Blog

Traveling Through Palestine

Tweet
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.

Related posts:

Knafeh, Mujadarra, and Olives

Tweet
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.

Related posts:

Farewell to Gerizim and Ebal

Tweet
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.

Related posts:

From the Warmth of Palestine Back to the New England Cold

Tweet

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.

Related posts:

I Respect Myself: A Safe Space for Self-Empowerment

Tweet
"It’s so hard to say goodbye" ... EFL fellow Mecca and Step II EFL student Khadijah embrace on the last day of class.

“It’s so hard to say goodbye” … EFL fellow Mecca and Step II EFL student Khadijah embrace on the last day of class.

respect -(ri-spekt)- the esteem for a sense of the worth or excellence of a person

Almost 15 years ago, I worked at  a youth theater arts summer camp. I joined the staff as an assistant teacher just for the summer not knowing about the existing programs and routines. One of the things that I noticed was that they had this unique ritual everyday of saying a password. The password could be anything of the students and staff’s combined choosing. However, there was one strict requirement. This password was to affirm something beautiful and empowering for everyone present. The password was a requirement for everyone. Everyone meaning the entire student body and each staff member including the executive director of the program. This ritual was a bit foreign to me. I was not used to shouting out personal affirmations. I grumbled and complained initially, but what ultimately happened was the power of verbalizing these affirmations everyday took center stage and in my heart and in my mind, I began to embody all that I affirmed for myself each day.

Fast forward to September 2016 where I am to begin my EFL session at TYO. Here we were provided with a curriculum but also given the freedom to incorporate a wide range of activities to suit the interest and the skill set of the students. From the first day I could sense that each person in my class harbored special kind power. Each and everyone harbored a specific tenacity, fervor, and joy. At that moment, I reflected on my experience so many years ago and how the process of speaking daily affirmations became essential to accessing some of my hidden strengths.  I then decided to incorporate the password, “I respect myself,” into the lesson plan so that everyone in attendance from the quietest to the loudest, from the shortest to the tallest, men and woman all had to make the same affirmation to start class each day.

EFL Fellow Mecca and STEP II EFL Students Wurood, Jaber, and Yasmin celebrate together after a successful final performance.

EFL Fellow Mecca and STEP II EFL Students Wurood, Jaber, and Yasmin celebrate together after a successful final performance.

As an EFL teacher of a beginner level class, the interesting caveat here is that initially I am quite sure the majority of the class did not fully understand what they were saying. Perhaps they knew that the phrase held so much positive weight because my response was always, “You are beautiful.”

That became the ritual. Every day before we started class, one by one everyone’s name would be called and they were required to stand up and say the password, “I respect myself,” and sometimes even the entire class would respond with me and tell the one individual, “You are beautiful.”

The amazing thing that precipitated from this affirmation everyday as requirement for a beginner level English class was that students not only began to understand its meaning, but also began to expand and embody the phrase itself. By the end of the last week of the session, there had evolved quite a few variations of the password. On the final day of class I called on everyone to say the password and one student said, “I love and respect myself,” and another said, “I very respect myself,” and finally students without prompting from me began to say, “I respect myself and I respect you too!” I realized that this daily password which may have started off as something awkward, unintelligible, or weird had tapped into something truly special hidden in each and everyone one of my students.

After 3 months of an intensive 4 hour language session, I could clearly see each student’s individual evolution. Some of the quietest students now had the biggest voices. The ones that used to sit slouched in there chair now assumed such a powerful space and presence when speaking English. After the testing and our final performance, it was truly difficult saying goodbye to my students. I reflected on the bond we had built together as well our collective journey of self-empowerment through the daily password. I thought about how in the end I want for my students the same things that I want for myself. I hoped that they could access and refine some of their hidden strengths as I did some time ago.

– Mecca, 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.

Related posts:

Humans of Nablus 37

Tweet

Mohammad Taha

My favorite thing to do in Nablus is to study English. I plan to travel abroad one day to build bridges with the international community through the English language. With the relationships I build abroad I hope to bring financial resources to my community as well as emotional support.  From this kind of support I want to improve housing for people living in poverty. I hope that poverty as a whole can come to an end in Nablus through creating greater access to a good education. I want to teach all children how to speak English. I want to teach my son English because I love this language. I believe if the youth in Nablus master the English language it will provide them with better opportunities to be more successful in life.

اكثر الامور المفضله لي لاعملها بنابلس هي دراسة اللغة الانجليزيه. فانا اخطط للسفر الى الخارج يوما ما لبناء جسور بيننا وبين المجتمعات العالمية من خلال اللغة . ومع العلاقات المبنية اتمنى ان اتمكن الحصول على مصادر مالية واكثر من ذلك دعم عاطفي. ومن هذا الدعم اريد ان احسن سكن الناس الذين يعيشون بالفقر الذي اتمنى ان يتنتهي من هذا البلد من خلال خلق سبل لتعليم افضل . اريد تعليم جميع الاطفال اللغه الانجليزية واريد تعليمها لابني لانني احب هذه اللغه . انا مؤمن تماما ان تمكن الشباب بنابلس اتقان اللغه ستمكنهم من الحضول على فرص افضل ليكونوا ناجحين في حياتهم 

 

Mohammad is a student in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Related posts:

How Far We Have Come!

Tweet
Students of the STEP! II EFL class work together on an English activity.

Students of the STEP! II EFL class work together on an English activity.

Eight weeks of STEP! II EFL program passed us by so quickly! The first day of classes began with students quietly introducing themselves and trying their best to figure out what the teacher was saying in English so quickly. As the weeks passed, everyone became increasingly comfortable and with that the students began to develop in their confidence. Throughout the first five weeks of class, we played volleyball as a group daily during class breaks and through this a level of comfort developed within the group and this translated well in the classroom.

The biggest change I have seen in my students from week one until now is that they are now far more confident and eager to learn English. During the first two weeks it was difficult to get the students to admit when they felt something was too easy or too hard. Asking questions was still embarrassing as they did not want me to necessarily know if they didn’t understand something. Now they are quick to raise their hand to let me know if something does not make sense and they need further examples. Also, the students are far more eager to show off their skills. Instead of not having enough people to share their skills, the issue now is that the students need more time because they each want to share. This is exciting as a teacher to see this change take place. The best example was after playing hang-man over the course of the class the students got to a point where they wanted to be the ones running the activity.

EFL students smile during a break from their English class.

EFL students smile during a break from their English class.

As we completed our reflections week, it was exciting to hear about their long-term goals with English learning. At the beginning of the session, a few of the students were very passionate about learning English on their own. However, overall the class either did not know how to self-study or were not interested. For our final activity, each student had to take turns interviewing five other students to review class highlights, what they learned, and how they will continue to learn English after the class ends. The students consistently had the goal to continue learning through watching movies, signing up for future EFL classes, and using English partnerships online. This is exciting to see the change in how students view English long-term.

The students have improved in their English skills, confidence, and their ability to develop English on their own. It has been such an enjoyable experience working with my students. I feel like I know each of them so well and had the opportunity to foster a learning environment with them. I look forward to hearing from each of them in the coming months and years about where their lives take them. I am so proud of these students and the work they put in coming to class everyday to try their hardest and make a bigger impact in their own lives. It is amazing to see the changes that have been made possible because of their dedication to the STEP! II EFL program. Cheers to all of my students!

– 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.

Related posts:

Humans of Nablus 36

Tweet

Abdallah Younis

I really enjoy studying languages. I recently started learning how to play the guitar with one of TYO’s teachers. I was amazed by how learning music feels like learning another language. You need only learn certain sounds, symbols and patterns and how to put them together. Now I’m starting to play songs in English, and I’m excited to become even better in the language.

انا استمتع حقا بدراسة اللغات . مؤخرا بدأت تعلم العزف على الجيتار مع واحد من اساتذة منظمة شباب الغد .لقد كان شعور رائع كيف ان تعلم الموسيقى شعوره نفس شعور تعلم اي لغه اخرى . مع الفرق انك تحتاج ان تتعلم اصوات معينة, نماذج ورموز وكيفية وضعها مع بعضها. الان بدأت غزف بعض الاغاني الانجليزية ولدي حماسة كبيرة لاصبح افضل باللغه

 

Abdallah is a student in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Related posts:

Volunteer to Grow: The Success Story of Haya Feno

Tweet

Haya Feno

Haya Feno was born and raised in Nablus and is a student at Al-Quds Open University studying business administration. Haya started volunteering in 2015 with the Core AM program. She originally began volunteering because she was required to complete 50 service hours during a class at Al-Quds Open University. Haya loved volunteering and completed 104 hours in her first volunteer session with Core AM. This is her third session at TYO having volunteered two sessions with Core AM and one as a local intern with Core PM.

What has your professional experience been like outside of TYO?

I am still a student at Al-Quds Open University and TYO was my first training experience. However, I worked two jobs while attending university. For the first job, I worked at a customs tax office for one month. At the second job, I did market for seven months for an exhibition for electronically devices. I like marketing and feel like the work is an achievement, even if there aren’t immediate results.

What is your career plan?

I want to finish my studies at university. I am currently waiting for my driver’s license to reach two years so I can take training to become a driver instructor. There are some women driving instructors now, but not as many as men. My sister was one of the first ladies to be a driving instructor, but now the number is growing. My family has a business plan to open a school for people to learn how to drive. The family has started the steps to create the business and is waiting for the permit to open the school. The next stop is to find a location, order furniture for the building, and then open the office. My brother and sister are driving instructors, so the business will be family oriented. My degree in business administration will help because I will be doing most of the exam and secretarial work. Everything I studied will useful in my family’s business.

What do you look for in a work environment?

First, the workplace must be respectful of the employees. I must feel respected. If there is no respect, it is better not to work at all. You have to be able to say your opinion and make decisions. Another important thing is trust. In a previous job, there was no trust and I didn’t like to go to work, but I had to and was unhappy.

What skills have you gained from your time with TYO so far?

I have improved my sense of commitment. I have become a person who is more committed with people, with work, and with my time. I am more responsible. My ability to work with children has grown. I used to not be involved with children, but now that I have worked with them, I know how to treat them and deal with them in a good way. I also know how to control my emotions and I don’t get angry as easily anymore. I have more patience. Now I smiled more.

How has TYO impacted your professional life?

The greatest benefit from volunteering with TYO is my personality became stronger and I am more confident in myself. I was shy before, but not anymore. I can stand in front of people and talk now. I wanted to be a local intern to take advantage of an opportunity that isn’t available or everyone. The local internship acknowledges your skills and helps highlight that you are a special person. It is good to volunteer for the experience and personal growth, even without a payment.

 

Haya is a local intern through the Youth Service Learning (YSL) program, part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Interview conducted by Lindsey, the International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator, and translated by Rawan, the Women’s Empowerment Program Assistant.

Related posts:

Fostering a Brave Space

Tweet
STEP! II EFL students Mahmoud, Mahmoud, Arafat, and Amjed pause during a group activity to give a thumbs up!

STEP! II EFL students Mahmoud, Mahmoud, Arafat, and Amjed pause during a group activity to give a thumbs up!

At the door of TYO, students can either leave their external feelings or share their sentiments and be welcomed into the community. As an educational and psycho-social organization, the staff at TYO inherently cares for the holistic care of every student.

In order to ensure the comprehensive care of every student, the staff and volunteers uphold that TYO is neither a religious nor a political space, but rather the space for empowerment and self-fulfillment. At times, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes students are inundated by external factors that could have unexpectedly kept them up late, prevented them from coming to school on time, and brought them discomfort. Throughout these times, TYO becomes a brave space for students experiencing any internal or external conflict since students are encouraged to be courageous and realistically dialogue about their challenges.

STEP! II EFL students Rana and Alaa study while Abrar smiles for the camera.

STEP! II EFL students Rana and Alaa study while Abrar smiles for the camera.

Brene Brown, an American scholar and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, states, “Vulnerability is not weakness, rather it is our most accurate measurement of courage and the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

I call TYO a brave space because it lays a foundation that enables students to not be deterred by difference, but instead understand diversity and learn to articulate honestly and constructively. TYO’s ability to create this environment in all of its programs sets a precedent for learning that is rooted in equality, empathy, and respect.

I have found the environment to be extremely helpful for me when both establishing relationships within the organization and the framework of my own classroom. Encouraging everyone to be courageous thereby enables everyone to self-identify, be vulnerable, build community, and grow together – especially in a setting where individuals come from different neighborhoods, camps, and outlooks on life.

My classroom has become one of the places that I understand most here because I have been able to grow with each student since the beginning of the session. Fostering a brave space through inclusive and authentic language, intentionality, and recognizing my own privilege has allowed for me to learn the needs and goals of every student, and uphold their perspectives in the classroom.

STEP! II EFL students Narmeen, Reham, and Waed enjoy their English class with international EFL Fellow Catalina.

STEP! II EFL students Narmeen, Reham, and Waed enjoy their English class taught by international EFL Fellow Catalina.

Fortunately my students have reacted positively to this environment, by expressing that my classroom is a place for them to earnestly explore their ideas and those of their classmates together. Most times, exploring their ideas and those of their classmates manifests in the form of making mistakes. For example, my students often ask questions or share thoughts even with insufficient vocabulary or experience on the topic, but know that regardless they can be heard and understood because we support and help each other. Other times, this manifests in the form of being self-conscious; moreover, recognizing their individual purpose in the class and how their direct actions in the class can further their purpose.

I recognize that moving forward, I would like to sustain this framework in my future personal and professional environments. By addressing conflict, difference, and discomfort in a courageous manner, I have learned that the community is able to grow in support and understanding.

– 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.

Related posts: