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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: This Class is Our Class

My volunteers are my extra set of eyes, ears and hands. They step in when I need materials passed out and when I need help rearranging my classroom for a new activity. They step in when a child needs a hole punched for a mask and when they need a string tied for a kite. Most importantly, they step in when a student has a problem that I can’t immediately address. After all, I am just one person with anywhere from 10-18 students. And without my volunteers, I couldn’t teach my classes.

This past Monday, right after Field Day in Balata and Community English class, my volunteers, translator and I met in my classroom to discuss our Arts & Crafts class. Throughout the session I have continuously stressed that this class is ours and I always welcome and encourage suggestions. But on Monday, I wanted to remind them just how important they really are to this class.

For the next 45 minutes we discussed what we’ve learned about our class and our kids thus far. What works in class and what doesn’t, what needs to stay and what should we change, but also how to improve. The amount of feedback I got from them was amazing. Together we agreed, using the hand clapping technique we tried to implement at the start of the session, doesn’t get the children’s attention like we had hoped. But making simple yet functional projects is a great way to keep the kids engaged. I appreciated the craft project suggestions from them too. Everything from flowers made of plastic bags, to face paint, to a mural! I have already implemented an idea: adding background music to class while they work on their project. The kids really enjoyed it too!

I want my volunteers to be on board for every craft project or silly game I attempt with my kids. I want them to be as enthusiastic about lessons as I am. And so that things runs smoothly, it is so important that they are included in the decision-making process and can take some ownership of the class. I know that my volunteers walked away from the meeting on Monday feeling much better about the remainder of the session. Weekly, I will keep reminding them that  this class is our class.

– Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

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

Triple Exposure murals complete in Askar boys’ school

Triple Exposure mural teacher Rimah and her volunteers went to visit the boys’ school in Askar UNRWA refugee camp, Nablus. Over two visits she worked with fifteen boys, ages 10-11 on two murals in the hallways of the school. Whilst representing the themes of nature and school, these murals have a more kaleidoscopic feel to them, with unexpected colours inside the branches and leaves of the tree, really bringing an extra splash of colour to the walls of Askar.

Like many schools in the West Bank, the school doesn’t have an art teacher or art department, and these were the first murals ever in the school. Even the teachers were interested in how the different colours were mixed and applied. The director of the school liked the mural so much he has asked Rimah to come back and do one more any time.

After they had finished the murals, the boys wanted to go home and show their parents they had been working with paint, and thoroughly enjoyed drawing moustaches on each other. The boys showed so much talent and dedication, seeing the project through to completion with admirable focus. If they had an art teacher or more opportunities to practice, the kids could really work on their art skills and creative thinking, on top of making these vibrant and lasting contributions to their community.

To date, Triple Exposure has complete fifteen murals around Nablus. For more details, please see the Triple Exposure blog.

SOW Team: A Day in the Life of a TYO Volunteer

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I woke up feeling a little nervous, like the first day of school when you don’t know anyone yet. I walked down to the main floor of the Nablus Center to see many kids sitting along four tables, wide-eyed and restless. Who do I talk to when I can’t say more than ten words? I walk up to a small boy in an orange Holland jersey fumbling with his backpack, “Marhaba, Shooo issmek?” I say, still unsure if I’m pronouncing it correctly. He stares at me with a worried look and I back away embarrassed. Ala, a Core Child teacher at TYO who teaches IT skills, and my only friend who speaks English, points me in the direction of one of the classrooms. I can’t tell who’s more nervous at this point, the kids or myself.

I feel like the new kid again. I shyly introduce myself and take the open seat next to the kid in the Holland jersey. The teacher continues talking in Arabic as a few kids continue to stare in my direction. When your ability to communicate is taken away, you have to rely solely on universal gestures. The fellow volunteers start to hand out blank paper. Are those really butterflies in my stomach? I feel as if I am five again and have to hold the urge to grab the crayons first. It’s only been five minutes and I’m already uncontrollably smiling.

It’s no wonder TYO has so many volunteers. They have over 100 for the summer session, mainly from An Najah University, and overwhelmingly female. They actually started out with only 12 volunteers, all males, but with the increase in numbers each year, more and more women started to participate. After snack time, we prepare for our morning field trip to the Nablus Fire Department. I don’t remember the last time I visited a fire station, probably when I was about this age. After settling who travels on what bus (the kids must be separated by where they’re coming from, Askar, Balata, Khallet al Amood) we make our way down to the Nablus Fire Department.

It would seem that fire stations are impressive everywhere. The firemen greeted us in their typical outfits. There were then some demonstrations. Even though I couldn’t understand, Ala was quick to translate whenever there was a funny moment, such as when one kid, when prompted by the firemen if he had any questions, asked about a monster that attacked his foot last night. I enjoyed the children’s Q&A very much, but I had a question of my own so I conversed with one of the volunteers at the fire station. He told me that it was a long process to become a firemen and that he has volunteered for about seven years!

It seems as if volunteering is a natural option for those at the University because they are able to get professional skills they wouldn’t otherwise have access. Similar to the United States, where internships are the norm before getting a real job, volunteering has become increasingly common in the West Bank. Professor Jawad Fatayer, of An Najah University, stresses that this desire is more than just professional. It is also personal. Volunteers feel a sense of community through their work, that they are making an impact. That is probably why so many of the volunteers stay. Most of the volunteers we interviewed had been with TYO since the beginning. It is great to see how comfortable they are with the kids.

After waiting for a bit, our bus arrives. I thank the firemen for their time and prepare for a relaxing and reflective ride back. I am starting to feel less like the new kid and more like a new friend. When we get back, Alaa, Haitham, and Jawad, the Core Child teachers, even invite me to sit with them for lunch. I am touched. I have been used to the familiar territory of the sixth floor; however, it is nice to be around the volunteers whose faces I frequently see, but I’ve never had the opportunity of working side-by-side with. They tell me that all of the volunteers stay throughout the day despite having a break between the morning and afternoon programming. I notice them hanging out in front of the center, or talking in the computer class.

It is a warm feeling coming back to TYO and I understand a little bit better what it means to be a volunteer. It is not just a role, but a mindset. You can tell that it must not always be so easy to work with the kids but the volunteers genuinely enjoy their work. They continue to come and be a part of TYO and the bond is obvious. I become slightly jealous that I don’t have a place like this back home, and a little guilty that I maybe haven’t searched for it as much as these students have. I walk upstairs feeling that sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that Dr. Jawad described. For a little while, it is easy to feel hope and love, to feel an impact, to feel a connection.

– Sarah

Sarah is the journalist for the SOW National Team.

Just Add Water

At the end of June, the staff, interns, volunteers, and kids of TYO held what we’ve lovingly referred to as “Water Day.” The kids played about thirty minutes of soccer before volunteers began to emerge from the shadows of the Center, carrying mysterious baskets, bags, and buckets overflowing with the water balloons we’d spent hours preparing. I could practically hear the “Rocky” theme song as I watched, preparing for an epic afternoon. Nothing breaths life into a childhood memory quite like a water balloon or two.

Intern Cate and I got our kids settled in a large circle for a game of “Drip, Drip, Drop” – like Duck, Duck, Goose only instead of yelling “Goose!” the kid dumps a full cup of water on his/her target’s head (also, we decided to throw water balloons in lieu of tagging.) Cate and I jovially agreed to play, and mere moments after settling onto the concrete I had a water cascading down my forehead as I sputtered a laugh and tried to maintain control of my cotton-candy pink balloon.

The kids had a blast, and we learned a few interesting tidbits as well. Little Izz, for example, is only slightly slower than the speed of sound. The kids, who we worried might stick with their friends, turned out to be equal-opportunity soakers. Kids soaked teachers, teachers soaked volunteers, water balloons both missed and connected with their targets as everybody tried to figure out the best way to launch a balloon with a mixture of velocity and precision.

It was a ton of fun. Toward the end of the day, as we started to settle the kids and get them ready for the bus, I leaned down to pick up a small balloon that hadn’t popped. Before I could get back up, a tidal wave connected, Rose Bowl style, with the back of my neck. I turned to see our adorable Lin frozen in place with a now-empty bucket, grinning. As I stared at her in mock shock and teasing anger, I was hit with that profound realization that you’re in the middle of a memory that will last for years beyond its expiration.

So although I was still picking water balloon pieces out of my hair hours later, Water Day was a hit. My favorite moments here at TYO are those that transcend age and culture – the moments that emphasize our commonalities rather than our differences. And everyone, as it turns out, enjoys a good water balloon fight.

-Amy

Amy is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Volunteer Spotlight: Luai

My name is Luai, and I am a 25-year-old from Odla Village near Nablus. I first began volunteering with TYO while I was a sophomore studying Arabic at An Najah University. I didn’t necessarily consider teaching much, but I had some free time and thought it would be fun to play with kids in sports classes.

I quickly realized what a rewarding experience it was to volunteer, and couldn’t help but sign up to volunteer in more classes, including computer, summer camp, and art classes. I found out that I ended up learning while teaching, that I could not wait to finish my classes so I could go to TYO and play with the children.

Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t always easy. I had no idea how to work with children, let alone children who had come from difficult backgrounds. Even during the most stressful times, however, I always left TYO wishing I could stay longer with the children.

That’s what made me realize that I wanted to become a teacher. I have since graduated from An Najah and am now a certified teacher with the Ministry of Education and, when I am not volunteering at TYO, I am teaching 14 to 18 year old students Arabic at a local school. I try to incorporate what I’ve learned at TYO as much as I can. Our school system in Nablus is very rigid, but TYO has taught me the importance of being a kid and having the opportunity to open our minds to creative ideas. It also stressed a crucial component of being part of the Nabulsi community: working in teams. To teach, I divide students in groups and have them work together with the help of teaching aids. I’ve noticed that the kids not only learn more, but they are happier. I am excited to continue integrating what I’ve learned from my experiences at TYO with my new job as a teacher.

I have no intention of leaving TYO though. As long as TYO’s doors are open, I will be here doing what I can.

– Luai

Luai is a volunteer at TYO Nablus.

More about TYO’s volunteers:
Like Luai, 95 volunteers hail from An Najah University. Others come from surrounding colleges, including Al Quds Open University. Of the whopping 125 registered volunteers for this term, 95 are female and 27 are male. Five of them have been with TYO since the beginning and 17 have been with TYO for at least two years. Three quarters of our volunteers aren’t just helping teach in the classrooms, but are also still students in the university classroom themselves. We couldn’t ask for a more dedicate core group of volunteers and we certainly couldn’t do our jobs without them.