Every Monday and Wednesday, I meet with five volunteers for a half hour before my Fifth Grade English class begins. Beforehand, I spent the night before, and morning of, drawing up a lesson plan, scratching the whole thing, drawing up another, and scratching that one too. No matter how many different drafts I go through before settling on the daily lesson plan, I take care to lay it out, minute for minute, by the time my volunteers arrive. Assisted by five English language majors, translation has never been an issue in my class. I can rattle off a lesson plan, during our pre-class meetings, going over each activity only once, and trust that my volunteers will carry it out with indefatigable enthusiasm. Without them, I would be lost: both linguistically, as all five do an excellent job of bridging the gap between English and Arabic, and structurally, as the extra eyes and ears are invaluable when handling a room full of students nearing the completion of their first decade of life, an exciting time to be a kid!
The Volunteer Program here at TYO is an integral part of all facets of the Nablus Center’s programming. Ninety-one registered volunteers, drawn primarily from the local An Najah University, commit between eight and fifteen hours each week to serving tomorrow’s university students, working alongside TYO staff helping with the Intern Program, Core Program, Triple Exposure, Off-Site Initiatives and the recently created Nablus Premier Soccer League. While the majority of the volunteers have a background in education or English language, they come from fields as diverse as economics and fine arts. As Volunteer Coordinator Ahmad insists that a specific course of study is not nearly as important as is a commitment to serving children and acting as a role model in, and for, the community.
Ahmad ascended to the role of Volunteer Coordinator in December of 2010 after spending two years at TYO as the Core Program Health Teacher during which time he participated in each semester’s volunteer training and coordinated numerous inter-organizational efforts including medical open days. In his new position, Ahmad places great importance in improving volunteers’ attendance, increasing individuals’ commitment to their work and providing more in depth training so that all participants are comfortable and competent in working with children who are often facing a myriad of psychological and social issues.
While any of the Core Program teachers or international interns can attest to the helpfulness of the volunteers in aiding with their classes, the benefits of the Volunteer Program extend well beyond TYO’s classroom walls. Through working as a part of a highly motivated, professional, and international team, volunteers gain invaluable opportunities to exercise their leadership skills and creative capacity. By encouraging the volunteers to take responsibility for the students and classes that they are a part of, the Volunteer Program aims to empower individuals to be self-confident and proud of their commitments.
“The Volunteer Program is useful to me personally to develop myself. Working with the children is wonderful because I have as much to learn from the kids as they can learn from me,” said Mohammad, 22, who has volunteered with TYO for over a year. ”This is an excellent opportunity to make new relationships and communicate with people I might not otherwise meet.”
Additionally, by empowering local university students to be role models in their community, Ahmad hopes to spread what he identifies as the “culture of volunteerism.” The most recent manifestation of this idea is the undertaking of site visits, which have expanded TYO’s programming beyond the Nablus Center, bringing the efforts of the Volunteer Program to those who would otherwise not be able to experience such joy.
Loi, 24, a TYO volunteer of three years and the man in charge of coordinating a recent off-site initiative in Tulkarm, said that the event was a remarkable success, not just in terms of the children having a blast (which they did, check out the pictures) but in terms of entrusting the volunteers to take responsibility for themselves.
“Tulkarm was a special day. Acting as the coordinator, I had a chance to exercise my experience collected through the years at TYO while applying the skills of all the other volunteers to make a successful program,” said Loi. “It is events like Tulkarm that help me to build myself up. A complete success for the kids and volunteers.”
In the future, Ahmad hopes to continue to expand the Volunteer Program to serve the greatest population possible. Having long worked in the public health sector, he knows the importance of early childhood development and will continue to develop initiatives, like the Tulkarm visit, that provide youngsters with opportunities for play that are otherwise absent in their lives.
Adam is an intern at TYO Nablus.
Filed under: Events, internship program, News, Volunteer Program Tagged: | an najah university, capacity building, civic engagement, civil society, community engagement, intercultural dialogue, internship program, leadership building, leadership skills, nablus, Palestine, tulkarm, TYO, university students, volunteer program, volunteerism, west bank