biggest barrier. Due to cash constraints, she is only able to manufacture small quantities of her products at a time. It wasn’t until attending the business development intensive provided by the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) that she learned that marketing comes before production. By establishing who the potential client base is first, Solafa can then tailor her products to meet their needs. The most important tool that she has taken away from the program is the business plan that she created. She plans to use this as a marketing tool to increase her clientele network for years to come.

Through various trainings and seminars provided by the WISE II program, Solafa has been able to venture outside of her village and expand her network. She has attended exhibitions that she only heard of because of the program, allowing her to meet fellow soap makers from all over the West Bank. This has provided her with a different perspective on the trade and she has integrated some of their methods into her own. In addition to olive oil, which is common in many of the soaps made in the region, Solafa incorporates all natural ingredients that are known to have health and beauty benefits. Avocado oil, goat’s milk, mint leaves, and cactus oil are just a few ingredients that are believed to have beneficial effects such as reducing wrinkles, treating acne and much more. Her business is still in its early stages, but she plans on making it official by registering with the Chamber of Commerce once she completes the WISE II program.

-WISE II entrepreneur Solafa interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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You Go Girl


Tomorrow’s Youth Organization believes that women and girls in the Middle East have the potential to be the dynamic change-makers the region needs to overcome current economic and social challenges. Our organization is firmly grounded in this ethos and, as such, provides multi-generational programming for girls and boys, youth, and adult women.

We are fortunate to know, support, and work with organizations whose work is grounded in a similar commitment to developing the leadership, critical thinking, and scholarship of women in northern Palestine. Recently, the American Consulate General in Jerusalem partnered with An-Najah National University to provide GO Girls Summer Camp to Palestinian high school students. GO Girls Summer Camp is a week-long summer camp that aims to encourage high school students to get involved in careers like genetics, engineering, psychics, and other fields in which women are underrepresented. The participants had an opportunity to conduct hands on experiments and meet with women in similar fields. On August 26, 2015, TYO representatives attended the awards ceremony of hosted by both an-Najah and The American Consulate General for the girls who attended and completed the camp.

Go Girls participants pose for photo with Consulate General Donald Blume. (Photo courtesy of Consulate General's Facebook).

Go Girls participants pose for a photo with Consulate General Donald Blume. (Photo courtesy of Consulate General’s Facebook page).

Through our work with children, youth, and adults in Nablus, we know that young girls and women in Palestine thrive both academically and socially when they are provided with opportunities to learn and grow. Programs like GO Girls Summer Camp and those offered at TYO provide young girls and women with the opportunity to tap into their vast potential and prepare them to become the leaders of both today and tomorrow.

– Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator


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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Shurooq

WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq shares how the program helped her grow her stained glass business.

WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq shares how the program helped her grow her stained glass business.

Name of Business: Nawa’em Art

Originally from Nablus, Palestine, Shurooq began creating stained glass home décor as a hobby over 12 years ago. While attending a local handcrafts course, the instructor, impressed with Shurooq’s artistry,began displaying her pieces for sale at the community center. She was thrilled at the prospect of her products generating additional income for her family, but her husband was not. This proved to be the biggest barrier Shurooq encountered on her path to becoming a businesswoman.

Shurooq’s husband rejected the idea and questioned her motivation for participating. He feared that if she pursued this path that she would no longer have time to care for the house and the family. This did not discourage Shurooq; she was insistent and used the rationale that by doing something for herself she would be a happier wife and mother. In turn, this would only affect her family duties in a positive way by providing her with motivation. She proved to be quite convincing and began selling her pieces in 2005 while attending additional classes to further develop her technique. In 2012, Shurooq even received a small loan from the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association, Asala, to further her business venture.

It took almost 5 years, but now not only does Shurooq’s husband support her business but encourages her to succeed. When Tomorrow’s Youth Organization approached her during Global Entrepreneurship Week in Ramallah, to participate in the WISE II program, her husband was more than supportive.

The WISE II program has opened up new networks for Shurooq to market outside of her community. She understands the need to be distinct from her competition and has begun creating unique home decor products to expand her clientele base. Through the professional development courses provided by the WISE II program, she has learned vital English and IT skills to pitch her business more effectively.  She plans on formally registering her business with the Chamber of Commerce in Nablus upon completing the program.

Shurooq has not only benefitted from the WISE II program professionally but psychologically as well. The program has lifted her spirits and driven her to accomplish her dreams. She loves having a routine that revolves around her and gives her something to look forward to every day. The importance of self-worth that she explained to her husband early on in her career has been instilled in her teenage daughters as well. They are very active in their community and participate in after-school activities in order to empower themselves and others.

-WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?



Rosie Chapman

I think TYO changed me for good. My experience there gave me confidence in my own abilities and changed the way I saw the world.

Originally from Honiton, England Rosie 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 fall of 2013.

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

My favourite moment from TYO was probably one of the times we played basketball in the children’s sports class. All the kids played together really well and looked so happy the whole time! It was a really satisfying and happy moment for me and the volunteers.

What do you miss most about Nablus?

I miss everyone that I worked with at TYO, all the staff, interns, volunteers, women, children and students – they were all truly amazing!

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

At the moment I am studying for my Masters in Gender and International Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. After my Masters I am hoping to get a job in women’s rights advocacy in London or maybe in the Middle East.

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

I think TYO changed me for good. My experience there gave me confidence in my own abilities and changed the way I saw the world. Professionally, it has enriched my studies and has helped me feel able to apply for a wide range of jobs.

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

I would encourage people to definitely go for it! TYO was one of the best and most worthwhile things I’ve ever done.

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Hear Us Roar!


Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) believes that women and girls in the Middle East have the potential to be the dynamic change-makers the region needs to overcome current economic and social challenges. As such, we provide a wide-range of programming for women from Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin, and their surrounding villages.

Since 2009, TYO has prioritized entrepreneurship programs specifically tailored to the address the needs of women in Northern Palestine. With the support of PalTel Group and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, we have empowered women entrepreneurs and provided them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs, our current entrepreneurship project, will work alongside forty-five burgeoning and current entrepreneurs to help develop their leadership, critical thinking, and business development skills. Our entrepreneurship work not only lifts up individual entrepreneurs but helps improve the overall economy in the country.

2014 Women's Group participants share a smile with Futoon Qadri, TYO's Outreach Coordinator

2014 Women’s Group participants share a smile with Futoon Qadri, TYO’s Outreach Coordinator

In addition to our entrepreneurship programs, TYO is excitedly gearing up to begin another Women’s Group session which will serve sixty mothers and women from Nablus, many of whose children are in our Child Core Program. The Women’s Group comprises of a comprehensive series of Fitness and Nutrition classes, Beginner’s and Advanced IT class, and an interactive seminars that provide a platform for women to participate in dialogue with experts for improving conditions in health and lifestyle. Throughout the session, the women literally run into class every day ready to learn a new Zumba routine, discuss pertinent health-related topics, or delve into serious conversation guided by local experts. Women rush to class not only because they love the new life skills and expertise they gain but also because they have created a community of peers and friends they are always thrilled to see. Tomorrow’s Youth Organization knows that a great deal of factors contribute to the isolation women in Palestine oftentimes experience and we are proud to help break that isolation while also teaching the women skills we hope will last a lifetime. We can’t wait to begin classes in the Fall and will be sure to report back on the fun times and important lessons learned!

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator 

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