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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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Farewell to Gerizim and Ebal

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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.

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From the Warmth of Palestine Back to the New England Cold

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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.

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I Respect Myself: A Safe Space for Self-Empowerment

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"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.

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Humans of Nablus 37

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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.

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How Far We Have Come!

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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.

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Humans of Nablus 36

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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.

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