Intern Journal: Class Trip to Jericho!

During the past weekend, I took my dance class along with Ashwini and her Art and Empowerment class to Banana Land, an amusement park in Jericho.  During the trip from Nablus to Jericho, my volunteers kept the girls entertained and engaged on the bus by singing songs together.  Once we arrived in Banana Land, Ashwini and I had both classes eat lunch and play games together in order to get to know each other, with the hope that the girls would bond over their shared interest in the arts and that the young adolescent girls from Ashwini’s class would take on a mentoring role for some of the younger girls in my class.

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather in Jericho, most of the girls seized the opportunity to spend a good part of the afternoon splashing about in the swimming pool.  Swimming was the highlight of the field trip for 11-year-old Jumana and 8-year old Asma’, as I suspect it was for many of the other girls who came with us to Banana Land.  However, when I asked another student of mine, Labeeba, about her favorite aspect of the trip, she struggled to pick just one.  “Everything!” she ended up pronouncing with a smile.

Following our weekend getaway to Jericho, the girls who attended the next class came back to TYO with increased focus and energy.  We recently finished learning a half-minute hip hop dance routine in class, and my five classroom volunteers and I are now helping the girls to rehearse for an end-of-the-semester dance performance.  In Jumana and Labeeba’s opinion, hip hop is the best part of dance class.  Thanks to the hard work and determination that my most dedicated students bring to class each week, their passion for learning new forms of dance is really starting to shine through in their dancing!

- Julie

Julie is an intern at TYO Nablus.

TYO is participating in GlobalGiving’s Global Open, can you help us win up to $6,000 in prize money?!

From March 25 – April 26, 2010, TYO is competing to earn a spot on the GlobalGiving website, and earn up to US $6,000 from Global Giving by being one of the top fundraisers in the ‘Global Open’ Challenge. The organization with the greatest number of individual donations will win $3,000, and a separate $3,000 prize will go to the project, which raises the most money. The second and third place runners up for both achievements will get $2,000 and $1,000 respectively. In order to keep our project on GlobalGiving longer term, and use their website for ongoing fundraising, we need to raise a minimum of US $4,000 from at least 50 unique donors during the Challenge.

Please visit our project page and keep an eye on the leaderboard to see how we are stacking up!

This spring our GlobalGiving project supports our International Internship Program! International Community Development Interns lead enriching programs for children, youth and adults from refugee camps and other marginalized areas of Nablus. Each intern develops and implement their own creative, 3-month program, acts as important role model for over 1,000 community members, documents participants’ learning and development, and takes part in valuable intercultural cooperation. In October 2009, after two successful summer internship programs, TYO added fall and spring internship opportunities to its program. The International Internship Program is an essential part of TYO’s work. International interns make it possible for us to double the amount of classes we can offer the community of Nablus. Additionally, interns gain powerful and invaluable insights into the worlds of teaching, education and Nablus. We help us to continue this important program by supporting our project on Global Giving now.

You can help us raise money, earn a spot for our projects on GlobalGiving longer term and earn GlobalGiving prize money by spreading the word!

1) Pass along this blog post to your friends and families and ask them to tell others.

2) If you are planning to make a donation this year to TYO please do so by going to our project on GlobalGiving.

Again our sincere thanks for your support and commitment to TYO and our work!

Thanks!

The TYO Team

Inter-sectoral approach to Early Childhood Development

I was glad to be in the US last week, in preparation for the Clinton Global Initiative, on the occasion of a panel on inter-sectoral approaches to early childhood development, coordinated by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings and Save the Children.

The Obama administration’s newly appointed focal points on early childhood education (Jacqueline Jones in the Department of Education, and Joan Lombardi in the Department of Health and Human Services) provided hopeful perspectives on the early developments of these new efforts to integrate the government’s policies and programs for young children. They also underlined a recurrent theme of the discussion: the need to develop a coherent and holistic message for advocacy of political and financial support for early childhood. We need to leverage the strong scientific evidence that has been gathered in the fields of health, education and economics about the potent value of early childhood interventions.

Lombardi pointed out that from her experience, early childhood initiatives were mainly missing public financing and coordination between health, education and other sectors that touch the lives of young children. The discussion suggested that at least in the US, with the important factor of high-level support from President Obama and Secretaries Duncan and Sebellius, efforts are being made to remedy these common challenges. While of course the newly appointed representatives’ work will focus on domestic issues for the time-being, Lombardi did mention the Office of Global Health in HHS, which she suggested could be a starting point for related initiatives that extend beyond US borders.

Jean-Louis Sarbib, formerly Vice President of the Human Development Network at the World Bank, and now a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Wolfensohn Center, reviewed what he saw as the highlights of Lombardi’s and Jones’s presentations. First, he emphasized the value of the high-level support in any effective early childhood policy, which they confirmed feeling from the President and both Secretaries. He felt particularly strongly about President Obama’s choice to invest in early learning as part of the recent stimulus, emphasizing this sector as investment in our future health and economic development, rather than consumption. Finally, Sarbib suggested that we need to talk about early childhood as the period from conception to 8 years, rather than starting at birth.

The first question from the audience highlighted the fact that the discussion had focused largely on domestic arena, perhaps reflecting the reality that these inter-sectoral efforts are new to the US, and have not yet extended to our international policies. Peter Laugharn, executive director of the Firelight Foundation, asked whether this priority on early childhood, and specifically an inter-sectoral approach, would be reflected in the US’s international development assistance. While there was no information provided about specific efforts being made to promote the issue within international policy, the panelists’ eager support for the issue inspires hope. Further, Lombardi mentioned several times her fondness for and commitment to international work, which is evidenced by her extensive and enduring in that realm before accepting this position with HHS.

In sum, the event provided a very satisfying first discussion on the topic. The enthusiastic participation of about 40 professionals from all sides of the early childhood field (health and education; domestic and international; funders and practitioners), as well as the panelists’ eloquent and action-focused interventions, lead me to believe that we will manage to raise the profile of early childhood as a valuable priority for international development aid.

Our experience through TYO in Nablus provides incontrovertible evidence that not only do early childhood programs have profound and lasting impact on children, but also that they provide access to entire families, and thereby communities. What better public diplomacy instrument could the State Department be looking for?
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A Conversation over Tea

“She returns from school in hurry, puts her bag aside, asks for a small snack and runs out the door and saying, ‘I am TYO!’”

Sundos’ father said, explaining his daughter’s behavior since enjoying Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Sundos’ mom added that they used to spoil Sundos. She described the way Sundos used to cry about everything, isolate herself from her peers and never display interest or enthusiasm.

“After my older daughter’s death in a car accident, my husband and I became very protective. We were scared to let our kids go anywhere alone—even to school,” her mother explained.

“When TYO first opened across the street from where we live, we did not believe that such a huge, fancy building would be available to the children of our neighborhood,” said Sundos’ mom.

Having the Center in Khallet al-Amood helps not just Sundos but her entire family to recover from the loss of a child. As Sundos becomes more engaged and motivated through her time at TYO her parents have learned to trust her. “I am not worried anymore about my daughter crossing the street alone, or going out with her friends,” said Sundos’ mom. “I can now watch my daughter grow up without being overprotective, so thank you for giving me hope to a become a better mother.”

This conversation took place between TYO Sports teacher Haitham and Sundos’s parents, who all live in the Khallet al-Amood neighborhood.  The piece was adapted to English from an original story written by Haitham, in Arabic, about the importance of his work.

Thank you, Al-Arz Ice Cream Factory!

bridge
As some of you may know, some items are just hard to come by in Nablus. We spent weeks looking for small, colorful pipe cleaners for crafts and, just as we were losing hope, our wonderful outreach specialist, Futoon, managed to find them!

For my science class, I was on the lookout for popsicle sticks. So many of my kids are interested in structural engineering and architecture that it made sense to start building bridges, houses, and anything else they wanted with popsicle sticks! You would not believe just how difficult it was to find popsicle sticks in Nablus. It may be my faulty Arabic, constant motioning to ice cream and saying the number “1000 please,” or my dissatisfaction with using tongue depressors as popsicle sticks from the local pharmacy, but I refused to give up on finding popsicle sticks.

Again, trusty and creative Futoon came to me with a bag of 1,000 popsicle sticks donated from the generous Al-Arz Ice Cream Factory. For that, my class and I thank you, Al-Arz Factory! The kids have been using the popsicle sticks with lots of enthusiasm to learn some basic physics and develop patience with falling towers.

Thanks for your kind donation! It is the simple gifts here at TYO that make big differences.
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