Youth In Focus: An Interview with Samer A.


Samer is originally from Balata Refugee Camp. He is currently finishing his final semester at Al Quds Open University studying management. In addition to volunteering with TYO, Samer is also an employee of Rifidia Public Hospital for 3 years.


What does TYO mean to you?

I have been here for 5 years. TYO means a lot to me. I heard about TYO from my cousin who volunteered here, and I originally joined because I knew TYO would help give me the chance to build my CV, develop skills to help me with my future career,  and meet new people. Over these past five years I’ve worked with almost all of the different programs: the Core Child Program, soccer clubs and the International Internship Program, and I’ve enjoyed each one because they were so different and I was exposed to so many situations. While I love working with the soccer program, my most memorable experience was in the Core program. In one of the sessions I was volunteering with the children in a classroom and it happened that the teacher was out sick for a couple of days. Without much notice, I was required to take full responsibility of the class due to the teacher’s absence. The trust put in my abilities and me is something rare among my peers. I cannot think of any other instance where I was trusted with such responsibility. This is a great example of how TYO has boosted my confidence. This is one of the reasons why I stay. Though I am working, I still make it a point to dedicate time to TYO. My time at TYO is mine. It makes me happy. TYO became my family and it’s my home.

As a young man in Palestine, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

This a complex question because there are many factors that create challenges. Unemployment is a community-wide problem and many of the young people think they’re to be blamed because they’re not developing their skills. This is not the case. When students get a degree and they can’t get a job in their field, it build frustration and deters the students from seeking higher education. It ultimately causes disinterest and leaves a void that can be filled with a number of really negative forces. Many think, why would I want to get a degree if I cannot use it? For example, the work I am doing at the hospital has nothing to do with my degree, but I know, and my family knows, the importance of a university degree. I think it’s a societal problem, not the youth, but the youth are feeling the full force of the problem right now.

One of the solutions is looking to leave the country for work. But this is not a sustainable solution. I mean, if I had the opportunity to travel abroad, I absolutely would for a short time, but I know it’s not healthy for the community. Young people give life to the community so if we all leave there won’t be a lot left to help these communities prosper. I think the government needs to help students transition from university to the job market. We need policies that help facilitate this education-career transition.

How does your living situation shape who you are?

I live in Balata Refugee Camp and from my experience people stigmatize those who come from refugee camps. We’re the bottom of society and I see this in the job market too. I fear that when I apply for jobs, I will be rejected, and if I get accepted my colleagues will judge me.  It is a lose-lose situation. All my life I feel like I am trying to prove myself, trying to get people to see me as merely Samer – not Samer the refugee.

One of the most important aspects of TYO is the diversity. The organization brings people from all backgrounds together. We have students, teachers, and volunteers from around Nablus and from different camps consequently working to break down the cultural barriers and fighting prejudice. There are refugees all around the world. We need to stop judging people based upon their communities or colors or languages or education.  There is good and bad in every community.  Being a refugee has pushed me to work harder and be better. It gives me the energy to work with the children at TYO because I can relate and I can connect to them.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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Human of Nablus 5



“Through 5 weeks of professional competency classes, I would say that my favourite week was the week we worked on public speaking. I feel that it’s a valuable tool we don’t get to practice much. We learned how to market ourselves, and become more comfortable speaking in front of a large group. The activities we did on improvisation were really hard, but overall it’s been a great experience!”

“خلال الاسابيع الخمسة لصفوف الكفاءات المهنية استطيع ان اقول بان اسبوعي المفضل كان الاسبوع المخصص لموضوع الخطابة او التحدث الى العامه اشعر بان هذا الموضوع هو اداه هامه لا نقوم بالعادة على التدرب عليها او ممارستها . تعلمنا كيف نسوق انفسنا ونكون مرتاحين اكثر عند الحديث الى الجمهور .التمارين التي قمنا بتنفيذها كانت صعبة بعض الشئ ولكن بالمحصلة كانت تجربة رائعه!”

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Time to Start Your Entrepreneurship Engines!


Since 2011, TYO has prioritized entrepreneurship programs specifically tailored to address the needs of women in Northern Palestine. With the support of the Cherie Blaire Foundation and PalTel Group Foundation, TYO’s women’s economic development programs have provided intensive business development training, coaching, and confidence-building activities for women to develop their own business plans, craft their branding and marketing strategies and materials, and eventually gain access to capitol through small business loans.

We are excited to announce that after many months of preparation, needs assessment sessions, and strategic outreach, the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs has begun! The women will be offered a robust and rigorous training curriculum from November 2015 – March 2017 and through the process they will have the opportunity to participate in idea sourcing and product development, bookkeeping, business planning and management, branding and marketing, and English and IT classes. Some of the women’s trainings will be facilitated in large groups while others will involve intensive individual coaching sessions.

APWE entrepreneurs gather for the first day of training.

APWE entrepreneurs gather for the first day of training.

While TYO focuses on women’s entrepreneurship in Northern Palestine, microenterprise has far-reaching, global impact. In fact, November 19th marked Women’s Entrepreneurship Day whereby the work of global entrepreneurs was discussed, celebrated, and observed both through events, educational seminars, and social media posts. In collaboration with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization participated in Global Women’s Empowerment Day by participating in a social media campaign detailing APWE entrepreneurs who inspire us. In a November 19th 2015 Forbes magazine article, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day founder Wendy Diamond describes the history of her volunteer work in Honduras with the Adelante Foundation and how it inspired her to start Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. She says, “I witnessed firsthand how empowering women financially has the power to transform a community. Just a single $100 startup loan—provided by one woman to help another—could make the difference for a mother who wants to send her children to school. Every woman and girl across the globe should be given the chance to follow their dreams—and letting female entrepreneurs help one another is an important step in making that a reality.”

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization also understands the importance of investing in women entrepreneurs’ leadership, critical thinking, and business development skills as women begin or continue on their entrepreneurship journey. Stay tuned for more updates as TYO and the APWE entrepreneurs embark on what will most certainly be an experience of a lifetime that will have positive impact not only on the entrepreneurs, their families, and their communities.

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

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Answering the Call for Creativity


I spent my first Friday in Nablus with one of TYO’s youth volunteers and her family. She has five children and her oldest daughter had just begun her final year of high school. I was there for many hours enjoying lunch and was struck by her daughter’s dedication to studying for the Tawjihi, the matriculation exam used in Palestinian schools. As I helped her review some of her English comprehension, she explained that high marks determine where you can go to university and even dictate the job you can get. She explained that you begin to prepare for this exam from first grade and continue throughout your entire education; senior year is when you really start to get serious. No wonder she was studying in October for an exam that she would take six months from now—it decides her future! I thought about the time I spent studying for standardized tests in the US and while I had definitely prepared for the major ones, I always had the comfort of knowing there were other options to show my strengths if I did not get the scores I wanted.

I was reminded of this experience when I recently listened to Ken Robinson’s Do Schools Kill Creativity? TED Talk. I have taught at TYO for about seven weeks and I am teaching completely through physical activity, play, and art. I have begun to see how important TYO’s unique curriculum is for these kids. They spend their entire educational careers with a massive exam in the back of their minds. As Ken Robinson explains in his speech, that approach in schools is “educating people out of creative capacities”. He points to the hierarchy of education: math, languages, sciences, humanities, and then art, as the reason we are squandering our capacities to think outside of the box and creatively problem solve. With the Tawjihi stressing math, science, and language it is clear that is what is being taught most heavily in Palestinians schools.

TYO provides an educational experience that helps foster creativity. You cannot walk through the center without noticing the children’s art displayed or without passing by a class where children are singing a song. Based on my experience as a teacher these past few weeks, it is clear that children love art, they love music, and they love to dance, so I make it a point to incorporate at least one of those in each class. TYO’s mission to provide psychosocial support to these children extends beyond teaching through painting and dancing. Each week, children are exposed to a different psychosocial theme in the curriculum; the first six weeks of the Core Program for 4-5 year old children include:

  1. I am Valuable
  2. My Family
  3. My Neighbors
  4. My City
  5. My Country
  6. My World

All classroom activities are designed around these topics and engage the students to think about their personal and creative identities.

Children aged 4 and 5 learn English through play.

Children aged 4 and 5 gleefully learn English through play.

Too much of our focus in education throughout the world is on what is being taught. It is important to remember that we also need to teach students how to learn and how to love learning. If children are not exposed to an educational atmosphere that helps them develop a variety of different social and emotional skills, they will likely lose interest in learning far before adulthood. And as I have learned, helping children find their creative voice presents itself in endless techniques, including art, dance, and sports.

Robinson concludes his TED lecture with a call to action to reprioritize what schools teach to better promote creativity. In his opinion, when education challenges a student’s whole being, it is preparing that student to face all of life’s challenges. I would argue that TYO is challenging traditional education norms because they are challenging the students to actively participate in this educational experience that digs deep into their intellectual and emotional being. After listening to this specific lecture, I was proud to be actively participating in a center that values all forms of education and inevitably helps prepare students to face life’s challenges.

Sarah, Fall 2015 Intern

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Shurooq A.


Shurooq, originally from Nablus, is married with 5 children. She owns her own small business, Nawa’em Art. Shurooq began creating stained glass home décor as a hobby 12 years ago, but through a micro loan and TYO’s Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs II (WISE II) Program, she has been able to expand her business from exclusively glass to now wood and ceramics. She sells her art to the public through craft fairs and specialty orders. This is her first session as a volunteer.


You participated in TYO’s WISE II Program, why did you decide to volunteer in the Core Child Program instead of continuing with other TYO business incubation programs?

I learned so much through the WISE II program; therefore, I believe it is now my turn to give back to TYO. Volunteering with the children is how I want to do that, and I am also able to learn new skills in the Core Child Program. TYO offers so many different opportunities for professional and personal development, that I wanted to branch out and experience a variety of opportunities.

First, as a volunteer I am exposed to the different personalities of the children while getting to help them with the art and crafts. This is teaching me different ways to engage children through art and grow my business. The more I learn about the environments the children come from the more I understand what appeals to them and what makes them happy. I’ve begun to consider ways to branch out my business and I would like to start working with preschools and kindergartens. There are ways to decorate classrooms to make them inviting and comfortable, but also help the students tap into their emotions. I see how TYO incorporates psychosocial growth through art projects to help children express their identities and their emotions; I would like to help bring those aspects into Palestinian schools.

The second reason I wanted to volunteer is my love of children. Through volunteering I am becoming a more patient and am learning how to manage my frustrations with my own children. I’m learning new techniques for dealing with difficult children and their behaviors. I wanted to find a way to combine my two passions art and children. TYO is helping me bring those two worlds together.

You have so many different roles you balance, many of which extend beyond your responsibilities at home, how do you manage them and how does your family feel about it?

My personality helps me a lot! I always have to be moving and active and if I have free time I will be doing something productive – it’s a waste of time if I’m not. I am very lucky that I can manage my business at home. The glass, wood, and ceramics I work with can all be painted in my house! I have always been a stay at home mom, so I was able to figure out ways to manage my time early on. After I started coming to TYO my days became more organized because I had to develop a schedule. I am able to see the big picture of each day and allot time accordingly. Though it’s a lot work already, I would like to take theTawjihi (Palestinian matriculation exam) again and go to university as soon as next year.  My time at TYO has helped me realize how important education is and I would very much like to continue mine.

The biggest challenge is not managing my family responsibilities, but balancing my personal life – I am tired a lot! I find the time at TYO to be relaxing and this is my time. I thoroughly enjoy this. I have found a great system to keep my family happy, to uphold my responsibilities as a wife and mother, and as a business owner. My family is not giving me a hard time for coming to TYO or for working on my art/business. They support me by trusting that I can get it all done.

Ultimately, I consider myself an active person. I love to move and I think time is money. I would feel guilty if I just sat at home and did nothing. Working is more important to me. I know that making connections at TYO will also help me grow my client base.  I am also seeking out more consistent work, this is where going to university would help me I am ready to learn anything I want to be more helpful in the community. I feel I have so many different ways I can give back. Nothing is impossible in this world and I want to see what I can do.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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Click, Copy, Paste!


Computer literacy in the 21st century is not just important, it is essential. Increasingly, our lives are dominated by evolving technology. Technology grows at such a rapid pace that even those among us who have been students of technology since we were young can find it hard to keep up. In many instances, this skill is generational. Computer technology boomed throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and as such, a generation of young people that grew up in those years and beyond has had the privilege of learning it through school, as a subject as essential as learning a second language.

In most cases, through no fault of their own, an older generation was left behind, though they were not the only ones. While it is true that computers are considered essential in today’s day and age, they remain expensive are not accessible for many around the world. Statistically speaking, computer literacy rates are also lower for women than they are for men on a global scale, and such is the case in Palestine.

Part of the Women’s Group programming at TYO are basic and advanced technology classes for women in the Nablus community. Through these programs, the women have an opportunity to interact with technology in a way they may not otherwise have the chance to do in a safe, comfortable space with their peers and instructors. This program goes hand in hand with TYO’s focus on women’s empowerment through various vehicles, and has proven to be successful for many of our wonderful, intelligent women. As the instructor for this fall’s beginner and advanced IT classes, I have had the chance to see with my own eyes what kind of things these women are capable of doing.

Fatima learns how to create a Powerpoint presentation.

Fatima learns how to create a Powerpoint presentation.

Empowering Women through Technology

As previously mentioned, fluency in the language of computers in the 21st century is almost as essential as fluency in any local language. Computer technology has become the mode of communication in the professional world, with tools such as e-mail, digital reporting, social media, and text messaging. By encouraging women in Nablus to practice interacting with computer technology, we are also aiding in empowering them to become more present leaders in their communities. Computer literacy is a skill that increases employability, provides a new tool in communication, and facilitates ease of access to information.

A large number of the women in our IT classes have expressed the desire to become more comfortable with computers for it’s practicality. Many of the women in the program are mothers with younger kids who would like to further understand and protect their families from the possible dangers of the Internet. Others are more interested in learning how to set up and use an e-mail account in the interest of professional development. That said, all have acknowledged the need to be familiar with the functions of a computer in the year 2015 as a way to feel more empowered in every aspect of their lives.

What is it useful for?

While our beginner classes focus more on understanding the hardware and most essential software programs, our advanced classes take it a couple of steps further. All of our women are taught functions in Microsoft Office Programs (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), as well as browser functions through Google Chrome, Facebook, and Adobe Photoshop.

So why is this important? In reality, the reasons are many. Household tasks such as budgeting and creation of letters and lists can be done with knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel. Women who seek to further their professional competency skills are given the chance to learn how to create attractive presentations through PowerPoint, apply for jobs, or send their electronic CV’s with an e-mail account that belongs to them. Mothers who seek to communicate more frequently and easily with family members living or traveling abroad are taught those functions through platforms such as Facebook. In short, the women are learning more and more just how empowered they can be in various aspects of life with an understanding of computer technology.

Global women’s empowerment is important. Now more than ever, we are witnessing more instances of strong female leadership in various aspects of life, across different parts of the world. However, there is still a long way to go. Using technology to further empower women in Nablus to do more for their communities and families is as essential as it is anywhere, when you consider the daily hardships that they face here. While this is only a small step in ensuring higher roles for women both in Palestine and abroad, it is certainly a good start.

Mohammed, Fall 2015 Zahi Khouri Fellow

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Universal Children’s Day 2015


Today, November 20th has been declared by the UN as Universal Children’s Day. On this day, we want to share this powerful quote:

“The one thing all children have in common is their rights. Every child has the right to survive and thrive, to be educated, to be free from violence and abuse, to participate and to be heard. “ – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

We couldn’t agree more! We want to share with you a video produced by UNRWA, about human rights for all children. We think it’s great and we can’t wait to show it to our children in our Core Child Program.

Let us know your thoughts!

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Humans of Nablus 4



“Every day I pickup the kids from Balata refugee camp. Of course these kids are different from kids that live in the city neighbourhoods; it would be hard not to be. They are a community of 40,000 people that basically live on top of each other. Some people say that they have tougher personalities, but the thing I noticed the most is how close they are as a community. There are lots of negatives about growing up in a refugee camp, but that is one nice thing I see all the time. ”

اقوم يوميا بنقل اطفال المنظمة من مخيم بلاطة.وبالطبع هؤلاء الاطفال مختلفون بشكل ما عن ا اطفال المدينه ومن الصعب ان لا يكونوا كذلك فهو مجتمع كثافته حوالي 40.000 نسمه بعضهم يعيشون فوق بعضهم البعض .بعض الناس يقولون بان شخصياتهم صلبه وقاسيه ولكن الشئ الذي لاحظته هو تقاربهم من بعضهم.هنالك العديد من السلبيات في حياه المخيم ولكن الاحظ هذا الشئ الجميل دائما

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Ola A.


A resident of the Khallet al Amood neighborhood, Ola graduated from An-Najah National University with a degree in Teaching English. She works part time as a secretary at the Culture and Science Center in downtown Nablus. This is her second session volunteering with TYO.

Ola volunteer

You expressed preference for working alongside TYO’s International Interns – why is that?

Simply, I find the exposure to many different people here at TYO valuable. While I had to make a few logistical changes to my academic schedule last semester, which consequently cut down my time with TYO, I knew I needed to make volunteering with TYO a priority if I wanted more exposure to the cultural exchanges available there. Working and talking with the interns allows me to expand my understanding of the world. I like hearing about their goals and future plans; I find they’re not so dissimilar from mine and that helps us connect on a deeper level. I see that these interns have traveled here and it helps push me to seek travel experiences. One day I  hope to complete my master’s degree abroad. I think learning abroad will help me come back with new perspectives on my own culture and how I might be able to create meaningful change for the country and the people. Working with the interns also helps me show them who Palestinians really are and what we’re capable of doing.

I also want to tie my studies into my volunteer work. I studied English Teaching at university and the opportunity to speak English with the staff and interns at TYO helps me improve my language skills. It is terrific practice for me.

What does your family think about your desire to travel?

My brother traveled abroad and he is younger than me! I feel like I need that unique experience, too. However, I need to work harder than he had to to convince my parents that traveling abroad is a good idea for me. Ultimately in our society, there is no equality for women. Society looks at us differently, and I think it’s primarily out of fear that we will be harmed. Women need to be protected and honored, but this reduces our movement and freedom. Deep inside, I believe my parents want what is best for me, and they know traveling would be the best experience. I know there’s a chance to negotiate, and for example they allow me to travel through the West Bank freely, more freely than many of my peers. This is a good start. I’m working to make a good case for myself. I want them to know that I will be all right, and this is where my experience with volunteering with foreigners is a good example for me to present to my parents. I want them to see that I am doing all I can here to prepare myself and that I am qualified! I want to add that my English language competency is very helpful and I think will help my parents see I’ll be safe and succeed.

After you come back from your international studies, what do you see yourself doing?
When I come back, I want a full time job. The job market is very difficult in Palestine. Employers want work experience and then you get experience and they want more education. I have a lot of great experience working with TYO and I think going abroad to get more education would be a great way to get both, even more international experience and further my education. I think I would like to be a professor at the university. I would like to give back to my community and my language skills will be better after I return. But, my new experiences will provide for more perspectives so there may be a job I haven’t thought of yet. I know employers look at international education more highly; they want people who have graduated from English speaking countries. I want to be an example when I return. I want to show that working hard pays off and that traveling abroad will only open more doors.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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An American in Nablus


When you are given a job that requires all of your undivided attention, like teaching English to 240 wonderful Palestinian children, it is easy to put blinders on and solely concentrate on the task at hand. When I was recently asked how I was exercising cross-cultural exchange I thought: I’m doing it every day by teaching English, a foreign language. It never occurred to me that I am, in fact, doing much more by merely being around the volunteers and staff at TYO. I speak very little Arabic and the language barrier has posed a number of challenges, many of which are not easily ignored such as how to execute my lesson plans in the classroom or how to ask for help. But it occurred to me while I was conducting an interview with one of the volunteers, Ola, that sharing my ideas and talking about my life is a glimpse a different cultural perspective. I never considered that my exposure to them was also helping me naturally accept the changes I needed to make in order to develop connections and learn more about Palestinian culture. I realized that while a shared language helps you connect to the people around you, culture is much more than spoken words.

Ola’s insights into cross cultural exchanges helped me expand my own thoughts on how culture is shared, and helped me understand that I was actively participating in many cultural exchanges everyday without thinking about it. Ola explained that she liked working with the interns and international staff the most because it provided her with the opportunity to expand her understanding of foreign cultures and of foreign language. Even though she studied English while teaching at university, she wants to know more about how Americans view the world. She continued by describing how working with people who have different backgrounds helps her think about her own culture and how to best present it to foreigners: “we both act as cultural ambassadors, which I love because I get to share a part of who I am and they get to share a part of who they are.” This interview alone was a cultural exchange I was fortunate enough to experience, without really thinking about how I now knew more about Ola, her goals, and how they are not dissimilar from mine.

After this interview, I was interested to know how others perceived cross-cultural exchanges at TYO. I sought out my Arabic tutor and TYO Core Program teacher, Amal, and asked her what cultural exchanges meant to her. She explained that developing friendships that span across the world allows her to experience different cultures, different languages, and different dreams without leaving Palestine, which isn’t really an option. Plus, she gets to show the world who the real Palestinians are: ”Working with the interns, I can show them the real Palestine and I want them to see how we think, how we live, and love life, how we love to work and learn. We all love to travel, but we don’t often have the chance so I get to learn from the interns.”

Sarah and Amal bond over their love of teaching children and engaging in cross-cultural exchange.

Sarah and Amal bond over their love of teaching children and engaging in cross-cultural exchange.

Ola, Amal, and I have one very important trait in common– our desire to learn about different people and different cultures. I, however, have the flexibility of being able to immerse myself in their culture, while they might not have the same opportunities to travel and experience immersion. I did not know exactly what I was looking for when I came to Palestine. I now see that all of us who seek to learn about different cultures through travel, have an important role in participating in cultural exchange whether through simple conversation, sharing food, or sharing our dreams and goals.

Sarah, Fall 2015 Intern

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