‘Shooting back from Palestine’ exhibition in TYO Nablus

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, Nablus is proud to host ‘Shooting back from Palestine’, an exhibition of youth photography.

In association with the Paltel Group Foundation and the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA), the opening ceremony will be held this Sunday (24th July 2011), 12pm, at the TYO Center (Zafer al-Masri Foundation Building),  Khallet Al-Amood, Nablus.

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization has its own youth arts and photography program, Triple Exposure  and is delighted to host such a like minded project and inspire our own young photographers and artists.

Please join us this Sunday to view this amazing collection of photos from all over Palestine.

The exhibit will run for two days.

Let’s Ask Ahmed!


My translator Ahmed has been an invaluable resource in my Arts and Crafts classes and sports days at TYO. He has also become a good friend and someone I truly respect. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate at TYO! Below is an interview I did with Ahmed so that I could share more about him with the world beyond Nablus!

Me: Ahmad can you tell me about your studies at An Najah University?

Ahmed: Right now I am studying English literature. I love English and am interested in learning more. Right now I’m studying Shakespeare. We also study American lit and semantics etc. in my program. I will graduate next semester.

Me: Why did you want to study English?

Ahmed: I was going to be an engineer but didn’t have the grades for it. I also considered working in IT, but then I switched to English Literature.

Me: How long have you been fluent in English?

Ahmed: I was always speaking with foreigners who taught English at my schools as a child and then expanded on my knowledge in university.

Me: Why did you apply to be a translator for TYO?

Ahmed: I took a Western Civilization course and there was a quote I remember hearing in class that said “public service always leads to salvation” so I changed my course in life to do that. I really like working with children as well. For example when you tell the children there will be a swimming day you can even smell the happiness in the room!

Me: What do you like most about volunteering here?

Ahmed: Meeting new people from other countries and other Palestinians. I enjoy being exposed to new cultures and getting along with foreigners.

Me: Could you tell me about one of your favourite moments in Arts and Crafts class this session?

Ahmed: When the kids poured water on you (me) on water day. It was very funny!

Me: How do you feel about the summer program at TYO coming to a close?

Ahmed: I feel sad because I like it very much and the interns are leaving. I don’t want it to end.

Me: Would you like to continue working with TYO in the future?

Ahmed: If there are opportunities, I really like working here. After vacation, I’d like to return in the fall.

Me: What is your dream job?

Ahmed: Professor of English Literature.

Me: In Palestine?

Ahmed: Of course!

Me: What advice would you give to future translators and volunteers with TYO?

Ahmed: Be flexible with the children and be flexible with the teacher. Work on understanding things through context and not just the words. Pay attention to what’s going on between the teacher and students so that you can convey the student’s feelings to the teacher.

Me: Thank you Ahmed for taking the time to share a little bit about yourself and your experience here at TYO. It’s been a privilege to work with you and I hope that we have a chance to do it again someday in the future!

Ahmed: It’s my privilege to work with you.

- Megan is a TYO summer program intern

The End of an Era

Today, our beloved Intern Coordinator, Chelsey, is sadly leaving us for the world beyond Nablus. Chelsey, who has nurtured us from intern infancy over the last eight weeks, who has introduced us to the wonderful people of Nablus, who has gracefully handled our hundreds of daily questions, has helped guide seven different rounds of interns through their first experiences of life in the West Bank, all with a huge smile on her face.

For the interns, we will take away wonderful memories of Old City walks, long talks on the balcony, and bonding over our love for iced coffee, to name just a few. For the many staff members she has worked with over her three years here, she has been a trusted colleague and a friend.

Whether it’s seeing her snapping away behind a camera – barely containing her obvious love for the children – or hearing her infectious laugh echoing through the hallways, we will miss her presence around the center. Chelsey, we wish you luck on your next adventure!

Intern Journal: Continuing the work

Over the past six weeks, all of us interns have come to rely on our translators to literally be our second voice in the classroom. But from lesson planning to TYO sponsored trips in the West Bank, time has flown by and we all realized that we had not had an opportunity to spend much time with our translators outside of the TYO Center.

For me, one of the most important things I wanted to gain from this experience was a better understanding of what it is to be a young person in Nablus so I was very excited when the interns and translators arranged a time to meet to have some food on Rafidia Street.

Under Sunday’s pink-tinged Nabulsi sky we all enjoyed lemon-mints, an amazing view, and good company. Our conversations often revolved around lighter subjects like debating the merits of John Cena, Troy, the Pittsburgh Steelers, iPhone applications, and 50 Cent; I will probably never understand some of the translators’ enthusiasm for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Although we could all laugh and joke with each other, we were all cognizant of the very different lives we have all experienced. At the same time, we didn’t forget the larger commonalities that bond us as young people. All of us are of the same generation and have passions and dreams that drive us whether that be our work, families or Ernest Hemingway’s prose. But above all, we have our shared experiences at TYO. I felt incredibly hopeful and reinvigorated by the commitment I saw from many of our translators to continue the important work we have all started together long after the interns have left this beautiful place.

Blooming in Palestine

My mom always says to bloom where you’re planted. It’s a cryptic life instruction; I think it’s somewhat akin to the superficially obvious unattributed quote, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Nearly a year ago, I left my friends and family in Los Angeles to pursue some sort of ambiguous higher calling. I never expected to wind up in Palestine. It’s amazing where a random email through your graduate school listserv can lead.

I suppose we all wind up in unexpected places. These sometimes-serendipitous-sometimes-scary digressions frequently compose more of our lifetimes than the stuff we planned. And while it’s always experience, living impulsively is not always easy. I’ve recently been hit, as I think many TYO interns are at some point, with a wave of homesickness. Perhaps this was spurred on by blackberry season in Wooster, Ohio, the small midwestern town where I was born and raised. My mom’s blackberry pies are otherworldly.

But something funny happened last weekend. Some of the interns went to Ramallah to sample exotic new flavors of iced coffee and explore another area of our new home in the West Bank. Upon our return to Nablus later in the evening, I flopped down in my room and listened to the confused rooster outside my window who starts to crow at 11pm. I walked out to the balcony to take in the Nabulsi breeze and fantasize about the kunafa I’d eat in excess the following day. It was good to be home.

In that moment, I realized that unbeknownst to me, I had taken mom’s advice. I liked it here. Actually, I loved it here. I realized that Palestine had gotten into my blood, and perhaps it would be a little harder to leave than I originally anticipated. I still miss my family and friends – mom’s blackberry pie, my dad’s high pitched giggle when he plays with the dog, the dimples in my nephew’s cheeks when he does something his mother JUST told him not to do – but there are just as may things about Nablus that I’m going to miss when I’m gone.

So, whether it’s the kunafa, little Rida’s subconscious habit of pushing his glasses up during a soccer game, the “secret hi-five” we have with the neighborhood girls, or the friendships I’ve made with the other interns, I’m going to spend the last three weeks here taking in every single moment of it. Well, maybe not the kunafa part – I’ll stick to every other day with that.

Intern Journal: This Class is Our Class

My volunteers are my extra set of eyes, ears and hands. They step in when I need materials passed out and when I need help rearranging my classroom for a new activity. They step in when a child needs a hole punched for a mask and when they need a string tied for a kite. Most importantly, they step in when a student has a problem that I can’t immediately address. After all, I am just one person with anywhere from 10-18 students. And without my volunteers, I couldn’t teach my classes.

This past Monday, right after Field Day in Balata and Community English class, my volunteers, translator and I met in my classroom to discuss our Arts & Crafts class. Throughout the session I have continuously stressed that this class is ours and I always welcome and encourage suggestions. But on Monday, I wanted to remind them just how important they really are to this class.

For the next 45 minutes we discussed what we’ve learned about our class and our kids thus far. What works in class and what doesn’t, what needs to stay and what should we change, but also how to improve. The amount of feedback I got from them was amazing. Together we agreed, using the hand clapping technique we tried to implement at the start of the session, doesn’t get the children’s attention like we had hoped. But making simple yet functional projects is a great way to keep the kids engaged. I appreciated the craft project suggestions from them too. Everything from flowers made of plastic bags, to face paint, to a mural! I have already implemented an idea: adding background music to class while they work on their project. The kids really enjoyed it too!

I want my volunteers to be on board for every craft project or silly game I attempt with my kids. I want them to be as enthusiastic about lessons as I am. And so that things runs smoothly, it is so important that they are included in the decision-making process and can take some ownership of the class. I know that my volunteers walked away from the meeting on Monday feeling much better about the remainder of the session. Weekly, I will keep reminding them that  this class is our class.

- Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

SOW National Team: Islam’s Interview

The Core Child Program is just one of the many programs that the Students of the World team is highlighting with the media that we create for TYO. For our story, we interviewed various people who have contributed to the success of the program.  However, in order to create a video that fully incorporates all of the parts of the program; we also had to look at the beneficiaries of the program, who are of course, the kids! Our team has followed the success story of one particular child, Islam.

I first heard about Islam during an interview the SOW team had with Suhad Jabi, the Psychosocial Program Manager for TYO. Listening to Suhad tell Islam’s story was mesmerizing. Islam is 8 years old and lives in Askar Refugee camp.  Growing up in a refugee camp can be extremely challenging. All of the houses are very close together, it is very crowded, and there is not a lot of space available. As a result, the children often have no place to play except for inside of the narrow corridors. Needless to say, the kids of refugee camps have to grow up quick.

When Islam first began TYO, he refused to cooperate in any of the programs. If they tried to get him to participate, he would just run away to a different room.  After this behavior went on for a short time, the TYO staff, including Suhad, decided it was time to talk to Islam’s parents and see what his home life was like.  It turns out that Islam’s parents were very frustrated with Islam because he was constantly getting into trouble and causing problems within the community.  Together Suhad, the TYO Core Child teachers, and Islam’s parents all decided to work together to provide consistent positive re-enforcement for Islam.

After just weeks at TYO with the implementation of this new tactic Islam began to cooperate more in class. His parents said there was a noticeable difference in his behavior at home. In fact, Islam had struggled a lot with bed-wetting, but within a few weeks of being at TYO, he stopped.  Islam continued to attend a few more sessions at TYO, and his parents and teachers now say he has become a completely different person.

Our cab went as far as it could into the camp. We didn’t know our way so the taxi driver rolled down the window and asked one of the 15 or so children surrounding the car to tell us where Islam’s house was located. Two little boys on bikes said they would show us the way. Within minutes of winding through the narrow passages of Old Askar camp, we reached the doorway where Islam and his family were waiting outside for us.

We were welcomed in with open arms. His mother quickly introduced her twin 3 year olds, 5 year old daughter, 18 year old son, and of course Islam (her two other children were not home.)  I quickly said hello and tried to show how grateful I was to be there, despite the fact that I cannot speak Arabic at all.

We all sat down and began to talk. Islam was shy at first. Eventually Islam told us about his dream to become a pilot. He said the most exciting part about becoming a pilot is that when you fly the plane super high, then you are able to open the window of the plane and scoop snow in from the clouds. He discussed all of this while drawing his dream plane. I couldn’t help but cry. I tried so hard to hold back my tears, which were from pure joy for such a beautiful person with such pure and happy hopes. But also they were tears because his dream is so out of reach. But it is not hopeless. Perhaps before TYO when Islam was just another lost kid who spent most of his time getting yelled at and sent away. But Islam isn’t the trouble-maker anymore. He is just Islam: a boy who wants to fly. TYO let Islam just be Islam and find himself and his hopes so that he did not have to negatively reach out for attention

It may be a long road before Islam can start the engine to that plane. But there is hope. And sometimes that’s all you need to plant the seed.

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