Volunteer Spotlight: Nehad Omer

My name is Nehad Omer, and I have been a Core Program morning volunteer for a year.

After I graduated with a sociology degree from An Najah University, I searched for various job openings and volunteer positions. I came across TYO, but was wary about applying because I assumed it would be very difficult to work with children from severely disadvantaged homes. Thankfully, I swallowed my fear and applied.

Since then, I have worked as a volunteer for a variety of classes, ranging from sports to concentration techniques. It was initially very difficult to break out of my own shell, but I soon realized that it was necessary. I could not be helpful if I was shyer than the children! In the past year, I have seen both myself and the children come a long way.

For example, Ghizal, a Core Program child, spent weeks running out of TYO because she was shy and did not feel comfortable around so many other active (and sometimes loud) children. Over time, however, I have learned how to make her comfortable. When she becomes overwhelmed, it calms her anxieties to draw or color by herself. Instead of running outside of the building, she now comes to me and asks if she can spend a few minutes drawing alone. I have noticed her become happier, less afraid, and engage more with the other children in just the past few days. I am excited to see how much she will break out of her shell by the end of this session and am grateful that I am part of why she is happier.

Girls like Ghizal are why I make the one-hour commute from Koforqadon village to Nablus every morning at 7 am. My parents and nine siblings have always encouraged me to go out and volunteer (perhaps because I am the middle child), and have commented on my increased self-confidence since I started with TYO last year.

– Nehad

Personal story as told to Shahla

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Stretching our Limits

Three years ago, TYO opened its doors to the communities living in our five target areas; El-Ein, Balata, New and Old Askar, the Old City, and the surrounding Khallet Al-Amood neighborhood. We have struggled with the Arabic-English barrier, buses that aren’t always on time and, of course, the burning sun we have all come to love. Perhaps the most difficult task, however, has been saying “No.”

Today, a mother from El-Ein refugee camp came into my office with her three children, two boys and a girl. Her children’s ages ranging from 3 to 7 years old. She had heard last night that there was a respected free community center in Khallet Al-Amood and had desperately tried to put her kids on the TYO bus this morning. As a matter of organization, our bus drivers strictly limit who can and cannot get on the bus via a TYO List of Participants. (After all, we do not want to accidentally take a scared and confused child across town.)

This particular mother, though, was not going to give up so easily. Despite not having any money with her, she took a private taxi across town with her three children at her side and found her way to my office. She sat down in front of her children and me and begged. I couldn’t help but match her tears with my own. Her husband recently suffered from a stroke that left the right side of his body incapacitated and the home without a breadwinner. She has little supportive family in the community and is, as a result, left alone to take care of her husband and three children in an impoverished household.

Her desperation brought her to TYO four weeks after our Core program began. My immediate response was a difficult denial not because it is difficult to integrate new kids in the program, but because we simply do not have the resources to enroll every child who wants to and needs to come to our center. But her persistence and her story made me realize that TYO is the one place where we can’t afford to say no. It may force us to have larger class sizes and we certainly can’t take in every child, but we have to try our best.

Her kids, she said, are very shy and have no place to go in the refugee camp. They ask her each day why they can’t just be like the other kids in the world, why they can’t be children. These words from a three-year-old brought a mother to TYO, a place whose doors opened specifically for these kids who lack support elsewhere.

In the end, we managed to enroll her two older kids in the program, but there are still children who need help, children who we can’t help. This is easily the hardest part of my job, and I don’t know if there is anything to be done.

– Suhad

Suhad is the Psychosocial Program Manager at TYO Nablus.

Photo of the Day: Parent-Teacher Conferences

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Final Parents Survey, Summer 2009

Final Parent Survey, Summer 2009 Session

The Core Program Teachers conducted a Final Parent Survey following the end of the Summer 2009 Session. The teachers contacted fifty parents over the phone and asked them to attend focus group discussions in their respective locations. Twenty-nine parents attended focus groups in five locations.

  • 100% of parents reported that their child has positively developed socially and psychologically as a result of TYO.
  • 97% of parents reported that their child is applying the activities s/he learned at TYO in the home.
  • 93% of parents reported that there is progress in their child’s interactions with peers.
  • 90% of parents reported that their child is more cooperative.
  • 90% of parents reported that their child is more responsible.
  • 100% of parents reported improvement in communicating with others.

The summer session represented the last two months of implementation of a four-month intensive training with MaDad on the Holistic Integrated Approach to early childhood education.  Thanks to the new skills gained from working with MaDad, TYO teachers are imparting coping skills and outlets for self-exploration and expression, which transcend our classrooms and are implementable at home. In addition, our classrooms include a large emphasis on free play and imagination through the child-led creation of “imagination stations,” including a kitchen, doctor’s office, storytelling corner, pharmacy, falafel stand and a bank. These stations are made from 100% recycled and found materials, which facilitates recreating the same type of play at home. The Core Program teachers use the children’s creations as a point of departure to talk about health and safety, nutrition, problem solving, recycling, physical fitness, communication and tolerance.

Comments from Parents

  • My son likes to help me prepare salads in the kitchen.  He told me he learned at TYO that salads are very healthy.
  • My son taught his siblings how to make homemade flowers.
  • Since coming to TYO, my daughter likes to draw what is on her mind.
  • My son used the art skills he learned at TYO to make wedding party invitations.
  • My daughter is using the skills she learned at TYO at home. She created her own dolls from old cloths she collected from our house.

To read more visit the TYO hompage and view our Results page which features this report in full and our impact over the last year.

Individualized Early Childhood Education

On Monday, I continued a physics project with my kids aged 9-11 in science class to build floatable, cardboard boats displaying an understanding of buoyancy and Archimedes’ Principle. The kids were in the middle of making their boats when some of the groups began running out of duct tape, so I temporarily halted construction and decided to play musical chairs in the empty room next door. Ten minutes later, we returned to our science class to find that three of the boats had been destroyed, punctured with holes.

Mohammad stood next to them with a pair of scissors in his hand. He stormed out of the classroom, yelling that I should have let him steal tape from the other groups.

On Tuesday, the kids took their finished boats to the park and floated them. Afterwards, they played on the swings and slides of the playground. I left for a few moments to help my volunteer clean up the area where the kids ate ice cream.

I came back to find that Mohammad had tried to attack another child, screaming that it was his turn to go on the swings. I found out from intern Adam that Mohammad had just been on the swings, not allowing other children to share. Mohammad stormed off.

On Wednesday, the girls in my class joined Doris’ class on a trip to the pool, leaving me with just my five boys and three volunteers. It gave me the opportunity that I had been waiting for all summer. The opportunity to sit down with Mohammad and patiently address his quick jumps to anger, encourage him to analyze the situation instead of make assumptions and to simply hear about him and how he was feeling all the while trying to help him understand that it was not acceptable to steal from other children, to physically or verbally abuse anyone, or to shirk personal responsibility.

And he listened. He spoke to me, explaining how he felt when he was angry, how he didn’t know how else to respond. We talked through it, slowly looking at other options. Sure, he didn’t transform into a calm, slow-to-anger person in two hours, but he began to see that there were alternatives.

I grew up in the public education system of California and it is still shocks me how my teachers were able to teach me anything with twenty to thirty children wriggling around impatiently. Cut that class in half, and the teacher’s ability to do his or her job increases. Cut that class in half, and the child has a chance to be heard. Cut that class in half, and you have education reform.

Cut that class in half, and you have the opportunity to sit down with Mohammad and show him the alternatives to anger. That’s what I learned from Mohammad, and it’s something I believe is absolutely necessary to improve early childhood education. Personalized education, personal development. A voice in the midst of chaos.
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Final Parents Survey, Spring 2009 Session

The Core Program Teachers conducted a Final Parent Survey following the end of the Spring 2009 Session. The teachers contacted forty-six parents over the phone and asked them questions designed by Suhad. TYO compares Initial and Final Parent Surveys to determine the impact of its program on each child and identify which children could benefit from further services either from TYO or by referral.

  • 93% of parents reported that their child likes coming to TYO
  • 96% of parents reported that their child learned new things as a result of attending the TYO Core Program
  • 83% of parents reported that their child formed new friendships as a result of attending the TYO Core Program
  • 93% of parents reported that there is progress in their children’s familial interactions and 91% reported progress in their child’s peer interactions
  • 89% of parents reported that their child had a better understanding of safety
  • 83% of parents reported that their child is less shy as a results of attending the TYO Core Program
  • 81% of parents reported positives changes in their child’s sleep patterns
  • 89% of parents reported improvement in their child’s self-expression
  • 76% of parents reported improvement in their child’s control of his temper

Click Read More to view comments from parents here or visit the TYO hompage and view our Results page which highlights our impact over the last year.

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