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Lonely No More: An Interview With Minna

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Minna_ Core

Minna is 3rd grade student from the neighborhood of Khallet al Amood. She heard about TYO from her friends at school. The students were enrolled in the Core program and told Minna about the activities they do and how fun they have at TYO. After hearing about the opportunity to play with other kids her age, Minna decided to register for the Core Child Program. This is Minna’s first session at TYO.

Hi, Minna! Why did you decide to enroll in the Core Child Program at TYO?

The main reason I decided to join TYO is there is no one to play with at home. There is a large age gap between my sister and me. She comes home after 5 pm because of work, so I spent a lot of time at home without someone to play with. I want to be in a place where I am safe and can play with other children. I always want to come to TYO. I have perfect attendance because there is someone to help me with my homework, especially in English and Arabic, and we do fun activities in the classroom.

How are your experiences at TYO difference than school?

At school, there are many girls in the classroom and they shout to be heard over each other. At TYO, everything is very organized and disciplined. The teachers at TYO respect children and they respect us. I want to be a doctor when I grow up because I learned at TYO that we need to help others. I can help others, especially poor people, by contributing my time to help those in need.

What have you learned at TYO?

We are learning how to be responsible inside the classroom and how to be a leader. The two best students chosen by the teacher will take responsibility and lead the class for the day. Last week, while we were playing outside, we learned about cooperation and sharing. While we are playing, we shouldn’t fight and should play in a peaceful way. We should play for fun, not as a competition.

Have you noticed any particular changes in yourself since starting the Core Child Program?

I used to be lonely and wouldn’t talk much because there was no one to talk to at home. My sister is older than I am and comes home late from work, so I spent a lot of time alone. Now I have started to be more social and to play with more kids. Core classes are only 2 hours, but this is time for me to play with other kids.

I also used to be bullied by other kids and they would hit me. I think I had a weak personality that would attract other kids to bother me. Now I think I have a stronger personality. I can find support and can find someone to help me if something happens in the street.

What has been your favorite experience at TYO?

I love the Fishing Game the most! All the students move around the classroom like they are in water. Two kids have small balls that they toss at the moving students. If a ball taps a student, they are caught like a fish. We must be quiet and concentrate on how to stay away from the balls to stay in the game. The purpose of the game is to help us learn to be patient and practice our discipline. The students catching the fish must concentrate. It is a very fun game!

Will you keep coming to TYO in the future?

Yes, I will keep coming to TYO forever.

 

Minna is a participant in the Core Child Program

– Interview conducted by Lindsey, International Internship & Fellowship Coordinator, and translated by Futoon, TYO Outreach Coordinator.

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From Head to Heart: A Journey into Nablus

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In her acclaimed Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability, Brene Brown, explains that the human experiences of courage, authenticity, empathy, and connection are deeply interconnected to vulnerability and shame. In short, courage and authenticity are born from the willingness to lay our guards down and step into our vulnerabilities, essentially opening our hearts and expressing how we feel, instead of numbing ourselves from the dark, messy aspects of our lives that make us feel shame. Unfortunately, when we shut ourselves away from the “bad,” we also miss out on the “good” and the best experiences that life has to offer, such as love and joy.

On a communal level, when individuals allow themselves to live from a place of vulnerability and authenticity, communities grounded in empathy and connection are brought to life. I’m grateful to witness this wholehearted way of living in Nablus and particularly at TYO where the local staff and volunteers radiate warmth, love, joy, and openness. Despite the plethora of challenges that can deter them, the staff and volunteers continue to show up and do their part to foster a space for current and future generations of youth and women to be themselves and envision a more hopeful future. As an intern, I’ve also felt graciously welcomed at TYO as a part of the community here. I will always remember the thoughtful gifts I’ve received from locals-from my favorite dessert to scarves and flowers–as reminders of the warmth and generosity I’ve experienced in Nablus.

TYO Core Teacher Fawz and Haya spend time together in a Core classroom.

TYO Core Teacher Fawz and Haya spend time together in a Core classroom.

Before coming to Nablus, I knew that I was in store for a challenging but rewarding experience at TYO, and surely enough, I’ve found myself growing and being challenged in unprecedented ways since my arrival. Here at TYO, the educational programming provided for youth and women is centered around empowerment and holistic well-being, which includes mental and emotional health education. While children and youth here learn about concepts such as respect and cooperation, they are also taught how to acknowledge, understand, and embrace their emotions. While watching my students learn about emotion, I’ve also been re-learning how to connect with myself and feel safe with my emotions, an inner landscape that had previously been uncomfortable territory for me. Being surrounded by the wonderful staff here has also been teaching me to be open with myself and to not let the daily stresses of work and life get in the way of finding joy in the small things. There is so much more that I have been gaining from my experience at TYO than I could ever imagine.

It is said that the longest distance one will ever journey in the world is the 18 inches between one’s head and heart. I’m grateful for my time at TYO for teaching me how to ease into my heart and practice a more mindful, joyful way of life.

 

Haya, Spring 2017 International Intern

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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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