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.

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