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Progress in Core AM: Participation, Perseverance, Practice, Play and Personal Development

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Mohammed now regularly smiles in class, even for the camera!

It was 8 weeks ago that 27 four and five year-olds walked into the classroom and nervously eyeballed me, the foreigner, in their classroom. Our first learning intention was simple, they needed to learn how to correctly say ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, it seemed like an easy task, but I was no kindergarten teacher, I was used to teaching teenagers literature and history.  But through some miracle, and the use of excessive amounts of my energy running in and out of a door saying hello and goodbye, I had most of them laughing and learning. Thankfully, most students waved, and warmly said ‘Goodbye’ as they left the class. This was our first milestone, and since then I have observed many more as they progress along the learning English journey.

Participation
I am only the second international intern to teach English to the Core AM classes, last session ran as a pilot with the teacher, Jessica, and she reflected that this age group was a like a sponge, and that there was real progress to be made if students participated for the 9 weeks. In fact, research backs up her observations, as students are refining their understanding of their primary language they are able to apply that learning to picking up a second language with ease, in an ideal world, all preschoolers should start learning a second language as the long term benefits are overwhelmingly positive. The Spring session has had very promising participation with 80% of registered students in the Core program still attending daily classes.

Perseverance
In the second lesson the students decorated a large colorful name plate that was to be used in multiple lessons as follows: each of the name plates would be displayed randomly on tables in the classroom, students had to search and recognize their name in English and then put on their name tag. Once they had it on they would excitedly approach a volunteer who would then ask ‘What is your name?’ The volunteer would support the student to respond correctly. Now as you can imagine, the execution of this exercise for the first time created chaos. Female students had male name tags on and vice versa, some cried because they couldn’t find their name plate, and others refused to repeat the correct answer to the question. But we persevered, and repeated the name plate exercise in many lessons. Very soon chaos had turned into learning harmony. Children identify their name in English, put on their name tag, show the volunteer who asks them what their name is and then encourages them to ask other students ‘What is your name?’ This is just one example of the importance and benefits of perseverance with preschoolers. I am continuously impressed by the patience of the volunteers, but they appreciate the outcomes, they often smile and laugh at the children having small conversations in English when they have their name tags on.

Practice
One of the goals was that by the end of the session children would have a grasp of the alphabet. This meant being able to say the ABC, recognize and sound out each letter, and associate each letter with an object to establish a base vocabulary. TYO felt that this gave students who attended the Core program a foundation in English and a genuine head-start in their education. Just like each of PBS’s Sesame Street episodes, each lesson was brought to the students with a new letter of the alphabet. Yesterday was the letter R, and R was for Rabbit. In this lesson, as in all lessons, I say the letter, sound it out, and introduce the English word we will use. In order to reinforce the sound and letter form, we repeat many times, as we all know, practice helps one remember. We moved onto a fun game where the students took turns racing each other whilst jumping in sacks, they were hopping like rabbits, our noun for the day. To continue practicing they chanted “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” as each student hopped along. Every lesson followed a similar structure. And every lesson ended with the class reading the alphabet and singing the ABC song. What sounded like general noise in the first few weeks has transformed into correct pronunciation of each letter in the ABC song, and with many students even reading the letters along the wall as they sing the song. Practice makes perfect!

Play
One of the key contributors to progress has been the role of play in the classroom. Children who attend Core AM come from disadvantaged homes, there is potentially a lack of appropriate toys to play with and definitely and lack of space to play in. But play is one of primary ways that children learn. So in English, where appropriate, we have used play as a way to learn new vocabulary. It’s not surprising that the most frequently memorized vocabulary has come from activities that encourage play. For instance, rabbit and the aforementioned rabbit activity, duck and the duck hunting treasure hunt, hot and the Hot Lava game, ice and the Ice Statues game, the list goes on.

Personal Development
When analyzing progress in the Core Program, I believe the most important are not measured quantitatively, instead the most crucial progress has been watching withdrawn and troubled students blossom in the nurturing environment that is TYO. My English language class is one out of the six classes that each Core AM student attends in a morning; in each class every student is stimulated, entertained and supported. A child that chooses to continuously disengage with other students and trusted adults is of grave concern, but this is an opportune time in their life to intervene and make a positive impact. Young Mohammed was frequently withdrawn and disengaged, he would never repeat a letter-sound or new word we learnt, would not participate in any games, and would look at a coloring-in sheet and not lift his crayons, in fact, he would often stare vacantly at you as if you were not even there trying to talk to him. But no one gave up trying different ways to engage him. In week 5 I got the shock of my life when he repeated letter-sounds after me, I gave him the most enthusiastic and joyous feedback. In week 6 he was smiling in class, in week 7 completing his worksheets, in week 8 saying the alphabet with everyone else in the class. In week 9, he will be one of the hardest to say goodbye to. Of course, Mohammed is just one anecdote to illustrate the rapid changes I have been able witness in all of the children who have attended the Core Am program.

Having sat down to write this blog I realize the importance of reflection, it is not only the students that have learnt so much and progressed, I too have grown from this experience. The challenge of working with this age group will be something I will never forget, and I hope their time at TYO does give them a head-start in their education. As the late Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ And I would insert my final two P words here: ‘positively’ and for ‘Palestine’.

-TYO Inter, Celia

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Delivering tools for success

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Children in the Core program learn how to express positive emotions, a necessary skill for peaceful problem solving

Children in the Core program learn how to express positive emotions, a necessary skill for peaceful problem solving

In the early childhood development stages, seemingly small problems which might appear trivial to adults can actually be rooted into much more significant problems later in life, if never addressed. For that and many other reasons, at TYO we emphasize the importance of teaching children critical-thinking and problem-solving techniques to help children overcome their problems. Independent problem-solving increases children’s self-respect and gives them a sense of belonging within their community as effective and reliable individuals.

Our particular emphasis at TYO is peaceful resolution to problem-solving. Young children tend to model the behavior of adults around them, so when they see older siblings or parents yelling at each other as a means of problem-solving, they tend to internalize this behavior as correct. This is why TYO’s multi-generational approach can be so impactful- we aim to teach better marital communication skills for moms at the same time that we’re teaching positive communication skills to children with the goal of breaking the cycle of anger and negativity which ultimately fosters feelings of hopelessness and depression later in life.

In the Core Child Program, we implement activities which are designed to help children practice and improve their problem-solving skills. For instance, such activities are intentionally meant to induce a frustrated response from children. The last ten weeks of the program we were helping children to identify and express their emotions. Children were learning how to change bad/ negative feelings into more positive responses. So in this week, the goal was to give children the opportunity to apply the positive responses they had been learning all session. As teachers, it was critically important to achieving the development goals that we immediately identify any children expressing an incorrect response to frustration- at which point we’d stop the activity to lead the class in a short discussion once again modeling correct reactions to frustration. Although this is a challenging week for our children, it can be the most rewarding, as this week is a true opportunity to observe children’s progress throughout the session.

-Core Child Teacher, Shireen

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Because of Them, We Will

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Have you seen those photos circulating on Buzzfeed that show young girls dressed as the bold feminists that came before them- part of the international photography project, Because of Them, We Can?

If you haven’t, they’re worth a look- young children dress to resemble the gender equality revolutionaries from both the past and present that are blazing the trail for a brighter, more equitable future- from Susan B. Anthony to Sacajawea, Frida Kahlo to Malala Yousafiszi. It’s homage to those that came before us, and a way to teach children about the strong activists and leaders that paved a way for women’s rights.

Yet in places like Palestine, there’s not always a plethora of female leaders to look up to- given the societal restrictions and slow rates of women’s participation, it’s difficult to point to major icons or celebrated figures that have made major impact for equality. That’s why The Women’s Group at TYO seeks to fill this gap, as we encourage mothers to understand the key role that communicate has in their children’s lives. In the past two weeks, The Women’s Group has discussed communication with children and marital communication- emphasizing that children learn by looking at what their parents do, so it’s critical for families to be modeling gender equality at home. By creating an environment where men and women both share housework, responsibilities, and decision-making, concepts of gender equality and women’s rights are communicated to young boys and girls- and give them a strong reference point for how they should be respected, and respect others.

Specifically, a group of social workers, counselors, and psychologists from community partners like the Yafo Cultural Center, Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development, and the YMCA lent their voices to The Women’s Group, providing interactive seminars where women could gain a thorough understanding of strengths-based communication, positive reinforcement, and communication for various developmental stages with children.

TWG Participants take part in a communication exercise, writing down the traits that make-or break- conversations between husbands and wives.

TWG Participants take part in a communication exercise, writing down the traits that make-or break- conversations between husbands and wives.

While mothers and kids in Palestine might not have Michelle Obama or Janet Reno to look to as inspiration, participants in The Women’s Group have been working on becoming similar role models for their children by focusing on a few themes embodied by key inspirational leaders:

  • Alice Walker said that “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any.” This is posted on the walls of The Women’s Group, and we’ve been pressing to instill this as we talk about communication. Speakers have led vibrant discussions about a woman’s need to be confident in what she’s saying- and not deferring to her husband’s, or extended family’s, decision-making because she feels she doesn’t have a voice. We’ve discussed that the only way to pass on power to daughters is by demonstrating it at home- instead of shying away and letting men lead.
  • Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, is quoted in the photo project as saying “when a light shines brightly, it lasts a really long time.” That’s what we’re driving home- literally- in The Women’s Group, as we talk about how a child’s impression of her parents- and her mother’s role in the family- can make a lifetime impact. As we talk about being strong role models for daughters, we know we’re not just talking about the current generation- but influencing Palestine for years to come.
  • Olympic gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas are quoted that “the hard days are the best days, because that’s where champions are made.” Whether it’s been in a grueling game of volleyball in this week’s fitness class or finding the courage to be positive after difficult days at home, we’ve been equipping moms with the right resources- and optimism- that change can be made in their lives, and that their daughters’ don’t have to face the same challenges they have.

So while Palestine doesn’t yet have many such role models and heroes in the public sector, that doesn’t mean it’s not slowly happening in homes- and we anticipate the day when there’s even more reason to celebrate the generations before us here in Nablus.

-Cayce, Women’s Empowerment Coordinator

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The Ripple Effect of Cultural Exchange

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Celia and Mai talking on the balcony of TYO

Celia and Mai talking on the balcony of TYO

Whilst the primary goals of TYO’s classes at An-Najah University are increasing awareness of professional competency and improving English conversation, one of the secondary outcomes has been the positive effects of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange is more than just getting used to interns’ unique accents and learning trivial things about their home nations, cultural exchange importantly contributes to mutual understanding between societies and peoples.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it’s important that Palestinian nationals don’t get left behind. As a result of the complex political context here there is a restriction on travel, and consequently fewer opportunities for the majority of Palestinians to meet other nationalities and experience the shared understanding that comes from cultural exchange. As a result,  interaction with foreigners is limited primarily to foreigners visiting Palestine.

Many of the An-Najah University students have little to no experience working with peers from other countries, but a large percent of the students will be seeking international employment due to the lack of opportunities within Palestine.

Diversity in a corporation can inspire creativity, but it may also be a source for miscommunication and tension when proper training and understanding of cultural differences is not addressed. To clarify this point, the intermediate and advanced students enrolled in the professional competency class at An Najah University  participated in 2 separate role-plays of a meeting with an international group of employees from the United States, Italy, Palestine, Japan and Mexico. One group acted out the meeting where cultural differences were not taken into consideration, and the other group acted out the meeting where cultural differences were taken into consideration.

The first meeting scenario created conflict, tension and dissatisfaction with the group leadership and resulted in a deterioration of respect. Whereas the second scenario, with the same roles and meeting subject, ran smoothly as the leader of the meeting was aware of the cultural differences of the employees. Most importantly the entire class realized the importance of understanding how differently people can interpret the same information due to their unique cultural perspectives on business, family and social relationships.

Understanding other cultures prevents prejudice and hate, and the nature of exchange means that we, the interns, are getting something in return.

I’m not afraid to admit that many of my preconceptions have altered or completely transformed. I remember researching for my interview and being surprised that the female to male ratio at An-Najah University favored females. I’m pleased to see women so positively represented in education, and at TYO I am inspired by my female colleagues determination to promote more equality and opportunity through education, they are all excellent role models for the students that attend TYO programs. There is still a great deal of work to be done to create a more gender equal society in Palestine, but I have been privileged to be exposed to those who are championing this work.

These experiences that challenge our preconceptions do not live in isolation, we tell these stories to friends and our An-Najah students share their experiences with friends and family too. This is testament to that fact that a one person cultural exchange creates a ripple effect of shared understandings.

-TYO Intern, Celia

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Youth in Focus: An interview with Ramsis Hijazi

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Volunteer Ramsis poses witith kids in the intern program

Volunteer Ramsis poses witith kids in the intern program

Ramsis Hijazi, a volunteer in the International Internship Program and a current IT student at An-Najah National University shares his experience as a TYO volunteer.

When did you start volunteering at TYO?

I started volunteering in the summer of 2013- about 11 months ago. I’ve really enjoyed my experience here so I plan to reapply as volunteer at TYO next semesters until I graduate.

How did you learn about TYO?

I learned about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from the President’s Assistant in the Graduate Affairs Office at An Najah University. I was always involved in many activities there, so they told me about the opportunity of volunteering at TYO and they suggested I may be interested to volunteering at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization.

Please describe the program you’re assisting with at TYO.

Currently I’m working with interns from the International Internship Program. Together we lead classes for children from 4th-8th grade. We teach the children English skills through play based educational activities. Learning retention is high when kids are enjoying themselves in the classes.

What about the volunteer experience keeps you coming back to TYO?

Volunteering at TYO is has helped me to gain experience in teamwork and leadership. I’ve also spent a lot of time honing my problem solving skills by mediating minor conflicts between the children. Moreover, I developed my communication skills by working with a team including national and international volunteers. Honestly, I feel very comfortable being at TYO; it is not only a safe place for the children- which is a much needed element in the Nabulsi community- but it is also a safe place for me. It makes me really happy to see the children happy and have that space, especially that I didn’t have it when I was a child growing up in Balata Refugee Camp.

What is your favorite thing about being a volunteer?

I like the feeling of self-satisfaction because I feel that I’m doing something helpful. As a person who experienced the difficult life in the camps, I know what it means for a camp child to have this space where they get care from everybody. The skills we teach them through fun activities are essential for their life.  Moreover, I appreciate the chance where I got to know interns from different cultures and develop my English language skills.

How has this experience benefited you?

Volunteering at TYO has benefited me in several ways. First of all, professionally, I’ve developed my team-work skills because I got the chance to lead groups of children in the classroom and work within a team. I also wrote my CV after being hesitant for 3 years, and I feel I’m more prepared for my future job in terms of working under the supervision of somebody because I’m now working under the supervision of the volunteer coordinator and the class teacher. I’m more confident now to behave professionally when I get a job.

Interview conducted by Ruba

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Comparative perspectives on education in the UK and Palestinian contexts

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Creative engagement for children combines with essential opportunities for youth development at TYO, to transform the educational experience

Creative engagement for children combines with essential opportunities for youth development at TYO, to transform the educational experience

The universal significance of education to global development is underscored by the second Millennium Development Goal. Recognizing its importance, Palestinians often describe education as a means to bettering their lives.  The Palestinian education system is comparatively very young, and contends with multiple political, economic and social constraints – factors noted in a 2007 publication from UNESCO and Save The Children.  In addition to state and private schools serving both Britons and Palestinians, UN agency UNRWA educates over 50,000 children from grades 1 to 10 in the West Bank, but is highly dependent on unstable funding sources.

My seventy-two year-old father can regurgitate a series of Latin noun declensions from his schooldays, reflecting rote learning and memorisation trends apparent within the current Palestinian education system.  These methods can equip students to pass exams, but they stifle independent thinking, which is essential to understanding.  The Brookings Institution’s 2014 Arab World Learning Barometer and companion report situate Palestinians within a wider regional education crisis, characterised in part by a deficit of transferable and vocational skills necessary for gainful employment.  My most recent experience of UK higher education was replete with demands for critical analysis, and featured an array of self-directed learning tools and environments.  In contrast, my interactions with students at An Najah University suggest that passive learning environments continue to prevail in higher education.  This apparent lack of meaningful engagement creates barriers to comprehensive understanding and application of knowledge.

Prior to arriving in Nablus, I was uncertain about how the classes would work at TYO.  Having left school a mere seven months ago, I am well-acquainted with life as a pupil in London.  My day began at 7am, getting to school for an 8.30am start, formally finishing at 4pm but usually leaving around 5.30pm for after-school activities.  I was wondering how TYO classes could begin at 3pm, since surely they would be missing school?  This was not the case!  Unlike myself, students here in Nablus start school at 8am, finishing between 12-1.30 pm.  Whilst education is highly valued in Palestine, students are actually spending two to three hours fewer at school each day than their Western counterparts.

The school curriculum here in Nablus also appears very different to that of the UK.  No drama or music is taught in school, and children aged between six and fourteen tend to have one sport and one art lesson a week.  Most teachers here are not qualified to teach ‘creative’ skills and the majority of schools do not have the facilities, so there is more of a focus on academic study in Palestine.  In contrast to England, seventeen and eighteen year olds can study a broader range of topics for their final years, ranging from sciences to finance.  Unfortunately, this specialisation at school seems to create a heavy focus on memorisation in the classroom, rather than the development of skills.

In response to these issues, TYO has since its inception worked to foster skills such as creativity and problem solving.  The main thing I have noticed during my time at TYO is the fear of inadequacy in creative activities.  TYO’s Early Childhood Education, international interns classes and Youth Development programs offer opportunities to explore creativity and self expression in a safe space, with inspiring play-based and interactive methods helping children and youth to flourish.  Empowering young adults through classroom assistance and training sessions fosters the development of critical leadership, team working and interpersonal skills, transforming future employment prospects and strengthening their capacity for engagement with the wider community.

-TYO interns, Mariella and Laura

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Building Future Success through Collaboration

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Children in the Core AM class work together to paint a picture.

Children in the Core AM class work together to paint a picture.

 

One of TYO’s main goals as an organization is to improve the abilities of children from marginalized areas so that they may be able to function effectively within their communities. In the Core Child Program we work to inspire children to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible as community members. With that in mind, this past week children in the Core Child Program spent time working to develop their collaboration skills.

With only two weeks left of the Spring session, this is a crucial time of the program where children are putting together all of the skills they’ve been developing throughout the session- such as listening, respect for one another, and a greater sense of responsibility to the community. Activities during this past week were carefully designed to have children use all of this skills in order to show effective group work. Children this week get the chance to work on creative activities that mostly depend on collaborative kind of tasks that serve both educative purposes and children’s passion for enjoyment. Children created a variety of art activities where they had to plan and work together in order to achieve a group task, while still being given the creative space to express their inner thoughts and feelings.

 

In the digital age it has become particularly critical for children to master this skill of collaboration if they hope to be successful in the future workplace. Widespread use of computers and the internet have enabled people to connect from all over the world. Children must learn early on effective communication as well as the responsibilities they have to each other within group work if they hope to grow and adapt successfully within the digital environment. However, practicing collaborative work-offline is just as important as mastering the skills online. An article by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development reports that children need to think through and practice positive social responses, starting with face-to-face interaction. We all have a tendency to model the behaviors we see. As teachers it is much easier to intervene and correct behavior in the offline, face-to-face world than it is to monitor digital communication. As such it is tremendously important that we are able to root positive communication and collaboration skills early on in children’s development.

As a Core Child teacher, I strongly believe in all of the children that come to TYO and their abilities to overcome their hard life conditions and to build a brighter future for themselves and their country.

-Ahmed B., Core Child Teacher

Children in the Core Child Program learn that positive communication leads to success.

Children in the Core Child Program learn that positive teamwork and communication leads to success.

 

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Bossy, Bold Female Businesswomen

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In recent weeks, Beyonce has helped Sheryl Sandberg “ban bossy“- encouraging young women globally to stop shying away from leadership roles out of fear that they’ll be considered “rude” or disliked by others for being so bold. Girls’ rights extraordinaire Malala Yousasfizi also made statements this month asking women of the world to stop using Facebook for just fun- and instead transitioning it to be a tool for social change.

Both of these sentiments ring true at TYO as we encourage gender equality in all aspects of our programs- but they’re especially applicable to the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East initiative, and the period of intensive incubation that 13 businesswomen are currently participating in. We’ve recently wrapped up a series of social media marketing trainings, where entrepreneurs used platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to gain traction for their enterprises. This is taking hold of messages like Malala’s that encourage women to take themselves more seriously on social media, and harness its power for good- whether it’s building your own business, bringing attention to the challenges of female entrepreneurship, or being a bold voice for gender equity in their industries. Further, in our recent trainings with the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah, we’ve been working with entrepreneurs to help them share their voices with new markets, take charge as managers in their businesses, and act as economic leaders in their communities.

So with Sheryl Sandberg and Beyonce in mind, below are a few of our favorite snippets of these excellent speeches and initiatives for women’s rights as of late- and specific examples of how our FWEME project is empowering women in a similar fashion:

  • In her recent speech on women’s role in social media, Malala addressed the gender equality in the Western world- with particular focus on the UK- saying she was quite surprised to “hear that there are only 22 percent or less [women] in Parliament and the CEOs of big companies [are] mainly men, you realise it’s far better than other countries, but there’s still so much that needs to be done.” While Palestine has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world, we’re aware that women everywhere struggle for equality in the workplace- and it’s an encouraging fact for entrepreneurs here to learn that girls across the globe share similar struggles. As we send businesswomen to conferences both locally and internationally, we’re exposing entrepreneurs to a network of females that have fought similar barriers to success- no matter if they’re from the Arab, European, or American world.

    Ghada and Atika work together on their marketing plans at a recent training.

    Ghada and Atika work together on their marketing plans at a recent training.

  • Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them appear “bossy”. Sheryl Sandberg’s new campaign to “Ban Bossy” demonstrates that young girls in the United States are much more likely to step away from leadership and boldness in fear of being judged- and in places like Palestine, this problem is exacerbated by societal restrictions and family resistance. TYO’s psychosocial support helps women from northern Palestine counter this pressure to be complacent and un-confident, and our business trainings also focus on equipping women with the human resources and management skills to step into strong management positions.

 

Entrepreneur Maysaa shows off her marketing skills at a recent bazaar.

Entrepreneur Maysaa shows off her marketing skills at a recent bazaar.

  • According to a recent report for the Ban Bossy campaign, almost two-thirds of male executives are hesitant to have one-on-one meetings with a more junior woman. In Palestine, women are highly hesitant to meet with men, as well- given cultural norms and gender discrimination, it’s a foreign concept for many female business owners to meet with male colleagues or mentors. At TYO, we’re working to promote gender equity from an early age- and for entrepreneurs, we provide opportunities for mentorship and meeting from male counterparts. But most importantly, we’re focused on showing men in the region the strength of women’s businesses, and helping entrepreneurs gain the confidence to combat the resistance they face from men in senior positions. Whether it’s a woman struggling to have a male store manager sell her products or a bank official not taking a woman’s request for a loan seriously, TYO works to instill self-confidence in entrepreneurs, and equip them with the knowledge that this is never right. As shown above, TYO also helps provide opportunities for women to market themselves throughout Palestine- as entrepreneurs like Maysaa, pictured above, sell their products at bazaars and fairs.

So while we applaud voices like Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, and Beyonce- we’re also thrilled to hear the voices of Palestinian entrepreneurs joining in this global chorus calling for more bossy, bold leaders.

-Cayce, Women’s Empowerment Coordinator

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All Aboard the Rotation Train: the benefits of the rotation structure from a child’s perspective

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Choo choo! Core students transition from class to class in a human train formation

Choo choo! Core students transition from class to class in a human train formation

A morning at TYO is very busy for 4 year old Motaz, his bright eyes open wide with exclamation as he tells you that he has six different classes to attend with his classmates, but it’s not only his class, all 130 early childhood students rotate classes every 30 minutes! Thank goodness for the volunteers though, or else he might get lost during transitions, all Motaz has to do is place his hands on the shoulders of the student in front of him and walk slowly, and like a small human train they arrive at their station, their first class!

Motaz knows that each class, like each destination on a train, is different and that he will act differently in each class. The first stop is in the concentration corner, here Motaz uses higher order thinking, he has to use logic and engage in problem solving when playing, so in this class there are lots of puzzles and games that always stay in the room. It’s an amazing opportunity for him as he doesn’t get structured time to play with such toys when at home. Sometimes at the end of a lesson Motaz covers his ears with his hands and notices that his head is sore from concentrating so much! Must be time for the next class!

Phew, he is led to sport! He loves running around, it is such a good release of energy and a good contrast to the concentration corner. He is always amazed at the amount of space there is to play sport at TYO, he feels so privileged as in his neighborhood there is no safe, clear space for playing, which is sad as playing is so important to his development. He has been working on his fine motor skills in sports class, last week he worked on catching a ball, sometimes his flailing arms missed the catch, but his volunteers remind him to watch the ball and he succeeds.

On the wall of the next class Motaz can see strikes, slashes and dots, he knows that he has entered the Arabic classroom. Every student at TYO gets to participate in the new pilot Arabic classes with Mohammed. On each table there are paints so the class can start coloring in the alphabet, Mohammed must be grateful that he doesn’t have to transport equipment everywhere, instead the class rotates to him.

Hands on shoulders and walking slowly, Motaz arrives in a class where he hears “Hello!” He knows that it is an English word and his teacher has come all the way from New Zealand to teach him English! Around the room are posters of the English alphabet with pictures of words he learns each day. Celia points at each poster and Motaz repeats the letter sound. There’s lots of speaking in this class, repeating after the teacher, and singing!  Celia often sits down with Motaz and makes him watch her mouth annunciate a word, so he can repeat the word correctly.

Just when Motaz thinks his brain cannot fit in another English word he sings the ABC song and lines up, this time to go and wash his hands in preparation for snack time! Snack time is his favorite part of the rotation, he gets to have tomato, bread and egg. His teachers tell him that he must eat to learn, and he believes them, as he often gets very hungry at TYO and he knows he is learning so much!

Now that the train is fueled and rested it has two more stops, the imagination room and the computer room. Motaz gets lost in the imaginary worlds of the imagination room, sometimes he is so engaged in creating masterpieces, listening to stories or playing games, he loses track of time and is surprised when he is asked to line up to move on. Developing creative skills is crucial to his development, TYO is one of the few places where he has had a teacher encourage him to work on these skills.

Finally, Motaz gets to sit on a big chair and play with a computer. Something he never gets to do at home by himself; he is told computer skills are very important for his future and the future of all the Core students at TYO. Apparently, exposure to computers with a teacher he trusts is the perfect environment to learn. He loves playing games and laughing at the colorful characters on the screen who teach him information, at first he didn’t know how to use the mouse to make the characters talk to him, but now his computer motor skills have developed significantly!

As the classroom train completes its rotation of classes, Motaz notices that he and his class have remained engaged; walking to new classes reenergized them, they’ve enjoyed meeting different teachers, and they’ve used different skills in different subjects. But most of all, this train drops him to things he never has the opportunity to do at home, by coming to TYO he gets to be involved in childhood opportunities he might otherwise miss.

He thinks that this rotation structure really works! But thank goodness for the volunteers, as they make sure everyone makes it to every destination!

-TYO Intern, Celia

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Unlocking the door to employment opportunities

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Volunteer, Haya, directs  children during a football match

Volunteer, Haya, practices leadership skills as she directs children during a football match

As we’ve been discussing a lot recently, youth unemployment remains a tremendous worldwide concern. The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently reported in follow-up to the release of an International Labor Organization study on Global Youth Unemployment trends, 40% of the world youth a unemployed. Though there are many negative social and economic concerns stemming from this issue, one of the main areas of interest for us at TYO is how underemployment and unemployment effects skills stagnation. 

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization tries to help the youth in Nablus to be prepared for jobs by developing their skills. According to the Palestinian Center Bureau for Statistics, 55% of people in the West Bank are unemployed. This high unemployment rate is a serious issue that impacts the country’s economics, and it wastes the capacity. For those fortunate enough to find work, the average wage in the West Bank equates to roughly $25 per day. Such low wages limit options for young people as it gives them little opportunity to invest in themselves, or search for work elsewhere. Such restrictions cause a lot of physical and emotional health problems, which negatively affects both the country as well as the community.

Decreasing the unemployment rate amongst recent graduates can be achieved by increasing productivity from a healthy, well-educated and trained young labor force.  The Youth Service Learning Program at TYO helps to increase the undergraduates and graduates students’ skills to be able to get to jobs and find study and scholarship opportunities abroad. TYO helps the youth to develop the essential professional skills such as leadership, commitment, time management, and communication skills. The volunteers go through an intensive training process about the importance of voluntary work to develop their professional experience to get an opportunity.

The volunteers at TYO are required to commit to the Youth Service Learning program for ten or twelve week programs. During that time they receive feedback on their performance and through the support of the teaching staff and Volunteer Coordinator they are able to hone in on their own strengths and weaknesses. Also, they have access to trainings on the professional skills they should develop. For example, TYO’s interns give English Professional Classes at An-Najah University to the students to empower them more on how to write the CV in English, make job interviews, and develop the public speaking and presentation skills. And there will be a training for the volunteers at TYO to develop the skills they lack the most after a need study and observing the volunteers in the classrooms. Hence, TYO tries to cover the challenges in the school- to- work transition.

Though change won’t happen overnight, TYO is hopeful that through rigorous support and encouragement of the youth in Nablus, real economic change will be possible as TYO helps to unlock the door to employment opportunities.

-Ruba Hafayda, Volunteer Coordinator

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