Maskin’ Photos from Maggie’s Class!

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Visit Palestine!

TYO staff and volunteers take advantage of any chance they get to enjoy the Palestinian countryside. But we live here, so it’s a bit easier… For those of you who don’t live here, or are looking for a different way to see the country, we wanted to share two exciting opportunities coming up for you to enjoy the hills, valleys, olive groves and wheat fields of the West Bank.

Abraham Path “Palestine Youth Summer Walk,” July 23 – 30
The Abraham Path Initiative is organizing the second annual youth walk through the West Bank. Young people from around the world will walk 70 kilometers from Nablus to Hebron, staying with families, getting to know each other, and enjoying the natural and cultural beauty of Palestine.

Peace Cycle,” October 9 – 23
A British non-profit organization coordinates this bike ride from Amman to Jerusalem. Participants will have the chance to stay with local families and enjoy the countryside and cities along the way. Furthermore, the trip will raise money for Oyooni Eye Clinic, an initiative that aims to deliver specialized eye care to diabetes and glaucoma patients in the West Bank and Gaza. Read more at http://www.thepeacecycle.com/

If you’re coming to Palestine with one of these exciting initiatives or on your own, check out www.visitPalestine.ps for tips. And let us know if you come see the beautiful valley of Nablus and sample delicious knafeh!

Intern Journal: Impossible to prepare

Now that the first two weeks of the summer session have ended, it’s time to breathe. We had two weeks of intensive preparation for what we would face as summer teachers here at TYO, but nothing could prepare me for what I faced. Nothing could prepare Kelsey when a young boy brought a knife to her class. Nothing could prepare me for having to defer kids from my class because they were too old and there was only so much chaos I could handle in a classroom with two volunteers. Nothing could have prepared us.

But more surprising than the chaos piercing your ears while kids play with the parachute on the bottom floor or while I watch Maggie surrounded by screaming children running and playing games around during every session of her Summer Camp class was the love that has pierced us interns.

It is the look of calm love as Maggie smiles when children scream around her. It is the way Kelsey walks her six to eight-year-olds in a single line, holding their hands, to the buses after a three-hour class, slowing down to match their slower pace. It is the way Adam tries to childproof everything in the building to protect the children, from putting foam around sharp corners and sandpaper on the marble stairs to slow the children down as they run up and down the stairs. It is the way Doris seems to notice every time one of her 15 or more students seems remotely bored, tired or sad and how she always addresses it immediately with concern.

We have fallen in love with the smiles of these children, and it’s entirely thanks to the people that have helped keep this beautiful organization running whether it is by coming to work or volunteer at TYO, mentioning it to a friend, donating to the website, or even sending a link to family members of the blog. So, thank you.

Intern Journal: A space to play

This past Thursday I made a visit with my Palestinian TYO counterpart, Iman, to the sports club in al-Askar refugee camp. Because 12 to 14-year-old boys need significant room to play, and because the afternoon sun in July and August here in Nablus is oppressive, TYO decided to seek out a covered sports area for my soccer class. The indoor field at the al-Askar club resembles a warehouse – dim yellow light seeping through the tin roof panels, an eerie echo, and a tarmac surface. But given the suffocation of the neighborhoods in which most of the children reside, I imagined the space would overwhelm them with a sense of liberation.

The manager of the club, Hussein, insisted we drink tea with mint. Following patient greetings and some talk of weather, we toured the remainder of the facility. Like most everything in the camps, the structure has grown awkwardly and opportunistically over a 50-year period. It burrows down and juts out. It hugs the small stores that make their home in its bottom floor.

We descended into a cramped space in which paperback Arabic children’s books were stacked and stuffed haphazardly on cardboard boxes for lack of shelves. Through a metal door was a room so central to the building’s interior that natural light fought to penetrate its few slender breaches. A troop of young women, dressed in resplendent colors, danced in unison to traditional Palestinian dabka music. Each swing of a saber, each dip to the ground, each spin and each twirl, said the manager, has a special significance and corresponds to a lyric. I promised Hussein I would bring the rest of the TYO interns to see the girls perform.

On Monday afternoon, I returned to the center with 18 boys from our target areas. Hussein brought five boys from al-Askar camp, including his son. The boys were thrilled at the idea of soccer in mid-afternoon without being subject to the sun.Unsurprisingly, that time of day is generally reserved for napping and waiting in the shade. The soccer they know occurs for a few minutes at school or in the evenings when they climb over a wall to access a small paved court. Often these evening games are interrupted by aggressive and apathetic teenagers.

We formed four teams for a rotation. While half of the boys played on the field, the other half cheered from the elevated bleachers, eagerly hopping along the guard rail. The sound resonated above and filled the expanse with a thick roar. The dabka girls peeked bashfully through interior windows and then scurried away.

Space is a thing of privilege. For children who often see walls, but rarely see past them, a few hours of sustained release is a gift that TYO is delighted to provide.

-Adam Gardner

SOW Journal: What I’ll remember from Nablus

Yesterday, while visiting Adam’s soccer class in al-Askar camp, a little boy threw a rock at me. It hit me hard in the shoulder. I turned around expecting to see a mischievous young boy laughing at his own aggressive, little joke. But the boy was not smiling. With a haunting intensity, he snarled a string of vicious words at me. I do not speak Arabic, but I did understand one word:

“Israel.”

I have spent almost a month here in Nablus, and this was the first time anything even remotely hateful has happened to any of us from Students of the World. Yes, every day at TYO we see saddening evidence of conflict in all its forms: in problematic home life, dismal living situations in the camps, and the regional conflict. But the children, the staff, the people here in Nablus have been so warm, so welcoming, so inspiring. Smiles and kind words have filled every moment of my stay here. The unwavering dedication to the preservation of childhood in TYO’s offices, the respectful exchanges in the streets, and the children wanting to play in the expanses of TYO’s halls—these will be my cherished memories of Nablus.
Jack

The rock hit me yesterday. Today, little Farida hugged me and called me her friend. Today, Suhad, TYO’s psychosocial specialist, held a focus group with five kids who, once shy and silent, talked energetically about their dreams. Today, the rowdy boys in Kelsey’s art class held up their artwork while smiling broadly, proud that they had created something.

And yet my shoulder still hurts as I type this. So does my ankle from the moment that I turned to skulk away from that boy. It reminds me that the fabric of Nablus is still tenuous despite the strength I see every day in the children at TYO and the staff that welcomes them into the classrooms. And it reminds me how important TYO is to Nabulsi youth, and what is at stake in this small city.

-Jack Moore

TYO is tweeting!

Today is a huge day in TYO’s social media evolution: we started tweeting! Over the last few months, full-time staff and volunteers have been working on TYO’s presence in the rapidly expanding world of social media. We feel good about our blog, thanks to local and international staff and volunteers, and even if we didn’t meet the requirements for a Vanity URL, our Facebook page is coming along nicely. (Check ‘em out and see for yourself!) The next frontier to conquer was clearly Twitter!

TYO tweeting!

After all, one of our primary goals is to build bridges: sharing information about our work in Nablus with people beyond Nablus, and bringing insight and information from the outside world to improve our work here. Many underprivileged communities are isolated by various barriers, but this is particularly true of the communities we work with in Nablus, which are cut off from the rest of the West Bank, Israel and Jordan by physical barriers.

TYO’s twitter account will share news from TYO and our areas of work: early childhood development, psychosocial programming, community development, youth empowerment, social entrepreneurialism.

Why not follow us to find out more? And please tweet us @tomorrowsyouth to share your ideas about our work, our tweets, and how you’d like to help!

Faces of TYO Summer!

Thanks to our very talented Students of the World photographer, Annie, who has captured some of the very happiest moments of the first 5 days of Summer 2009 at TYO on film.

A few favorites are included below, but you can check them all out on her blog!

Intern Journal: Cooking, Nablus style

Most people in Nablus are not working at 7 AM on a Friday morning. But Reem, our local cook at TYO, was hard at work preparing a feast for a wedding! I joined Reem as “research” for my nutrition class for mothers this summer in hopes of getting a feel for local cooking techniques and cuisine. (The fact that I am also a serious food lover of course had nothing to do with this interest at all.)

Sameeha, the local computer teacher at TYO and my personal translator for the morning, and I set off for Reem’s cooking shop around 10 a.m. for our epicurean expedition. The dish of the day was Ouzi, a rice-based dish with chicken, lamb, peas, peanuts, and a variety of spices (including cardamom, ginger, clove, laurel leaf, and cinnamon). For three hours, Reem explained how she prepared the broth for the rice to be cooked in, the way the chicken was cooked, and the different spices that went into the dish. As she was single-handedly cooking for 150 people, this was quite a stressful process. By observing and participating in the process, I was able to make note of how food is prepared, how much oil is used, what products are and are not in season, how expensive certain ingredients are, and the general timing of preparing a rice and meat dish. The final product was a beautiful display of ten massive platters containing layers of rice, meats, peas, and spices.

All in all, the expedition proved to be a huge success! Not only was I able to learn a thing or two about a popular local dish, but I was also able to spend a morning with two incredibly kind and welcoming Nabulsi women. I hope someone else in Nablus gets married soon!

SOW Journal: TYO Rocks!

Check out Student of the World Ilona’s blog entry about TYO that can also be found at http://www.seechangenow.org/2009/nablus/day_15_tyo_rocks.

Annie and I decide to walk up the never-ending flight of stairs that surround Khallet Al Mood, the neighborhood where TYO is located. We take the stairs closest to the compound. They seem to go for ever…1,2,3…90,91,92…200…To think that men and women climb these stairs daily. There are houses on either side. Well, I guess I would call them grey structures, tall, haunting, unfinished, and barren. It is mid-afternoon. It is hot. No one is out. The stairs are deserted. We finally make it to the top where the stairs abruptly end and a vast forest takes over. From up here everything looks tiny. I hear an ambulance. I see small groups of kids scattered, playing in the street. Each time a car speeds past I freeze, afraid that this time a kid might actually get hit. I look around. I am besieged by trash. At one moment I even jump thinking the plastic bag ruffling in the wind is a person materializing from the forest. A cloud rolls by overhead. Everything turns dark. From gray, everything goes black. The trash’s smell is overwhelming. A man is chanting inside his home. For a moment I feel scared. The cloud passes. I look down at TYO. While everything else seems small, distant, and fragile, TYO appears big and secure. It stands tall, white, and beautiful amidst the grey backdrop. The sound of children playing drifts upward with the wind. We slowly make our way back down to TYO. Immediately upon entering the TYO compound we bump into a class playing tag. They are giggling. They make goofy faces at each other. We walk inside the building. Dorris approaches me. “We are playing with the parachute again, do you want to join?” Yes! From a small blue bag emerges a massive multicolor sheet. Forty kids start running towards it. The main hall is suddenly transformed into a colorful mess. We each grab a side of the parachute. We are designated a number. I am number thirty-three. On 1,2,3…we all lift the parachute, holding it high above our heads. Hassan, a volunteer, yells two and seventeen. Kids from opposite ends of the parachute run at one another. There is something beautiful about the chaos. I feel like a kid again. I want my number to be called. I too get excited each time we lift the parachute. The walls, the floor, the ceiling all melt into blue, yellow, red, green…Everyone is laughing. Everyone is having fun. Everyone is being silly. Even if we ignored the great classes offered here, the mere ability to play gives these children something so crucial to their mental and physical well-being…It gives them back their childhood. Playing with color helps these children imagine a world outside the confines of their respective refugee camps.

Intern Journal: Making it through the door

This Sunday, on the first day of class, ten-year-old Ala from El-Ein camp walked into my classroom by herself, her hands tightly gripping a shiny green bag. In front of her were twenty children running and screaming with cups of acetic acid and vinegar in their hands. The hectic scene added a poignant aptness to the child-friendly title of my science course, “Mad Scientists.” She approached hesitantly. Terrified? Sure. But she made it in the door.

We began with games to break the ice in a room of strangers while learning each other’s name. She didn’t give in that easily; withdrawn, she wouldn’t say a word. During the games, the kids stopped throwing the inflatable soccer ball to her because she would never catch it. When they sat in groups of four, she was the oddball out – the fifth in a group of four. But she made it in the door.

I noticed her eyeing the crayons while the other kids were mixing cornstarch and water to make goo, so I gave her paper and crayons to draw with even though she didn’t touch them for another ten minutes. I asked her why she wasn’t drawing, and she spoke her first words to my translator.

“I don’t know how to,” she said. She was one of two kids that day ranging from nine to 11 that told me they didn’t know how to draw. So, we learned together. I held her hand in mine and had her grip the pencils with the same fervor with which she gripped her green bag. She drew lines on the paper and on the desks, slowly leaving her worries about what was right and wrong, what the other kids thought, and even what I thought behind her. She drew flowers, animals, and even clouds – all things she wanted to learn about in her science class. She drew the goo and even other examples of liquids, solids, and gases.

She blew me away. Prior to the arrival of the kids this week, I took part in an intense orientation program, but Ala was my true introduction to Nablus. Here was this incredibly observant child that drew at the same level as her peers even though she had no idea how to hold a crayon. This beautiful girl with a green bag and a black-and-white polka dot headband that she kept losing left her refugee camp for possibly the first time in her life and entered a classroom filled with strangers. She is far braver than I could ever be, and it is a beautiful to watch her from across the room and share a smile or wink with her. I wonder where she goes home to, what her family is like, and where her sister is that was enrolled in my class but never made it through the door. But there’s time for that, space for her to open up if she wants to, and I sincerely hope that she does. I hope her classmates and her family find the same inspiration in her that I found when she walked into my door.

As she was walking out of my door that day, she slipped a piece of paper in my hand.

“Ala,” she wrote.

And it was then that I knew her name. It was then that I was introduced to the future of Nablus. And it blew me away. Ala

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