TYO in the Big Apple

TYO’s efforts and resources are concentrated very largely on our grassroots, on-ground programming. However, we also recognize the importance of participating in select international activities in order to share our experience, learn about others’ and garner support and knowledge to increase our impact.

Earlier this month, TYO Founder Hani Masri took part in the planning retreat for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2011 Annual Meeting. He was glad to see the continued emphasis on quality programming to support Girls and Women. That said, Mr. Masri challenged participants and CGI organizers to advance this important discussion further at the fall event by engaging more varied speakers such as accomplished youth activists, leaders of innovative if small organizations, and a more geographically diverse representatives. TYO looks forward to seeing continued evolution in the CGI agenda and approach in 2011.

On February 28, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) organized a special event in cooperation with the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy in honor of the international day for Corporate Philanthropy. TYO Director Nell Derick Debevoise took part in the afternoon’s discussions including a broad range of corporate, NGO and UN representatives. The event was a pleasant surprise, with several speakers who made quite concrete, pro-active and unique contributions, such as Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia’s Earth Institute and Carlos Dominguez of Cisco.

The topic was the role of corporate philanthropy in education, specifically toward the Millennium Development Goal of achieving primary education for all and improved professional training by 2015. Participants discussed a variety of contemporary challenges, such as demographic issues creating mushrooming need for capacity, the importance of teaching soft skills like creativity and interpersonal intelligence and the massive obstacles to education presented by natural disaster and conflict. Happily, several inspiring solutions and innovations were also mentioned, such as Cisco’s IT training programs, Nokia’s three-pronged approach including research, capacity building and innovation and Education for Employment Foundation’s teaching-to-the-job model. TYO was honored to contribute its efforts in both early childhood education and practical experience to facilitate the school-to-work transition. A major priority for TYO in 2011 is to engage more with corporate sponsors to scale up these ongoing programs, so it was inspiring to hear from these active corporate citizens.

Read live coverage from the event on TYO’s Twitter feed and others by searching the hashtag #MDG2.

Intern Journal: Walking Club

Last week, Leila and I took our Fitness class on our second walking club through Nablus. In general, it would be fair to say that Nabulsi women do not walk merely for the sake of walking. Walking is for when you have to get somewhere and can’t take a taxi.

While our first walking club two weeks ago was ended by an unfortunate downpour, this week the heat of middle eastern spring was just shy of becoming too warm. We wandered to a nearby park, took a rest under the welcome shade of tree, then took a longer route back to TYO chatting all the way.

March 21st is Mother’s Day in Palestine, and women dropped off one by one from our walk, some saying their mother lived nearby and they had to go see them. I took a moment to text my mum back in England to wish her Happy Pali Mother’s Day.

Leila, translator Hanin, and some of the class

One of the fun aspects of walking club is that I can talk to the women one on one or in small groups – translation usually needed! One participant, Jinan, told me that she likes to walk at least 30 minutes a day. She could speak a little English because she studied Finance at An Najah University, she told me. And, six of her textbooks were in English. She’s married, with three kids: ‘khallas‘ she said, – it’s enough. I agreed that three sounded like a good number, having grown up with two siblings myself.

After a steep climb arriving back at the TYO centre, Leila and I set off with one of our students – Hanan, to have lunch at her house. It was such a treat. Delicious stuffed vine leaves and stuffed courgettes, salads, luminous pickles, bread, tea, kanafeh, and fruit, piled high. Plate after plate of amazing food that had no doubt taken hours to prepare. I was full after three platefuls, but managed five, as with typical Arab hospitality Hanan generously refilled my dish with sometimes ten stuffed vine leaves at a time despite attempts at polite protestation. We were even given kanafeh (local cheese topped with semolina and sugar syrup) to take home, on top of the three we’d just eaten.

We met some of Hanan’s children, neighbours, and saw beautiful photos from her wedding day. At this time, I realised that she had been married fifteen years, had five kids, but was only six years older than myself. After a thousand shukrans (thanks), we rushed home in a happy quasi food coma to give our afternoon classes.

If I were a calorie counter, I’d say we had consumed about three times as many calories as we’d burned on Monday. But we certainly enjoyed it. Looking forward to teaching this week’s kickboxing and yoga class to burn off all this sugar!

- Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.

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