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    EFL Fellow Moh's class enjoys an activity.

    EFL Fellow Leandro leads his class.

    EFL Student Renad plays a game during EFL class.

    EFL students Adham and Saad perform a skit during EFL class.

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Between Two Ferns with Mutasim Qawariq

Mutasim can usually be found leading the soccer leagues on the TYO soccer field, mingling amongst interns, volunteers and staff like the Mr. Popularity that he is, or in my classroom doing his best to engage the children in English lessons. Amidst his busy schedule, I finally found a moment to sit down with Mutasim for an interview regarding his indispensable work with TYO:

Me: Can you tell me a little about yourself –age, education, work, hobbies/passion, etc?
Mutasim: My name is Mutasim. I am 23 years old, and studying English Literature at An Najah University. I like football, and spending time on the computer.

Me: How long have you worked at TYO?
Mutasim: I have been here for about 5 months, working as a volunteer and translator. In the Spring 2011 session I worked as Colin Powers’ (former intern) translator for homework help. This session, I helped translate for Colin during Soccer League, and with you in your summer camp English class.

Me: What brought you here?
Mutasim: There are not many job opportunities here for post graduates. I worked in a summer camp called “Holy Book” when I was 19, and really enjoyed it. I found that I like volunteer work and working with children very much.

Me: What is keeping you here?
Mutasim: I have lots of friends at TYO. I like to stay involved here because we are serving a lot of children in good ways. We can offer them more than just playing in the streets; instead they can spend time having fun in different ways in which they learn how to deal with other children and adults nicely. Also, can I say, I come because I like to improve my English [laughs].

Me: What is your schedule at TYO?
Mutasim: I work from Sunday through Thursday, from about 11:00 am to 6:00 on Sunday and Monday, and 11:00 am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Me: Wow, busy schedule. That’s great!

Me: Do you have a big family/are you use to a lot of interaction with children?
Mutasim: There are nine siblings including me, and I am the 7th in line. I live at home with my parents, but all of my other brothers and sisters are all over West Bank studying or working. I also have two brothers living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who I will visit, inshallah. I don’t have any very young siblings, but I do have nephews and nieces that I see sometimes. It’s a new idea for me to work with kids, but I enjoy it a lot because of their innocence.

Me: How do you envision your life being without having TYO around?
Mutasim: I would be wasting time. Here I feel I am doing something.

Me: What influence has TYO had on you personally?
Mutasim: Yeah, patience!

Me: How do you feel the work you have been doing here has affected the children you work with?
Mutasim: Sometimes I feel I can do a lot of things to help the children, but sometimes it’s frustrating to deal with naughtier children. This makes me want to stay even more because I want to continue practicing patience and helping children overcome their problems. I feel like I am doing something so good, and feel happy when the children like me and call me by my name, instead of Amo (Arabic for uncle meaning Mister) or something like that. They feel close to me.

Me: What is your favorite part of TYO?
Mutasim: Field days are good because it seems the work of TYO is expanding already through different parts of Nablus. And I also enjoy cleaning the parks because it makes me feel responsible. I feel I am doing something good for my country.

Me: What is your hope for TYO in the future?
Mutasim: I hope to see TYO extend to other cities like Ramallah, Jenin, and so on because I want to offer these great programs for children throughout Palestine. I also hope that they will continue adding other helpful programs for adults as well, inshallah.

Me: How long will you stay with TYO?
Mutasim: Until they become sick of me [laughs].

I hope that one day Mutasim’s hope for TYO’s extensive expansion becomes a reality, inshallah. It would be a privilege for us to have his continued support and involvement in TYO. I look forward to being witness to the mutual exchange of growth that one will provide to the other.

– Samin
Samin is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Intern Journal: An Afternoon in Ramallah

Our first week of classes was not only chaos free but without a doubt enjoyable and full of energy. I can only speak for myself, but the kids in my photography class were attentive, and eager to get their hands on the cameras as soon as feasibly possible. They’re looking forward to running wild on next week’s class trip to the Old City.

Outside the classroom, the interns took Friday to visit Ramallah, a nearby city in the West Bank, approximately 14.63 km from Jerusalem – or Al Quds as it is known in Arabic. As a newbie to the Middle East, it was my first time out of Nablus, which provided a refreshing break from living and working exclusively in the same building all week – especially as last weekend was spent indoors brainstorming and organising for the week ahead. However from here on out, the weekends shall be a chance to explore this fascinating region or at the very least areas nearby.

The landscape is breathtaking. As our vehicle sped along the twists and turns, I got more of a sense of the hilly nature of the land. I had arrived under the cover of darkness from the airport two weeks back, but on this drive the sunlight bathed the horizon in gold, barely a cloud in the sky.

Friday is Islam’s holy day, and in the West Bank – along with much of the Middle East – most establishments are closed. People have the day off from work to pray, eat, and spend time with their families. This meant that we saw a version of Ramallah that was only representative of the quietest seventh of the week. A couple of cafes and shops were open here and there, but seeing the quiet sunlit streets lined with shut shops, reminded me of sleepy little French towns on Sundays.

After a quick visit to Yasser Arafat’s memorial we meandered into town and sampled the delicious local shawarma. Then, we walked and walked, the length and breadth of the town, eventually culminating in an ever-decreasing spiral to end up back where we started on Main Street.  It was a pleasure to see the beautiful architecture, a maze of weathered limestone houses, gardens and new half-finished constructions. A man walking his daughter back home in a stroller asked us if we were lost, telling us not much happens on Fridays. Another boy ran out from an al fresco family lunch to insist we all try some of their sfiha (small Levantine breads topped with minced meat and spices) then kindly inviting us to join their table. But not wanting to intrude and already touched by such open generosity from a stranger, we thanked him and were on our way.

As usual, the few people we encountered made us feel incredibly welcome. Ramallah is home to more ‘internationals’ than Nablus so no doubt people have more chance to practice their English there. Nevertheless, we were impressed with the level of English across the board in Ramallah. When someone can speak English in addition to their mother tongue, they immediately widen their potential for human interaction, increase their audience and gain access to a plethora of information on everything imaginable — if they can get online too. I feel that if someone has a story to tell, then maybe it should be heard.

Through our English classes here at TYO (both for children and the wider community) people can access and communicate with a world outside of the Middle East. Each new Arabic phrase we are taught and every step we take here as guests in Palestinian society is the flip side of the same inter-cultural dialogue, which we hope will benefit all of us. Once again I can only speak for myself, but every day I learn something new.

– Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.