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

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.

Field Trip to the Park with the Core Program!

Last Thursday, the Core Teachers skipped TYO’s building and went straight to the park with their students. It’s was a beautiful day and end to a long week, so we all decided the kids could use some fun in the sun. They played on the swings, jumped around in the sand, and got some exercise. And, we ran around taking pictures of their experience. Here are some of them!

“I’m so happy here! This is the first time I’ve been to a park!” said Sadeel, a 4-year-old. Sadeel wasn’t the only one who was new to the playful park experience. Some of the children weren’t sure what to do. Maid, for example, refused to play because he wasn’t sure what to do at a park until another child, Nihad, came to play with and help Maid. It’s great seeing the kids caring for each other, trying new things, and have fun!

The kids loved to role play on the playground. Here is a little girl driving!

We ended the day with some face painting. Kids requested flowers, butterflies, lions, cats, and even the TYO building! Eventually, the hours passed and it was time to go but the kids all expressed their excitement about another field trip to the park. It was a great day for the Core Program!


Suhad is the Psychosocial Program Manager.

Diving Headfirst into Summer

The Core Program revitalized the building here in Nablus last week. The voices, cheer, excitement, and sheer wonder breathed air into the lungs of TYO. Their arrival marks only the beginning of our summer programming, however. This week, we’re back in rhythm and jumping right into a full schedule of classes and projects.

Of course, we’ve got a whole bunch of fresh faces in the building. A new crop of great interns has arrived, and having spent the past ten days or so orienting and acclimating, eyes wide and ears open, the seven of them are ready for business. They are eager and rearing to get started, teaching a wide scope of courses from nutritious cooking and women’s fitness to photography and critical thinking. They’re a diverse and talented group about to set off on an amazing journey. It looks to be another great session.

Today, we launched the first of our summer Field Days, effectively taking the TYO show on the road and out into the neighborhoods of the people we have served here at the TYO Center for the past three and a half years. Pulling together a dream team of sorts, including Core Program teachers, international interns, staff members, and university-student volunteers, we’ll be traveling throughout the summer to all the refugee camps of Nablus (as well as the Old City) to offer two hours of fun programming, every Monday, for all those children that might not be fortunate enough to attend TYO from week to week. The first day at Askar Refugee camp was great fun, allowing us to reach nearly two hundred new children and spread the TYO message far and wide.

In June, six university students from Students of the World (SOW) will join us in Nablus.  Their national team, volunteer film crew, comprised of members from universities across the United States, will spend a month with us in Nablus, documenting our new activities and foundational programs. (Check it out: SOW’s NYU chapter spent June 2009 with us and produced this wonderful video.) We are absolutely thrilled to have SOW back in the building.

The TYO-MEPI literacy program completed five trainings this month on a variety of topics, including Scholastic’s My Arabic library, leadership, volunteerism, education, and civic engagement. The program’s volunteer corps grew by an additional fifteen local volunteers and seven international interns. This summer, they will teach 220 children (ages 6 -12) how to read.

Triple Exposure is snapping away, homework help is packed four days a week, and the Midnight Football League is rocking out three nights a week. The soccer league added in two new age groups, including a mix-gendered league for the seven to ten year-olds of Khallet al-Amood. Maybe the next Mia Hamm is in our midst…

Busy times here in Nablus! And following all our May planning, it feels great to have the beating heart of the community back  in the building.

Photo of the Day: Spring Session Begins!

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been very busy gearing up for our Spring 2011 Session which begins today!  Programs you’ve been reading about like our MEPI literacy collaboration and International Internship Program have taken large strides in the weeks since the beginning of the year and are blazing full speed ahead into what will surely be a stellar and innovative spring!

Today we begin again! Morning and Afternoon Core Programs! Women’s Class! New Volunteers and Interns! Creative arts programming! You should stay tuned, you don’t want to miss a thing. 🙂

Photo of the Day: “I don’t like violence, do you?”

This dynamic poster has “I don’t like violence, do you?” written at its top followed by over 100 hands and names. It was created by our Summer 2010 Core Program participants in Health class. This summer, Health teacher Ahmad focused on conflict resolution skills in his classroom. The children spoke of conflicts they have faced at home or at school, how these the conflicts made them feel and how they resolved them. Following several weeks of discussion, each child traced and colored their hand on this poster and pledged not to use their hands in violent or aggressive ways. This poster is a testament to their commitment and strength. Bravo!

Former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe vists TYO Nablus

On Wednesday, July 21, 2010, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy visited the TYO Center in Nablus with TYO Founder and President Hani Masri. Their time in Nablus included a tour of the TYO Center, Nablus’s Old City, An-Najah National University, Balata Refugee Camp, and the Samaritan village above Nablus.

The day’s discussions included the experiences and aspirations of the young Palestinian women and young Americans working at TYO. Several  participants in TYO’s women entrepreneurship project shared their business plans with Terry. TYO’s American staff and volunteers, including Terry’s son Jack, who was just finishing two weeks as a volunteer at TYO Nablus, shared their impressions of the city of Nablus, focusing on the incomparable hospitality they’ve experienced since their arrival and the reward of directly engaging with Nablus residents of all backgrounds.

Terry toured the TYO Center with several TYO team members and had an opportunity to speak to our Core Program participants in computer class. Additionally, he had the opportunity to step into a workshop for our Core Program teachers on healing anxiety and psychological trauma led by James Gordon, MD, Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

Before reaching the TYO Center, the group took a tour of Nablus’ Old City were they were immersed in the local wonders, including the 130 year old Touqan soap factory and the Brik spice shop.