Racing the Planet for TYO – $25k in 25 days

In just over a month, TYO friend Usama Malik will race through the Sahara Desert for seven days to raise funds for TYO!  During the race, he will cover an amazing 250 km/156 miles of desert sand while facing temperatures up to 122°F.  The Sahara Race is part of the 4Deserts series, which TIME magazine has named one of the Top 10 Endurance Competitions in the world.

Want to ensure that Usama’s incredible feat translates into meaningful programs for some of the Middle East’s most marginalized populations? Join the Racing the Planet for TYO campaign.

The Start of the Sahara Race

From September 1st to September 25th, people across the globe will Adopt, Join, and Mobilize the miles of Usama’s race to raise $25k in 25 days.  By participating in the campaign, you can help make sure that the race has the biggest possible impact on the children, youth, women, and parents that TYO serves.

Choose a race track:

  • ADOPT A MILE.  Adopt one of Usama’s 250 km /156 miles by donating at least $100.  For more information, read How to: Adopt a Mile.
  • JOIN A MILE.  Join one of Usama’s miles by raising at least $100 and moving a mile with him.  You choose how you move (run, hopscotch, skip, or jumprope, to name a few) and who you ask to sponsor you.  You’ll get a personal project page on Crowdrise to spread the word about your mile among your friends and family.  For instructions on joining a mile and resources for sponsors, read How to: Join a Mile.
  • MOBILIZE A MILE.  Mobilize one of Usama’s miles by moving a mile with at least 5 people to raise at least $500.  This is a great option for student groups, community organizations, or individuals who want to get really involved.  You can choose to keep your event low-key or make it big and public.  Your team will get a personal project page on Crowdrise to spread the word about your event.  For instructions on mobilizing a mile and resources to help you organize larger events, read How to: Mobilize a Mile.

Want to make an off-track donation?  We welcome them too! Just check out How to: Adopt a Mile for detailed donation instructions.  Gifts of every shape and size will help us raise $25k in 25 days.

To learn more about the Racing the Planet for TYO campaign, check out our Crowdrise Project Page.

The Sahara Race

TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?

“Professionally, my time at TYO was invaluable because it enabled to get my next job. Having on-the-ground experience in Palestine set my resume apart from the others and was one of the determining factors in allowing me to find a job immediately after returning to the US.”

Adrienne Clermont

An Ithica, NY native, Adrienne taught beginning photography and women’s English during her TYO internship in the fall of 2010.

What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO?

My favorite moments at TYO were while I was working with the kids in my Beginning Photography class. These were also moments when I wanted to tear my hair out, because there were 20 screaming kids running around me, carrying very expensive cameras! But to see the looks on those kids’ faces when they realized they could capture their own images was really priceless. I especially appreciated the fact that some of the most hyperactive, disruptive boys in the class became incredibly calm when holding one of the big DSLR cameras in their hands — they could really focus their attention and get engrossed in the process of finding the perfect shot. It made me realize that each of these kids had something special to offer, if someone was just willing to give them the chance to show it.

What do you miss most about TYO or Nablus?

By far what I miss most about TYO and living in Nablus is the hospitality of the Palestinian friends that I made there. Every single Palestinian that I met at TYO was instantaneously friendly and welcoming, and many of the women that I worked with (through my English class and the Women’s Entrepreneurship program) invited me over to their homes to meet their families and share a meal with them. By my final weeks in Nablus, I was feeling guilty at the number of invitations I had to turn down because I simply didn’t have time! This hospitality is one of the most wonderful things about Palestinian culture and I am so grateful to have experienced it first-hand — and to have gotten the chance to sample homemade maqlooba, kunafeh, and other delicacies!

What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?

I am now a Program Coordinator for the Middle East region at the International Youth Foundation, an NGO based in Baltimore ( Thanks to my experience at TYO and my knowledge of Palestinian culture, I was brought on board to help manage projects in Palestine and Egypt. These two projects focus on youth employment, job skills, and life skills training — key issues for young people facing high levels of unemployment in the Middle East today. My plans for the future are to continue working in the field of international development and to pursue a graduate degree in this field in the next 2-3 years. I hope to work abroad in the Middle East again soon!

Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?

Absolutely apply for this internship! Nothing compares to on-the-ground experience in a country that interests you — both from a personal growth perspective and from a professional perspective. Having that experience and demonstrating that you are capable and knowledgeable enough to live in another culture will set you apart from other candidates at every job you apply to in the future. Plus, TYO is a great place full of great people, and you will have a lot of fun!

TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?

“The TYO internship program is about so much more than day-to-day classroom instruction at the center; it is also about meaningful engagement with the Nabulsi community.”

Leila Del Santo

Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Leila taught music, fitness, and computer classes at TYO during the spring 2011 semester.

What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO?

During the last week of music classes, my students and I took a field trip to the Edward Said Music Conservatory in Nablus. Although initially displeased that the much-anticipated field trip was not to one of the local amusement parks, the students’ disappointment soon ebbed as they eagerly watched the conservatory instructors perform and provide instruction on instruments ranging from the bass to the saxophone.  For many of my students the trip illustrated the beauty of what could be accomplished with hard work and dedication to the study of an instrument.

What have you been up to after leaving Nablus?

I am a Hart Fellow with the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy in Battambang, Cambodia (July 2011-May 2012).

Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?

The TYO internship program is about so much more than day-to-day classroom instruction at the center; it is also about meaningful engagement with the Nabulsi community.  Never let language barriers or unfamiliarity with your surroundings prevent you from building those relationships–for me personally, they were what made the internship experience so positive.

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

I’ve always loved working with kids, and the TYO internship only intensified that commitment to child and youth-related work.  My current work in Battambang Province, Cambodia is likewise centered around vulnerable youth, and it is an area of interest that will most likely extend into future professional work. On a more personal note, as an American with Palestinian roots, the TYO internship was an opportunity to learn about, and to experience and celebrate my mother’s heritage.  The graciousness and resiliency of the Palestinian people is inspiring, and I hope to return to work in Palestine in the near future.

Rambunctious Ramadan Mornings

Happy beads

Throughout the month of Ramadan, daytime fasting and nighttime feasting push business hours and bedtimes later here in Nablus.  Mornings are particularly quiet, as children and adults alike sleep in after staying up late to work off the post-Iftar sugar high. But on Monday, at 10 am sharp, TYO was once again ringing with the sound of kids’ laughter and running feet as the Core Child Program teachers and the Triple Exposure team began the Ramadan session for 22 kids from Khellet Al-Amood.

TYO Friends

This three week class is different from TYO’s normal 12-week interventions.  In large part, it is designed to keep the children active and growing during this quiet month.  Studies show that children without access to diverse enriching experiences during extended school vacations suffer significant losses in academic skills (National Summer Learning Association).  In order to preserve and deepen the growth that our youngest Core Child Program students have been engaged in at TYO, we’re bringing them back for an hour and a half, three days a week, for the next three weeks.

Coloring the sea

The first week of the session has focused on instilling a sense of self and other in the children.  On Monday, they drew pictures of themselves engaged in their favorite activities.  On Tuesday, after listening to Jawwad’s spirited rendition of a story about an old lady, her cat, and some contentious milk, the children drew pictures of the characters in the story.  On Wednesday, they discussed the many colors, animals, and plants that can be found in the sea.  Each child then designed his own oceanic backdrop for the tissue paper and googley-eyed fish that they will make next week.

The next two weeks of the class will be structured more generally around the concept of creative play.  Warm-up activities like “Simon Says” and games where they simulate the life cycle of a plant allow for simultaneous physical and cognitive learning.  Threading beads onto strings  helped develop the motor skills that the children will need when they will string all of their painted cardstock butterflies together to make a huge butterfly chain.  Thus, through stories, art projects, and athletic games, these kids from Khella will spend their Ramadan mornings flexing their creative muscles, and in doing so, learn volumes about themselves, each other, and the world around them.

Stringing beads

Introducing TYO’s First Fellows

TYO welcomes Clare and Karen to the Nablus Center.  They come to TYO as recipients of the Princeton University ReachOut 1956-81 International Fellowship, an alumni-funded grant awarded to a graduating senior (or pair of seniors) pursuing an international service project.  The ReachOut Fellowship enables graduates to leave a lasting impact on some of the world’s most marginalized communities.  Over the course of the coming year, Clare and Karen will work on many projects, including the design and implementation of community needs assessments, a social media strategy, fundraising campaigns, and local and international outreach strategies.  They will also teach classes to youth and mothers.  A brief introduction from each follows

Clare Herceg

About Clare:

A government-sponsored trip to Egypt during high school first drew me to the Middle East.  It was there that I heard Arab perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time.  I left Egypt with a desire to learn Arabic, so that I could better understand these opinions from people themselves, as opposed to relying solely on the American media.  At Princeton, I immersed myself in Near Eastern studies courses in politics and history, striving to better understand both sides of the conflict and the extent of the American involvement in it.  Regional study-abroad experiences in Amman and Cairo supplemented these studies.  I also explored my interest in education policy by taking classes on the achievement gap and race relations, while complementing these courses with teaching in a local prison.

TYO has given me an incredible opportunity to combine my interest in education with my desire to serve Palestinian refugees.  I am already impressed by the sheer volume of its programming and the emphasis placed on monitoring and improving its programs to ensure that it continues to effectively meet community needs.  I hope that this fellowship allows me to better understand the effects of the Occupation on Palestinians and to serve this community in a meaningful and lasting way.  When I look at the beaming faces of the children as they rush into the TYO Center, I know that for now, this is exactly where I want to be.


About Karen:

Karen Campion

A bit of hubris, combined with the conviction that current U.S.-Middle East relations were based on a set of serious misunderstandings, led me to Arabic 101 during my first semester of college. I quickly discovered how little I knew about the region, and I became more determined than ever to develop a nuanced understanding of its societies, politics, and people.  The following year, I helped coordinate a conference that brought Arab and U.S. college students together to discuss relations between the United States and the Arab world.  There, I learned that U.S. policies towards Israel and Palestinians were a very real source of anger and frustration in the Arab world.  Moreover, as I studied the conflict itself, I began to appreciate the devastating impact that conflict and occupation have had on  individuals and communities alike.

In the last three weeks, I have already witnessed the power of TYO, where friendships, field trips, and classroom activities allow individuals to learn about themselves and each other in profoundly new ways.  I am honored and excited by the chance to be a part of this joyful and transformative community in the coming year.

The Next Steps for Women Entrepreneurs in Lebanon

TYO celebrates the start of the second phase of the Women Entrepreneurs in Lebanon Project. Coming off a hugely successful 4-day Business Training at the BIAT facility in Tripoli, where we had such an amazing turnout, choosing our 20 women was no easy task! Each participant brought her own insights, ideas and creativity to the project, but alas, we did have to choose. In an effort to find the right women for the “job,” the project staff and steering committee assessed each participant of the first-round training according to a basic selection criteria that included ideas and potential for real business success in the local Lebanese markets; commitment to the project and its training schedule; and willingness to take risks.

We are so happy to announce the 20 women selected to continue into the next phase of the project, the one-on-one coaching/mentoring sessions where they will have the opportunity to further develop their ideas and get them that much closer to financing, implementation and success! The dedicated BIAT team will provide the following top 20 women with their sessions:

Sahar Abou Doleh, 48, Kfar Habou
Sahar produces honey and with the right materials, can greatly improve and increase existing honey production, so she would like to expand!

Salma Ajaj, 62, Miryata
Salma, a skilled seamstress, would like to be able to grow her capacity to serve her local need.

Halimeh Al Chaar, 40, Tikrit
Halimeh has a green thumb and a license in gardening so she is perfectly suited to embark on the business of opening a Green house.

Jaqeline Al Nachar, 46, Halba
Jaqeline would like to open a custom boutique specializing in wedding dresses.

Aziza Abd Al Rahim, 29, Nahr El Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp
Using her knowledge of farming cows, Aziza wants to have her own small-scale dairy!

Asma Al Amyouni, 57, Kfar Habou
Asma would like to create olive oil and preserved olives with a spin on tradition, including green herbs such as sage and rosemary, in the preservation process.

Houwayda Sharaf Al Dine, 38, Berkael
Houwayda’s tasty twist on traditional mouneh (preserved/pickled foods) will include the preservation of dry fruits with chocolate.

Rima Al Rachid, 41, Machta Hassan
Rima already has a successful marble company and would like to innovatively manufacture gravel from marble.

Nahla Bikaii, 47, Baddawi Palestinian Refugee Camp
Nahla has a successful local shop that she would like to expand to include café services to meet her customer need.

Layali Chaaban, 27, Baddawi Palestinian Refugee Camp
With just a few upgrades, Layali hopes to enhance her flower shop.

Tania Hamad, 20, Halba
Tania shows real business acumen with her idea to provide marketing services to local workers producing local goods, helping them to increase their sales.

Ahlam Hammoud, 39, Halba
Thinking outside the cardboard box, Ahlam decided to develop a recycling initiative in homes and local schools.

Soumaya Jokmak, 53, Kfar Habou
When life gives Soumaya lemons, she makes not only lemonade, but jams and local sweets! Her project focuses on using lemons for a variety of products.

Maysa’ Kassem, 30, Nahr El Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp
Maysa’ identified a gap in the entire Lebanese market and decided to start locally, with a much needed library!

Noura Khodor, 23, Al-Kouweichra
Noura creates handmade decorative candles of all shapes and sizes, for all occasions!

Rana Mouhammad, 29, Ayyat-Akkar
Rana would like to open a Beauty Center.

Samira Mansour, 55, Kfar Habou
Samira’s tried and tested technique for homemade olive oil and olive soap production is something she wants to take to the next level and expand her existing business.

Joumana Saiid, 30, Aydamoun-Halba|
Joumana identified a real-need for a Women-only Health Center in her community.

Lamia Sawan, 59, Kfar Habou
Lamia’s love for the arts inspired her to want to open an artisana shop in Lebanon to showcase locally made handmade crafts.

Najwa Zaydan, 39, Nahr El Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp
Bridal and Baby One-Stop Shop is Najwa’s idea for business success!

Check out the map below to see where our participants are from in Northern Lebanon!

Goodbye for now

The activity in my arts and crafts class was simple; to write and/or draw a picture about your favorite memory from these past two and half months. As I saw my students writing about the time we made paper lamps for Ramadan, new friends, water balloons, and pool day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how important this experience has been to me and how I just can’t seem to shake the perpetual pit I’ve had in my stomach about leaving so soon.

Nearly three months ago I said goodbye to my family and boarded a plane with a certain amount of excitement and trepidation for a new and often misunderstood place, a new adventure. Although I had never been to the Middle East, I immediately feel in love with the resilient and vibrant spirit of the Nabulsi people. From the first week onwards, life has moved at an extraordinarily fast pace with little time to process.

But in this short time I have seen my students take leaps and bounds in developing their confidence and personality. One student, Aya, came into class the first two weeks and sat down with her head on the table. She was silent, upset, and refused to participate in many of the activities. Eight weeks later, I am bound to find Aya attached at the hips of a new group of girlfriends from a different neighborhood, coming to class early to practice her numbers in English with me, and standing in front of her peers to present her art projects with a shy but steady smile. What is even more encouraging is that Aya’s story does not stand by itself but is representative of TYO’s impact on the children who participate in its programs. Throughout these 8 weeks, I have heard similar stories repeated time and time again from my other interns; it’s one song I will never get sick of listening to.

My students and the intern program has challenged me to grown in new ways both personally and professionally. The lessons learned, stories I have had the privilege to hear, and experiences I have shared with my fellow interns will stay with me wherever I go.

Until I’m back in Nablus…ma’a salama.