Enter the first floor of TYO’s center, and – from a quick glance at the colorful, festive classrooms and the sound of children laughing and playing – you would likely think that TYO is an early childhood education center. But as you walk up to the second, third, and fourth floors, you would discover the many generational layers that make up TYO’s work: on the second floor, a group of youth learning photography from TYO’s international interns; on the third, university students participating in employability trainings; on the fourth, mothers of the first floor children letting off steam during Zumba or sharpening their IT skills in the computer lab; and on the fifth, a group of sassy and strong-willed female entrepreneurs picking up new business skills.
Mayar gets ready for her turn in a competitive water relay game that teaches teamwork and collaboration.
That walk from the first floor to the fifth tells the unique story of TYO’s multigenerational approach. At the core of that approach is TYO’s belief that our educational programs extend beyond the centers’ walls into the homes and neighborhoods of our beneficiaries. Empowering and educating children also means empowering and educating their older siblings and parents with the same lessons, so that those lessons are taught not only in the classroom but also at home.
Salam A. and her eight-year-old daughter Mayar are proof of the tremendous impact that targeting multiple generations can have. Salam tells more of her inspiring story below.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Salam. I am from Hajjeh, a village just outside of Nablus, but I now live in Old Askar refugee camp in Nablus, which is where my husband is from. I have two girls, Mayar who is 8 and her sister who is 12, and I have two boys ages 6 and 14. I completed my education through Tawjihi [high school] but did not pass because of English; my husband completed his education through 8th grade.
Can you tell me about any changes you have seen in Mayar from being at TYO? How was she before joining versus now?
Mayar has a very strong-willed personality, and she is extremely smart. However, she has always had an issue with jealousy. Before we enrolled her at TYO, the issue had become dire. Mayar could not accept when she was not the best at something – whether playing at home or in school – and her jealousy and disappointment with herself would become so severe that she could not function.
I have seen a huge change in Mayar since she joined TYO. She is still the same Mayar, but now her jealousy has become something positive. She is very competitive and loves participating in the sports and other physical games children play at TYO. Personally, I learned so much from observing how Suhad [TYO’s psychosocial program manager] and Mayar’s teachers talked to her. They showed me techniques to take Mayar’s moments of jealousy and turn those into lessons about negotiation and empowerment. I began to copy those techniques at home, and the change in Mayar was almost immediate.
As a mother in The Women’s Group, what do you enjoy most about TYO?
There is no other place where I feel so comfortable and relaxed. As a woman and mother in our society, you carry a huge burden on your shoulders; as soon as I walk through TYO’s doors, I feel that the burden is released. I love seeing people outside of my own family and neighborhood in Old Askar, I feel great after fitness class, and I have gone from knowing zero about computers to picking up very useful IT skills.
I enjoy meeting other women from around Nablus the most. At home, I only interact with my relatives and my close neighbors; if I speak up and share my dreams or day-to-day challenges, I am judged and critiqued to the point that I do not feel comfortable or free to speak about myself. At TYO, I not only have a right to speak about my dreams and challenges, but everyone pushes me to do so. Also, the women in my classes come from all over Nablus and the surrounding villages, which removes the kind of closeness and judgment that I experience at home.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned – personally and as a mother – through participating in TYO’s programs?
The biggest impact TYO has had on my life is giving me self-confidence; that self-confidence has empowered me to make good choices for my children. Through my own struggles as a mother in TYO’s Women’s Group, I learned that education is the best protection for my children from the challenges in our community. Also, observing the interactions between TYO’s Core teachers and Mayar taught me so much about how to encourage my children to enjoy learning, particularly how to understand their personalities and build their trust in me so that I can play a bigger role in encouraging them to study.
Most importantly, I have learned that early marriage is the worst enemy of education, and that education is the best way to protect my daughters from early marriage. To have a better marriage, women need to be educated; with a strong education, you can make good choices for yourself and be better equipped to rebound from life’s challenges and obstacles.
– Interviewed by Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager