WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Khalidah

From the small village of Thinabah in Tulkarem, Palestine, Khalidah aspires to one day have her own plus-size clothing line. The idea began a couple years ago as a hobby after attending a training course at Shami Textile Center. In order to buy materials to start producing pieces, she collected on debt that was owed from friends and family. The few dollars she occasionally loaned out to family members added up over the years.


Khalidah is very active in her community and learned about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization through the Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development in Tulkarem. Although it is still in the idea phase, Khalidah has begun producing plus-size women’s clothing by recycling traditional sized garments and evaluates their market potential to further improve her craft.The main obstacle she is yet to overcome is basic logistics; she lacks the space and equipment necessary for increased production.  As a businesswoman in Palestine, many barriers from the community confront Khalidah as well. She is faced with constant pressure from those around her and is relentlessly told that her business will fail. People often question Khalidah’s intentions as an entrepreneur. They inform her that her ambitions are futile since she is already married, which many consider life’s greatest accomplishment for a woman.

Khalidah’s village is geographically isolated, but through the WISE II program, she has been able to leave her village and broaden her network. She has met different organizations and fellow female entrepreneurs that she now use as resources to expand her market. She attends exhibitions all over the West Bank and had the opportunity to even participate in one held in Tulkarem.

The business plan Khalidah created in the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) training, has served as a tool to guide her throughout this process. She feels that it will be one of her business’s biggest assets for years to come.  Khalidah has grown tremendously on a personal level as well.  Her self-worth no longer revolves around her family and she recognizes the value of herself. She now holds herself accountable for the success of her business and does not pay attention to what others in the community have to say.

– Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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5 Ways to Strengthen ECE


The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science recently published a new Call to Action and Policy Brief about how to fill children’s potential, through Early Childhood interventions. Through their extensive research they concluded that following five actions can make the greatest difference in children’s lives:

  1. Integrate nutrition and child development interventions for young children and their families, wherever possible. This includes interventions that have both nutrition and health components delivered simultaneously to the families and their children, with the objective that they reinforce each other and are cost-effective.
  2. Focus on learning and nutrition in early childhood by promoting high-quality family care. Early in life, adequate nutrition and consistent, responsive parenting promote brain development, social-emotional competencies and school-readiness.
  3. Adapt interventions to address the local capacities and constraints of families and communities. The setting and location of interventions should be adaptable to meet unique local needs. A combination of home and center-based delivery models can ensure a broad reach, while still recognizing and supporting the family’s role in promoting children’s well being.
  4. Identify the best practices and appropriate indicators in an integrated delivery of interventions through focused research and program evaluation. A globally accepted set of measures and indicators is needed to ensure the successful evaluation of integrated interventions. An accepted set of indicators standardizes reporting procedures and allows for the comparison of effective components across locations.
  5. Mobilize the endorsements of leaders across intergovernmental and government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and others in civil society to bring effective interventions to scale and sustain them. Just as the science of early childhood development and nutrition requires a consensus from multiple disciplines, the support of integrated interventions must also come from a wide array of stakeholders. These partnerships allow for the alignment of priorities, the pooling of limited resources, and access to the evidence base necessary to ensure effective scale-up.

Core relay race

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a major priority to us at TYO. Through our multi generational approach to learning, parents and children participate in parallel programming to promote healthy lives. We target mothers, Palestinian children’s primary caregivers, in our approach to strengthening our ECE programs, conduct parent-teacher conferences and make frequent home visits to continue follow-up. We also understand the value of mobilizing leaders in the Nablus community to take a stand in support for ECE interventions. This is a global priority and more can be done to ensure optimal growth and development of the world’s children — how will you help?

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Jinan


Jinan’s Business: Needle and Thread

Originally from Nablus, Palestine, Jinan learned the tradition of embroidery as a hobby when she was a child. After getting married, she started to make embroidered household items such as pillows and lampshades to decorate her new home. When Jinan hosted guests, they would admire her work and began requesting her to produce similar items for their home. It was then that she realized that she could turn her hobby into a business. In 2000, Jinan created her informal business with the savings she accumulated from working at a sewing factory in high school and her early adult years.

Jinan is no stranger to Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. She lives in the same neighborhood, Khallet Al Amood, as the center and she has taken advantage of this proximity for years; her son is enrolled in the early childhood education program, her daughter attended after-school non-formal educational programs, and Jinan participates in The Women’s Group, a program offering holistic support to mothers in the community.

Jinan shares more about her experiences working with TYO in the WISE II program and her business of "Needle and Thread."

Jinan shares more about her experiences working with TYO in the WISE II program and her business of “Needle and Thread.”

Jinan values her role as a mother and wife but also acknowledges it as her biggest barrier to her success as a businesswoman. She enjoys her time in the home cooking and helping her children with their school-work. In fact, she goes a step further and tutors neighborhood children as well. Jinan recognizes the gender norms in the society influence her belief that this should be her main focus in life. This is something that she still struggles with but is working to change by delegating some of the daily chores to her family so that she can devote more time to her business.

The first time Jinan ever left Nablus was just a couple of months ago to go to a WISE II sponsored event in Ramallah. She was a bit intimidated by the idea but her husband ensured that she had someone to travel with who knew exactly where to go. Now, she jumps at the idea of traveling around the West Bank for business related events.

Jinan has never taken any courses related to business management in the past. The WISE II program provided her with a firsthand look at the economic and business concepts necessary for an entrepreneur. From the coaching sessions provided by the Small Enterprise Center (SEC), she has learned how to better balance the amount of time and effort she exerts with the profit she gains.  Jinan continues to learn something new every day and is eager to retain that knowledge. She keeps all of the educational material that she has acquired through the various WISE II training sessions by her bed so she can review them before she goes to sleep.

What makes Jinan’s pieces different is that she uses nontraditional Palestinian colors and designs in her products. She is now taking it a step further by incorporating embroidery with crocheting to produce baby clothing. Recently, the demand for her product has exceeded her production ability but luckily she has her high school-aged daughter to help out in the summer months.

WISE II Entrepreneur Jinan interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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Intern Journal: The Journey Never Ends


Our Summer 2015 International Intern Ash Calderon returns to the United States this week after serving as an intern with the Core Child Program for two months.  Read on to learn more about her experiences and the lessons she’ll be taking with her as she leaves TYO and Nablus.

I can remember the anxiety I felt as a nearly graduated senior at the University of Redlands; the anxiety of 4 years of sleepless nights, hard work, and Cup-of-Noodles, ultimately resulting in what kind of job I could get as soon as I graduated. I knew many recent graduates identified with this feeling, and that I wasn’t alone, but somehow amidst that awareness, the weight of knowing that the culmination of my 4 years was supposed to be for something was daunting. And I still felt so far away from figuring out what that something was or could be.

It was a relief when my good friend and former TYO Intern, Jade, sent me the link for the TYO International Internship application.   With her blessing, I went ahead and applied. I remember the nervousness I felt playing the “waiting game.” I probably checked my email twenty times a day just to see if there was an update on my status. Soon enough, I got a response, an interview, and an acceptance. Now as I sit here and write, it’s mind blowing to think that this journey, as the TYO International Intern, began two months ago.

My internship, although short, was nothing short of an amazing experience. I gained a new sense of awareness of my environment and of myself. As puzzling as it may be to some, I had no awareness on the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in learning much more about it, I have found myself becoming more passionate and driven about a cause that has grown near and dear to my heart. As I added this to my list of Causes, I became more goal-oriented and began to wake up every morning thinking, how can I change the world today?

Although the environment I am currently living in is under occupation, it was uplifting to be around an amazing staff and amazing teachers that make it a point everyday to wake up with smiles, ready for the fun-filled day here at TYO and with the Core Child Program. I can’t say that one person has affected me more than the other but certainly each staff member here has a quality that has stuck out in my mind enough for me to be inspired and want to continue my personal erudition in order to emulate who they are and what they represent.

What I am amazed by most is the community here; we are Team TYO, a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens with a mission in mind to positively impact our community. What a pleasure it has been to work directly with these amazing people and I’m happy to say that I’ll always be a team member, especially because I have a family here in Palestine ready to welcome me back.

Suhad, our Psychosocial Program Manager, has a perfect saying that describes how I feel, “Your journey did not begin when you came here; it begins when you leave.” Truer words have never been said. My journey of personal growth began when I arrived two months ago and my new journey as a global ambassador begins once I leave the gate of TYO return to the U.S.

Summer 2015 International Intern Ash Calderon enjoys some fun in the sun on a field day with Core program children.

Summer 2015 International Intern Ash Calderon enjoys some fun in the sun on a field day with Core program children.

I am thankful that TYO’s mission exposed me to a world that I was not aware of. I am thankful that TYO instilled more passion in me and the confidence I needed to continue to fight for what is right and just. I am thankful for a new family, friends, and a home that I get to call mine. I am thankful for TYO because they helped me find purpose in my life—the purpose I had been thinking about for 4 years. Now, I know that what I want to do is work for an organization like TYO and to again have the opportunity to work with committed individuals and to make change. Lastly, I am thankful for the privilege of being able to embark on a new journey—it’s been quite a ride—and the best part about it is that the journey never ends.

-Summer 2015 International Intern Ash Calderon

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Raising Islam


Four years ago, we brought you the story of Islam from Askar Refugee Camp in Nablus. On the occasion of World Refugee Day, we caught up with Islam who is now in the 8th grade. This is his story in his own words:

TYO youth Islam shares his story and message to the world.

TYO youth Islam shares his story and message to the world.

I hate the word “refugee”. I know my family is originally from Yaffa and that we had to flee our homes when the Israeli’s took our land. We ran away to be safe and this is why they call us refugees. 

I go to a UN school that is very crowded. There is a lot of violence in the school. Boys are very aggressive and hit each other a lot over silly things.  The reason is that they don’t have fathers who are concerned about them or teach them discipline. The teachers are even worse. They hit us with hoses and other objects.

When I come home, if I want to play I have to do so in the street because there is nowhere else to go.

People are always angry, fighting over money because they are poor. It’s really scary and not safe.

The camp is very poor, most men don’t work, and our houses are damaged and very weak. I know some families who don’t have enough food to eat which makes me sad but I can’t do anything because our situation is not better. You can’t trust anyone because you don’t know what they will do for money.

When I walk, run, or go to school, I feel so sad when I see a special needs child. His parents can’t provide him with a wheelchair to use so they have to carry him. They leave him outside his house just to watch people wandering by.

All of these things make me upset and hate the word refugee, because it isn’t fair to have all of these struggles and not be able to do anything about it.

I was born and raised in the camp for 14 years and this is the life I know. I don’t know what I wish because I wasn’t exposed or lived another life or been to another country. When I went on a trip when I was little to Al-Bathan Springs, I thought it was the sea because I had never seen the sea before.

For me, a better life is to have my own bed, my own room, or maybe just a yard outside the house.

My message to the world: Don’t deprive us of our rights and our land. Don’t hurt children. Stop the injustice.

-TYO youth Islam interviewed by TYO staff Suhad Jabi and Futoon Qadri

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In Memory of Thomas Wolfe


TYO mourns the passing of Tom Wolfe, our dear friend and long-time supporter of TYO and its work in Palestine. Thank you for all that you have done to change the lives of children, women and youth in Nablus.

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TYO Core Teacher and Volunteer Alumni: Where Are They Now?


Ahmad Bshara graduated from An-Najah University in January 2012 with a BA in English Language and Literature. During his time as a university student, some of his friends who were volunteering at TYO told him about the volunteer program and encouraged him to apply.  “I was like, sure I want to work with foreigners and improve my language.  So, I applied here to work as a translator with American interns.”  Ahmad became a volunteer for TYO’s after school programming in conjunction with our International Internship Program and quickly saw what a special place TYO is.  “I thought I would be here for maybe 2 months.  But, after I started, I realized I couldn’t leave!  The people were so encouraging and supportive.”

After becoming a teacher with TYO’s Core Child Program, he decided to apply to be a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) in the U.S. and credits TYO’s staff with helping him apply and supporting him in the process.  “They even helped me with getting my visa.”

Ahmad returned to Nablus four weeks ago after completing a 9 month intensive Fulbright FLTA program, teaching Arabic and taking graduate-level courses at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.  Read on to learn more about his experiences, motivations, and advice for Palestinian youth.

TYO Core Child Teaching Alumnus Ahmad is captured teaching a university-level Arabic class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville through the Fulbright FLTA program.

Former TYO Core child program teacher Ahmad teaching an Arabic class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville through the Fulbright FLTA program.

Why were you motivated to do the Fulbright program?

A friend of mine, Mohammed Abulkibash (also a TYO alumnus), went and did Fulbright and recommended it.  I looked it up on the internet and found it interesting since I got to teach while also taking graduate courses.

What did you learn about the United States during your time there?

The culture was my highlight.  There’s a whole variety of cultures in the US.  That’s one thing I really loved about it.  We don’t have many varieties of culture here in Nablus.  I also learned a lot about the education system in America.  How you teach in America is totally different.  The relationship between the student and the professor is totally different.  They motivate you.  I really didn’t have any free time there because they gave me the motivation to work hard all of the time.

What have you learned about yourself?

A lot of things changed in me.  How I see the world, how I accept other people, how I’m open-minded about new ideas, different cultures, it just opened my mind to see the world differently.

What are your goals now that you’ve completed your Fulbright program?

My goal for now is to just focus on my education.  I want to study more.  I want to get a degree of course.  And, I want to go back to America someday.  I’m most interested in studying linguistics, sociology, philosophy, or theology.

What advice would you give to Palestinian youth?

Accept differences.  It’s actually something I’m trying to work on right here in our society, especially after I got back from the US.  We need to accept other cultures, different people, and we need to get out and see other cultures.  We need to accept others for who they are.  I really want to work on that in our society and in Nablus.

-TYO Alumnus Ahmad interviewed by International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator Emma Stensvaag

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Fida


Fida’s Business: Happy Kids – Nazlet Zeid Preschool

Fida’, comes from Ya’bad, a small village 20 km west of Jenin, Palestine. In 2009, with the construction of the separation wall and expansion of nearby settlements, the village became increasingly isolated. That is when Fida’, realizing the need for a safe place for children to learn and play, opened up the first preschool in the area. The community was very supportive of the idea and offered assistance by providing a space at a discounted rate in the nearby village of Nazlet Zeid. After realizing the importance of the school, the community took it a step further and donated additional land. With a grant from the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association, Asala, Fida’ was able to turn the space into an operational preschool. Once complete, Happy Kids-Nazlet Zeid Preschool became formally recognized by the Ministry of Education in Jenin. Now children from four neighboring villages also attend the preschool.


Fida’ does not believe that she is a traditional woman based on society’s standards. She went back to college at a later age, graduating from Al Quds Open University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. She is constantly looking for ways to educate herself so that she is not reliant on the males in her life. Fida’ wants her preschool to stand out from the rest in Palestine. She is continually taking courses to keep up to date on educational trends. She does not have any biological children and considers each one of her students as one of her own.

A significant barrier that Fida’ must endure is not metaphorical but an actual physical barrier: checkpoints. Between the preschool and the village of Ya’bad, a checkpoint has been established by the Israeli military. Due to the hours of operation, which are inconsistent, children from Ya’bad are unable to access the preschool before 7:00 AM and must wait until after 1:00 PM to be transported back home. There have been several occasions when children have been denied access at the checkpoint or it has been closed altogether.

Fida joined the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization because she realized it was different from other business related programs offered to entrepreneurs by offering a holistic approach. The psychosocial sessions that were provided further substantiated her self-worth and confidence in her business. The business and financial plan she created during the business development sessions with the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) provided her with the tools to make the right decisions for her business. The spectrum of professionals available at TYO has allowed her to gain mentorship from leading educators. Fida’ continues to learn from every session that is offered by the WISE II program and looks forward to broadening her network and relationship with fellow female entrepreneurs.

– Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator

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Youth In Focus: An Interview with Asmaa H.


Asmaa is from Beit Imreen, a village outside of Nablus. She graduated from An-Najah University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Arabic Teaching Methods.


Core volunteer Asmaa helps Masa during an art activity.

What sparked your interest in TYO’s Youth Service Learning Program? How did you hear about TYO?

I heard about TYO from my friends who had previously volunteered here. They told me how much they enjoyed working with children in TYO’s education programs and how helpful the experience had been in developing them both personally and professionally. I thought it would be a great opportunity, particularly for me to get experience working with children since I know it is  a huge responsibility and takes very specific skills.

What are your career goals, and how do you think volunteering at TYO will help you reach those?

I studied Arabic Language Teaching Methods and would eventually like to work in education. Volunteering at TYO has given me the opportunity not only to observe experienced teachers but also to get real classroom experience myself. I have learned so much just by observing and helping the teachers, everything from how to talk to children when they are upset, to how you can make activities more effective by dividing children into groups.

Beyond teaching skills, volunteering at TYO has taught me how to communicate clearly with both children and adults and how to work on a team and learn from other teachers and supervisors. I have also greatly appreciated TYO’s mixed gender environment, where boys and girls are integrated in the same classes and male and female volunteers work together in those classrooms. That is not something you would typically see in Nablus or in Palestine overall. It has taught me a lot as a future teacher, particularly how you can use mixed gender classrooms to increase the confidence of girls and teach them that they are equal in their abilities to boys.

What is the greatest challenge youth like you face in the current labor market?

For most of us, English is the greatest barrier we face when searching for jobs. Although we study English from a young age, the curriculum and way of teaching is poor, and therefore we grow up with very limited English skills. Additionally, most employers have an inherent gender bias. They see men as more serious and committed and women as more focused on marriage and raising their children. As women, we need to prove our level of commitment through our actions and choices.

What do you think your generation can do to overcome that challenge?

The education system is not going to change overnight, so we need to take the initiative ourselves to improve our English. Additionally, we as women need to show that we take our careers seriously, as women across the world do, and make a clear balance in our lives between marriage and caring for a family, and pursuing our education and career goals.

If there was one skill you wish you had (English, IT, etc.) what would it be and why?

Other than English, I need to improve my public speaking skills and become more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. I have seen how important English and communication skills are for any field and any job.

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Leading by Example: An Interview with Core Teacher Amal


Close your eyes for a moment and reflect on someone who has inspired you. Is it your parents? An employer who became a mentor? A sibling or friend? Whomever this person is, they have inspired you in some meaningful way; enough so that you have remembered them and strived to emulate them. Maybe they inspired you to be more kind and compassionate. Maybe they inspired you to get better grades in school. Maybe they inspired you to give 100% of yourself everyday. This person affects you—and probably others—in a positive and life-changing way.

At TYO, I have found the staff of the Core early childhood program particularly inspiring. Each one of the staff members has a special quality that affects their students so positively. Core teacher Amal graduated from An-Najah University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration.  She was born in Jammein, a small village 30 minutes outside of Nablus, and is one of six girls in her large family.

Amal started as a volunteer with TYO’s Core Child program in 2014 and transitioned into becoming a teacher five months ago.  I have been fortunate enough to work with Amal for the past month and a half throughout my International Internship program and have gotten to know her a bit better. To learn more about her teaching style and to hear her methods of creating an impactful learning environment, I decided to sit down and interview her.

Amal and Ash

Core teacher Amal helps Summer 2015 intern Ashley prepare for an English lesson.

How did you become a volunteer at TYO?

I started volunteering here after my sister. She came home one day and told me about it. In college, I would do a lot of volunteering so I thought this would be a good experience for me.

Why did you become a teacher?

My father was a math teacher for 35 years and he inspired me.

How did he inspire you?

My father had 6 girls and always encouraged us to be something in our lives. My older sister is a doctor. My other sister is finishing college. My younger sister (also a volunteer at TYO) is finishing university this summer. My father has always empowered us to be successful and driven women. I am happy that my father taught me this and because of him, I want to do the same. I became a teacher and I want to inspire my students like he inspired me. He is not the only one who has affected me. Since I’ve been working at TYO, I have felt a lot of support from staff here. All the teachers and the staff have inspired me to be great.

What do you like most about teaching?

What I like about teaching is that I learn something new everyday. I never imagined myself being a teacher especially not with children. But since I’ve been working here, I love it! What I like most about teaching is that I feel that I am making leaders out of my children for the next generations. I love that with this, I am making a change and this is very important to me. Since I’ve been working at TYO, I’ve had a complete change of perspective. I’ve learned to look on the inside and not the outside.

What is most important to you about teaching?

Happiness! Happiness is so important for my children and me. Happiness is important because it helps give me energy to my kids and they love when I am positive. Also, when I am happy, I am a better role model. Being a role model is so important for me and is important for teaching. When I am a role model, the children learn more. I believe I have taught my children to always be nice and to always keep each other safe. I’ve taught my children many things, and this is the most important part of being a teacher. I feel that when I am teaching, I am changing the world.

TYO’s mission is to enable children and youth in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members.  Amal embodies this mission through her positive presence in all of her classes and inspiring her children and the staff with her exceptional work. Leading by example is no easy task yet Amal manages to do it gracefully. Because of her own beliefs in social change, equal accessibility, and good will towards others, we see the result of this in the children who leave TYO smiling every single day.

-Core Teacher Amal interviewed by Summer 2015 International Intern Ashley

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