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Springing Forward in 2014: Session Recap

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About two weeks ago, we had our last seminars in The Women’s Group at TYO for the Spring 2014 session- marking the culmination of an exciting, challenging, and inspiring season of empowerment in Nablus.

Women enjoy a celebration of women's rights during the seminar.

Women enjoy a celebration of women’s rights during the seminar.

About twenty years ago, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo, Egypt- making large news when a number of women groups were able to successfully convince key governments and policymakers that the solution to the imminent population explosion discussed at the conference was simple- it was women.  NGOs and women’s rights advocates were able to shift the conversation from population control to women’s empowerment at this historic conference- leading the argument that an investment in women’s health and education would lead to economic development, and address many of the fears raised about exponential population growth.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of women’s empowerment was what worked- during the past 20 years, fertility rates have declined as women’s advancement has grown. As proven in the just-released ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report, high fertility rates of 4 children or more per woman are now only found in 45 countries, down from nearly 81 in the period of 1990-1995.

And while there’s about twenty years between the ICPD conference and the recent spring session of The Women’s Group, there’s many similarities about what’s being spoken about- as well as the same sense of urgency that while progress has been made, there’s still much work to be done. For example, the ICPD report announces that more than 30% of girls marry before 18 in 41 nations- missing key opportunities for development and growth.

Similar to the ICPD, we spent much time in The Women’s Group this session talking about reproductive health, and the importance of valuing one’s own body and self first before a community can recognize the collective value of women. We accomplished this through informational seminars with partners like the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Society, as well as visits to local women’s health clinics. We also got active outside in fitness classes, learning new volleyball skills and unleashing lots of energy in some competitive soccer games. We achieved strong results, such as a 90% increase in knowledge on women’s key subject matter, and saw 40 women attend health screenings outside TYO. We’re proud of what happened inside the classrooms- but know it’s not enough to just stop there.

So as we look back at the session’s highlights, we’re mainly looking for how we will keep that progress continuing- so we can continue to advocate for basic rights for women in Palestine, much like those outlined in the ICPD. Just like the Cairo conference 20 years ago, we know it’s not enough to just offer solutions- it’s about implementing. Moving into summer session, we’ll continue to take the steps we’ve made this Spring as we walk forward into more advocacy and action- bringing about small change in our local community as we work together for the global progress.

-Cayce, Women’s Empowerment Coordinator

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Final week of ESL classes with lasting memories

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Nirmeen raises her hand to show she has correctly found one of the countries on the world map

Nirmeen raises her hand to show she has correctly found one of the countries on the world map

As our classes at TYO draw to an end we’ve begun to reflect on the experience of our classes. The ESL classes have not been a purely academic driven exercise, with an English focus, instead in these classes we have built relationships and have shared a wide cultural exchange.

 

The 4th through 9th grade ESL classes are designed to deceive children and young adults into learning English through fun and challenging activities that incorporate weekly learning objectives. Some of my favorite activities include; scavenger hunts where teams of students have to find and correctly ask, then say new vocabulary words hidden throughout the playground area. Also the card game ‘Go Fish!’ adapted so that students have a deck of cards with people, places or things and must ask the appropriate questions to get a matching set of images. My third would be an acting activity where student groups wrote and acted out a role-play in class using hula hoops as props. Moreover, all the classes incorporated reading and homework time intended to both create a culture of reading, as well as give the students the opportunity to ask college educated Palestinians for assistance with schoolwork.

 

The wide range of activities at TYO ensures that the students remain engaged and excited about learning throughout the 9-week course. I am encouraged by the students’ speed with which they grasp the weekly objectives, and even more so with each student’s personal growth. Over the past couple of months I have witnessed the students’ attitudes and behaviors toward each other and themselves change. Students who were reluctant to speak in class have gained the confidence to raise their hands and ask questions. While more difficult students have grown, having opened up to the child psychologist on staff here, to discuss the frustrations and tensions at home that drive these behaviors.  These heartwarming and inspiring transformations are a result of TYO’s commitment to provide a safe space for Nabulsi youth to develop psychosocial skills through the English language classes.

 

These classes have been incredible for us interns to monitor how academically receptive the students are. There are some students who have moved from the weakest to becoming some of the strongest, others who are still weak among their peers but have made a huge personal leap. Seeing this growth of confidence and energy in only nine weeks, has re-assured me of the academic potential that these children have in the long term. Through the growth of their confidence an extra spur of creativity has emerged in the students. Knowing that they can present themselves and their own ideas in a safe environment, without shame or judgement, has allowed the kids to growth within themselves these past nine weeks.

 

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TYO Volunteers Reflect on the Spring 2014 Session

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Asma' Saleh presents a child's art project

Asma’ Saleh presents a child’s art project

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, with generous support from the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation, is preparing the next generation of leaders with vital professional competency support. Read on to see how we are making an impact in our community with our STEP! program.

Safa’ Saleh, a volunteer in the Core Child AM program shares her experience in Spring 2014 session.

I’m Safa’ Saleh from Nablus, An-Najah university studied Educational Methods of and graduated in 2012. Currently I’m enrolled in the Core Child morning program offered to children from ages 4-5 years old. In the Core Child morning program we introduce children to different outlets in which students learn to express themselves. Such outlets include: sports class, English class, and storytelling. In these corners, students are encouraged to engage in open expression.

What are the skills you developed or learned about this session?

As I didn’t work with children before, I developed my skills on how to deal with them and how to be patient. Regarding the skills I developed, I believe that I already have teamwork, leadership and time management skills but I got the chance to practice them more at TYO.
How can you describe your skills after the session?

I can say that my skills in dealing with children are very good now, which makes me proud of myself.

Are you planning to register for next session? Why?

Yes because I liked the organization’s environment including kids and staff. I think I will gain more skills in the new session depending on the program I’ll join.

What do you expect yourself to learn more about?

I’m planning to volunteer with the Core Child PM program next session to learn more about the program and how to deal with this age, and I’ll learn things based on the experience I’ll get in this program.

 Is there anything that surprised you that you learned this session?

Yes, I was surprised when I saw the kids’ situation. I didn’t expect it to be difficult in this way. They really need help as some kids are suffering from serious abuse within the homes.

 What is your best memory from your timing volunteering with TYO this session?

I will always remember the organization’s system and how it helps. My best memory was when one of the kids in my group was not talking at all because she was so shy, but she could improve and talk at the end and make a presentation which was surprising.

 

Haya Sawafta, a volunteer in PM program shares her experience in spring 2014.

I’m Haya Sawafta from Tubas, graduated in 213 from An-Najah University, I studied English methods. I’ve volunteered in the afternoon Core Child Program. This program is offered to children from ages 6-8 years old. In the Core PM program, we introduce children to different classes like Health, Sports, Drama, IT and Arts and Crafts. I’m volunteering with the IT class.

What are the skills you developed or learned about this session?

I developed my leadership skills through leading the class and control the children. Also, I could develop my time management skills. From the time I started at TYO, I started putting a schedule not only for my volunteering time, but also for my life and day in general because I should be at TYO at 1:30, especially that I’m a bus monitor. Moreover, I learned how to to deal with kids and how to persuade a stubborn kid to participate which is helpful not only with kids but also with adults.

How can you describe your skills after the session?

I can say I’ve developed 90% of my skills, especially in time management and how to control kids. It helps me as my major is Educational Methods. I didn’t expect myself to be able to manage the kids at the classroom, but I was surprised on how I could do it.

What is your best memory from your timing volunteering with TYO this session?

The training time is my best memory at TYO because I learned a lot from the way of the training and the information I got especially the psycho-social approach. I many of trainings before but this was the first time having trainings this way. I got the chance to know more people.

Mai Masood, a volunteer in the International Internship Program shares her experience in spring 2014 session.

I’m Mai Masood from Sabastia, I studied English Educational Methods at An-Najah University and graduated in 2013. I’ve volunteered in the International Internship Program. The program for this session focuses more on teaching English through fun and build up the children’s psycho-social skills.

What are the skills you developed or learned about this session?

I developed my skills in English conversation through talking to English native speakers. Also, I developed my time management skills especially that I’m a bus monitor this session so I have to be at TYO at on time and in the classes on time, and I developed this skill when there is an activity in the class, where we divide the tasks amongst the team, so we finish the activity with less time and effort. I also developed my communication skills, especially when I convey a message to the kids and break it down to make it easy to understand.

How can you describe your skills after the session?

I can say it is good; all of the activities I participated with impacted me for the future. I expect myself in the future when I face any problem to be able to deal with it easily especially if there are problems related to what we faced in the classroom with the kids.

Are you planning to register for next session? Why?

Yes, because I feel that TYO is my second home, all of the problems are being solved at TYO smoothly. I learned that everything is important because I sometimes don’t expect something to be important unless a problem comes out of this thing, like the job as a bus monitor and how important the details are. I didn’t not only enjoy my time, but I also benefited from the teachers because they give me from their experience on how to deal with the kids and solve their problems, and interns how to manage discussion. It is really great to have the volunteer program since it helps the graduates and undergraduates to build up their experience and make use of their time, especially those who cannot find jobs and have free time.

 What did you expect to learn during the session ?

I expect myself to learn how to write English effectively and gain some IT skills. I was shy to practice my English skills but could break this barrier this session in the internship program. And I expect myself to learn more on the skills I can have to deal with children.

Is there anything you want to add?

I would love to thank TYO especially the Director Humaira Wakili and all the staff for being hard working and benefit us. I appreciate this experience I got and the experience the volunteers get to develop their skills. I wish that TYO develops more and more in the future.

Is there anything that surprised you that you learned this session?

I learned on myself that I can be patient. I thought that I might drop after the first couple of weeks, but I found that I’m able to deal with them.

What is your best memory from your timing volunteering with TYO this session?

My favorite memory when we had a music cups activity with kids, it is my best memory when we had three kids who could do it with each other on the same rhythm. And I got the chance to know new people from a different culture.

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Congratulations to Students completing the Professional Competency Spring Session at An Najah University!

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Student Islam is presented with her certificate by intern Laura

Student Islam is presented with her certificate by intern Laura

It’s daunting thinking about the real world when you are at university.  It is easier to put your head in the sand, enjoy your studies and only worry about work when graduation is complete. However, students in Palestine have it tougher than the average student after graduation, as youth unemployment can be as high as 70%.  In the face of such challenges, actively thinking about work post-university is critical.

This week, over 70 proactive An Najah students were awarded a certificate for completing nine weeks of the Professional Competency class. In this session they have been educated on the realities of youth unemployment, supported in searching for jobs, encouraged to volunteer to gain valuable work experience, taught how to write a CV and cover letter, exposed to professional behavior in the workplace, and prepared for what to expect in an interview. All the while, their English comprehension and conversation has improved through their engagement in interactive discussions, small group and pair work, information sharing and simulations of real-world professional situations.

When initially tasked with preparing a curriculum outline for the classes, nine weeks sounded like forever.  In the event, the time flew. It was natural to make assumptions based on our own norms, which invariably meant overestimating what students might already know about the professional world.  Whereas each UK university has its own in-house careers service, providing a gamut of well-resourced support, TYO’s international interns are themselves performing substantive aspects of this function.  As such, we have often needed to introduce a concept for the very first time, which involves answering questions like ‘what’ and ‘why’, and not merely dealing with the ‘how’.

It can be difficult to fully quantify the success of this sort of endeavor.  Students may not apply what they have learned for some time yet.  Even so, in the space of just nine weeks, one student has attended her very first interview and secured a job.  She explained that a class spent exploring the idea of the ‘elevator pitch’, and the opportunity to practice this type of self-introduction in front of the group, conveyed the importance of positive body language, eye contact and a smile, which she felt were key to her success.  Another student has wanted to compile a CV for three years, but only felt able to do so during this session.  When comparing pre self-assessments with post self-assessments, students clearly appreciated the value of the professional course.  Every student reported increased confidence in their ability to write a CV and cover letter, and improved awareness of what to do both before and during an interview.

Perhaps more difficult for students to identify are their own evolving perceptions of themselves and their skills, but as facilitators, we view these changes as the linchpin of the session’s achievements.  Students have consistently been encouraged to reframe past work or volunteer experiences in terms of specific skills they have used or gained.  In doing so, a number of students revealed astonishing capabilities drawn from experiences they had previously dismissed, surprising both interns and themselves in the process.

As with any class, it’s not just the content that is important.  Forging new relationships is a positive by-product. Most students only knew, on average, one other person in the class, but by the end of the nine weeks the groups were visibly more cohesive. They have been exposed to new people with different perspectives, and even made new friends.  It was touching to see these friends take photos together at the graduation ceremony, testament to the fact that the interns had facilitated classes that contained valuable content but also the opportunity to converse in English, work together in teams and create new relationships – just as one needs to do in the workplace!

Interns were proud to shake the hand of each participant and hand him or her their completion certificate at the graduation ceremony.  We wish them all the best for their future, and are pleased that we have supported their transition from university to the workplace.

-TYO Interns, Celia and Laura

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization offers Professional Competency courses in partnership with An Najah National University and through generous support of the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation.

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Reflecting on Progress

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Children in the Core Child Program are now actively engaged in classes and happily work with each other.

Children in the Core Child Program are now actively engaged in classes and happily work with each other.

The Spring 2014 Core Child program came to an end last week. We spent the last 12 weeks working with children from some of Nablus’s most disadvantaged areas. The activities we implemented in our classes were designed to help children develop socially, with the goal of having them learn to appreciate their role and value within their communities.

We’ve addressed two main themes in our holistic early education classes: Me & My Community, and Communication and Collaboration. As Core teachers we work as a team to root values in children such as respect and collaboration, and design lesson plans aimed at improving different skills sets in children, such as problem solving and critical thinking. It has been very important for us to make children feel that they are valuable, respected, and part of a larger community, which helps improve their sense of belonging.

On account of the success of English language classes offered to our Core children last fall, we decided to include Arabic language learning classes as well for our youngest kids this session. Through this experience, our children taught us that they are ready and have the potential to learn, and our job as a team is to open opportunities and new experiences for them to learn.

The last 12 weeks have flown by for me and as I reflect on this time I am reminded of the challenges faced in the first weeks and the resulting sense of accomplishment I now feel for having helped my kids through those first few weeks, especially when they were really facing a lot of issues with attachment. Children were hard to engage in the beginning, and even some of them did not speak at all. For some, it was the first time in their lives that they left their refugee camps or neighborhoods. It took us a while to build their trust and show them through ourselves that someone outside their homes can be a role model, as well as those in their families, too.

For me, a proud emotional moment as a teacher at TYO was when I saw progress in children who previously were silent, but opened up throughout the session. There are three kids in particular I was always thinking about- whether at work or at home, I was always wondering when these children would smile, or at least give me one word. When they at last smiled, and by week 7 asked me to hold their hands, I felt immense satisfaction. Even children in my classes that exhibited more severe emotional issues and had spent considerable time with TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager made progress by the end of the session and began engaging more when they were in the class. This was partially a result of the close collaboration we working with the families of these children to find solutions to their struggles.

I feel proud as a teacher and as a TYO staff member that we’ve had a small impact on children and have been able to help guide them to find happiness in themselves, and security.

-Core Child Teacher, Mufeeda

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FWEME Celebrates the Top 5 finalists and the start of Phase 3!

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TYO-L Celebrates end of FWEME Phase 2

TYO-L Celebrates end of FWEME Phase 2

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization-Lebanon is so pleased to announce the top 5 women selected to move into the final phase of the FWEME project!

Phase 1 started us off with 47 women who participated in an intensive 4-day Business Training and based on that, we selected 10 women to move into Phase 2, which involved one-on-one coaching/training with our Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture; Zahle (CCIAZ) team and the production of SMART Business Plans for each of the women.

Now we are so pleased to announce the 5 women who will move into Phase 3 of the project which will include ongoing trainings in Business, English language and Computer courses as well as participate in an incubation period with assistance on access to finance and networks, to further grow their business ideas and skills!

The selected women are:

  • Mrs. Roula Khoury:Go Green Go – Live the ultimate warm eco experience!”
Ms. Roula Khoury receives her plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Ms. Roula Khoury receives her plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Roula will expand her business by launching an environmentally friendly log, which will replace the traditional wood log by transforming houses into warm and happy homes using practical, effective eco friendly heating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ms. Roula el Mais:Atmosphere…. Art & Design School & Gallery… Put Art in your Sphere!”
Ms. Roula el Mais Receives her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Ms. Roula el Mais Receives her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Roula is a practiced artist and currently has a small studio space and gallery that she would like to expand into an Art and Design School to service artists locally in the Bekaa.

Through Atmosphere, Roula wants also to create a space for talented people to connect with potential art lovers companies and individuals, affording young artists a chance to display and sell their work!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ms. Helene Mallo: Helene d’Av…. l’espace beaute complet! Beauty… from the inside out!”
Ms. Helene Mallo receives Her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Ms. Helene Mallo receives Her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Helene is a charming, fresh, classy committed lady with positive energy shining from her inside out. Helene is a beauty specialist well known in the region for her quality work, her honesty and her distinguished simple personal approach to beauty.  Helene is ready now to expand her existing beauty center into a more wholistic women’s wellness center: the only one of it’s kind in the Bekaa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mrs. Tilda Moutran:TILES & CO…. when a tile says it all!”
Ms. Tilda Moutran Receives Her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Ms. Tilda Moutran Receives Her Plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Tilda is a serious, passionate, talented, dedicated & committed entrepreneur. Despite somewhat difficult family circumstances, she created a very small cement tile fabric and that she could manage and make profitable for herself and her two children. She is now ready to take her business to the next level!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ms. Rima Sawaya: RIYA … Rima Sawaya’s spirit in landscaping & interior!
Ms. Rima Sawaya receives her plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Ms. Rima Sawaya receives her plaque from TYO-L Country Director

Rima is a skilled and talented young lady, passionate about embellishing all living areas –starting by the public spaces in Zahle. She is specializing in interior design and landscaping and her projects address all the same issue: embellishing ecologically starting from the concept up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wish them all the best of luck in this next phase and Congratulations!

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Teamwork in the Classroom: Greater than the Sum of its Parts

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Translator Arien helps Tasneem and Lana communicate with intern Laura

Translator Arien helps Tasneem and Lana communicate with intern Laura

The dynamics between international interns and local volunteers are crucial to the success of TYO’s English language classes.  The team’s performance not only influences the classroom atmosphere and students’ engagement, but it sets a powerful example.  Through these classes, children regularly experience an environment driven by positive relationships – relationships that transcend gender, language, nationality and culture.  All of these factors could be perceived as potential barriers to harmonious interaction, and indeed, the children may not have encountered this type of situation before.  However, TYO’s non-formal educational techniques help children to develop valuable life skills.  Self-confidence, respect, communication and teamwork are some of the capacities nurtured through art and craft, drama, sport and games during English classes.  Local, native Arabic speakers make a considerable impact in terms of their ability to handle cultural nuances and recognise behavioral signals that internationals may not easily identify.  In this way, volunteers are instrumental as additional ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ for the intern, who must closely focus on the timing and content of the lessons, and thus cannot always detect signs of frustration, reticence or similar indicators that may require additional support.

Cooperation between volunteers and interns is particularly expedient to ensure smooth transitions between class activities.  Transitions can be tricky to execute, but an orderly approach is fundamental to TYO’s desire to provide a structured environment when supporting children whose lives may be characterised by instability and discord.  In order for interns and volunteers to deliver fruitful and engaging classes as a team, communication must extend beyond the classroom.  Discussion in advance of lessons helps to prepare the team to lead the planned activities and to adopt different roles within them.  Post-lesson debriefs are equally important: interns glean valuable information from soliciting volunteers’ opinions and feedback, to shape forthcoming activities and report progress towards learning objectives.  On-going communication guarantees meaningful involvement for every member of the team, demonstrating that each one of us is a contributor to an evolving process.

TYO’s Youth Service Learning Program furnishes local volunteers with much sought-after practical work experience, as well as professional training sessions.  Leadership opportunities in the classroom are a critical source of empowerment, and as such, interns are keen to entrust each volunteer with responsibilities for class activities.  Tasks are usually fulfilled most successfully when assigned according to volunteers’ individual strengths; however, challenging them to move beyond their perceived capabilities both enhances their self-confidence and allows them to support the students in ways that their teachers may never have done for them.  Ultimately, each team’s priority in the classroom is to maintain a safe space for children and youth to develop psychosocial skills and to learn in a positive and encouraging atmosphere.

These examples of teamwork between interns and volunteers have begun to be mirrored by the children.  At the beginning of this session, many of us encountered resistance or hesitation concerning mixed gender participation, cultural interaction and creative confidence. However, now in our eighth week, such difficulties have dissipated as relationships between interns, volunteers and children have blossomed.  These relationships are all underscored by trust,  and it is trust that continues to drive our collective contributions in the classroom.

-TYO Interns, Laura, Katherine, and Mariella

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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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