Midterm Impact Report, Summer 2009

Midterm Impact Report, Summer 2009 Session

During the fifth week of our summer programs, a letter was sent home with a random sample of 20 Morning Core Program participants inviting their parents to attend a discussion. TYO Psychosocial Specialist Suhad Jabi facilitated a focus group later that week with five mothers and one father of ten TYO participants.  The focus group was an open discussion in which the parents introduced themselves and discussed their level of satisfaction with the program, changes in their children’s behavior and suggestions for future program development.  Suhad described the conversation as enthusiastic, lively and organic.  The following Midterm Impact Report was compiled from testimonies given by those parents.

TYO compares initial, midterm and final parent surveys and focus groups 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.  Please check back later this week for our Final Impact Report for the summer session.  The full text of the midterm report and past reports can be found in the Results section of our homepage.

After four weeks of the program, we see concrete and significant change in many of our children, especially in the following areas:

-    Age-appropriate sociability with peers and adults,
-    Appropriate behavior (including the disappearance of bed wetting problems),
-    Improved vocabulary and increased vocalization and self-esteem

Abu Sami, father of Gofran, age 4, Balata refugee camp
My daughter, Gofran, used to be selfish—wanting everything in her hands. She never shared and was aggressive with her siblings. My children would always fight and there was never any peace in our home.  Despite my encouragement, they never managed their studies well. Now, Gofran is more cooperative and less aggressive.  I see her respecting other children and finishing her tasks with more care. She is outspoken and shares stories with me about her classroom and her teacher Rana [TYO’s art teacher.]  She told me that when she is upset she wants to talk to Rana about her anger. She no longer has nightmares.

Om Ehab, mother of twins Sadeel and Sandee, age 5, Askar refugee camp
Both Sandeel and Sandee have bed-wetting problems.  During their first session [at TYO], the problem decreased to around three times a week.  After the first week of this session, they both stopped completely. My daughters are happier and cooperate with each other much better. They are always talking about their teacher Rana [TYO’s art teacher.]

Om Mohammad, mother of Mohammad, age 5, Khallet al-Amood
My son used to be a rude child.  He created many problems in the neighborhood.  He was difficult to talk with and aggressive.  He is a tough kid. I have always been a bit surprised that TYO doesn’t send him home.  Many times I have wanted to visit the TYO Center, but I do not come because I am afraid that I will hear the staff complaining about my son. I am very satisfied with the program.  Now, Mohammed is better in every category.  He has become polite, much calmer and sweet.  He is more expressive and articulate about his ideas. Sometimes I cannot believe I am talking with a five-year-old kid.

A Conversation over Tea

“She returns from school in hurry, puts her bag aside, asks for a small snack and runs out the door and saying, ‘I am TYO!’”

Sundos’ father said, explaining his daughter’s behavior since enjoying Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Sundos’ mom added that they used to spoil Sundos. She described the way Sundos used to cry about everything, isolate herself from her peers and never display interest or enthusiasm.

“After my older daughter’s death in a car accident, my husband and I became very protective. We were scared to let our kids go anywhere alone—even to school,” her mother explained.

“When TYO first opened across the street from where we live, we did not believe that such a huge, fancy building would be available to the children of our neighborhood,” said Sundos’ mom.

Having the Center in Khallet al-Amood helps not just Sundos but her entire family to recover from the loss of a child. As Sundos becomes more engaged and motivated through her time at TYO her parents have learned to trust her. “I am not worried anymore about my daughter crossing the street alone, or going out with her friends,” said Sundos’ mom. “I can now watch my daughter grow up without being overprotective, so thank you for giving me hope to a become a better mother.”

This conversation took place between TYO Sports teacher Haitham and Sundos’s parents, who all live in the Khallet al-Amood neighborhood.  The piece was adapted to English from an original story written by Haitham, in Arabic, about the importance of his work.

The Wall and Efficacy

Last Saturday, I met with a few friends in the Old City for brunch.  Hopped up on Arabic coffee and delicious salads, we shared our respective lives.  They were interning at a research NGO in Haifa for the summer and I have lived in Nablus now for over a year.  The conversation slipped in and out of lessons past, stories told, politics and love both revisited, and work—typical brunch talk for a group of women in their mid to late twenties.  Mostly, the conversation revolved around how the latter influences the former in a constant juggling act of our personal and professional lives.

About an hour into brunch, one of my friends threw her hands up in the air, anticipating the weight of her statement, and said, “I just want to take a survey of every NGO/nonprofit worker in Israel and Palestine. I bet you none of them would describe their work as effective.” Silence lingered for a few minutes after her statement. We sipped our coffee. It was true–everyone has thought this. We file press releases hoping someone will cover our announcement. We write proposals reaching out for someone to hear our call to action. We provide children with safe spaces to assuage their trauma. We envision a better world for the people of this region and all those who engage with it. At the same time, we watch homes demolished in East Jerusalem, television programming with questionably racist commercials and children board buses that will take them back to unsafe homes. We work amidst a protracted conflict with diligence, yet all too often waning optimism. We come up against a solid wall.

The next day, my friends came by the TYO Center. I greeted them at the door and offered them a tour of our facilities.  We observed two of the morning program classes: 4- and 5- year old children engrossed in the imagination stations that make up the corners of their holistic classrooms.  In one corner, a falafel stand with one child pretending to make falafel and two others playing the salivating customers; in another corner, three children were meticulously building Lego structures, carefully placing each piece where they envision it in their minds. We opened the adjacent door, peering into the TYO computer lab—a group of twenty women were engaged in a computer literacy course.  Later on in our tour we found another group of twenty women upstairs partaking in an aerobics class. We climbed the stairs to find a second floor of activity as children busied themselves in the art, science and sports classes provided by some of our summer interns.

We had coffee on the top floor, chatted a bit more and said our goodbyes.  On our walk down to the exit, we saw that two of the interns had combined their classes to play with the parachute in the atrium.  Laughter, shouts and the rustling of a parachute echoed through the big hall.

Recently, we have had a lot of visitors in Nablus. Thus, it was no surprise when later that day one of the interns asked me to speak to two of her visiting friends.  I answered their questions on the beginnings of the organization, the current program and our hopes for the future.  I clarified information about the situation in Nablus itself. Once again silence lingered over the conversation. I assured them that this city, region, life are far too much to take in over the course of one day.  Let it marinate.  One of her friends placed the palms of her hands over her temples and pushed them along her face the way I often do when I am overwhelmed or stressed. Why do you do it? How do you do it? How can you live here?  The questions came out of her as though they were a force of nature beyond her control.

“I do it…because it is effective.”

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Kunafa Festival

All of Nablus and the West Bank had been abuzz with excitement for weeks prior to the event: the preparation and unveiling of the world’s largest kunafa! Kunafa is a deliciously sweet cheese-based dessert, popular all over the Arab world but an acknowledged specialty of Nablus. The TYO staff and interns can’t get enough of it, and with our sweet teeth leading the way, Saturday morning Shahla and I joined the thousands of visitors from the cities and villages of the West Bank and even Israel to pay witness to this overgrown dessert. Since we could not get close enough to snap a photo, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves:

170 bakers
10 pastry shops
75 meters long
2 meters wide
700 kilograms of flour
700 kilograms of cheese
300 kilograms of sugar
300 kilograms of paste
35 kilograms of pistachios
6 tins of cooking fat

While the city square is normally home to shoppers and families visiting the clothing shops, falafel stands, pastry shops, and my favorite: The Fruit Market of Sweet Satisfaction, it was thrilling to be among an expectantly waiting crowd of many times the usual size!

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The day was particularly joyful for local Nabulsi vendors, who I’m sure relished the business that poured in from all the visiting kunafa fans! Shown here is one of the ever-quirky date juice vendors, complete with his costume and juice contraption.

The day was particularly joyful for local Nabulsi vendors, who I’m sure relished the business that poured in from all the visiting kunafa fans! Shown here is one of the ever-quirky date juice vendors, complete with his costume and juice contraption.

Walking around, fellow intern Shahla and I had the pleasure of encountering two TYO families: girls and their mothers from Margaret’s dance and aerobics classes. They were so enthusiastic, both to see us and for this momentous day for Nablus. It was a day of great pride for Nabulsis and Palestinians, and the international press paid attention! BBC News reported on the event, further adding to the positive international news coverage that Nablus has received in the past week.

Be it a new movie theater, a giant kunafa, or consecutive games of “Thumbs Up Seven Up” in my sports and games class, Nabulsis have shown themselves to be more than ready to find joy in opportunities for lighthearted fun.
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TYO Open Day!

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On Friday, 1 May 2009 Tomorrow’s Youth Organization hosted an Open Day at its Center in Nablus. All members of the Nablus community were invited to attend.  About 150 people, including children and parents, experienced an exciting array of activities offered by TYO, including art and sports activities, while enjoying a fun outing together. TYO Health Teacher Ahmad Hanani hosted many patients from the Thalassemia Society to promote healthy socialization and community awareness. Additionally, TYO hosted a debkah group from Beit Furik village. And, as always, TYO volunteers played a key role by contributing assistance to the teachers and selling their own handicrafts as a small fundraiser.

TYO is grateful to the National Beverage Company who generously donated juice boxes and water bottles to keep the crowd happy and hydrated!

Thank you to everyone who attended this wonderful day!

Read more to see more pictures from Open Day.

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TYO partners with National Children’s Museum in Washington, DC

TYO is excited to announce a new partnership with the National Children’s Museum (NCM), based in Washington DC. The partnership is based on the organizations’ shared interest in engaging and empowering children. NCM, like TYO, offers educational and recreational activities for children and families that inspire curiosity, eagerness to connect with others, and drive to help, as they learn more about their world.

Based on this common passion, we know that the TYO-NCM partnership will be productive and long-lasting! For now, our cooperation will include training of TYO staff and interns, particularly in NCM’s family literacy methods and materials. Our newest staff member, Robyn Holley, had the chance to attend one such event before she left Washington DC last week! She enjoyed the training, and confirmed that the creative, yet simple, NCM programs will be very transferable to Nablus. We know from experience that the ideas contained in the Family Literacy programs are very much needed and wanted in Nablus!

The second major component of the cooperation is the multimedia exhibit that an international intern will curate this summer in Nablus. She will gather a range of art created by TYO participants of all ages, and bring it back to the Washington, DC area for display in the NCM Launch Zone, as well as NCM partner schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland and elsewhere around the country. The exhibit will serve as a way for kids in the US to gain a direct perspective on the feelings, identities, tastes and talents of their peers in Nablus. Hopefully, a later phase of this initiative will include a similar exhibit created by American children that can be displayed at the TYO Center in Nablus.

Photo of the Day

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TYO Volunteers prepare flowers for their mothers before TYO’s Mother’s Day Celebration on March 21, 2009.

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