Making Friends

As a way to end the summer session, Samin and I combined our classes together to discuss the friendships we’ve made at TYO. We began by playing a video story of the popular and beloved book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. As the video played, we stopped periodically for translation from our translators Yazid and Refiq. Samin and I were amazed at how much the children enjoyed the story!

Afterward, we led a discussion about the story and its meaning. One student said, “the boy kept using the tree until it was naked”. Another said that a friendship shouldn’t be like that. Instead, it should be about equal giving and taking from both sides. Samin and I were so impressed by how engaged the children were throughout the story and what conclusions they were able to draw from it.

We asked if anyone had made a new friend this session and they all raised their hands “Ah! Ah!”. They had made friends from other neighborhoods and refugee camps. To remember the new friends we made, all of our students made friendship bracelets to exchange with one another. And the next day at the pool, we spotted all of our students still wearing their friendship bracelets, showing us with pride.

As our last days are coming to an end, I had a chance to think about all of the friends I have made during my time here as an intern. Women like Jenan, Lina, Hanin, and Raja, students like Layal, Safa, Qais, and Maha, and volunteers like Doha, Zaki, and Yazid and Tamam. I’ve also made friends at Hajjawi, Cinema City, and the juice shop, some of our favorite places in Nablus. The greatest gift I received during my time here is the opportunity to call these Palestinians my friends.


Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus. 


Friends in high places

Once upon a time there were seven TYO summer interns living on a hill in Nablus, Palestine…….

I have had a chance to get to know more and more about my fellow interns due to living on-site together. Nearly two months since we started working and living together, I thought I’d share what I have learned about their personalities thus far.

Tala is the kind of person you need around after a long day. She is a human jukebox who can burst into song for no reason and with no provocation. I can’t tell you how many times she has started singing a song that I haven’t heard in more than a decade, or even know at all. Tala herself is like a song that I can’t get out of my head. In a good way.

Alex is obviously very passionate about politics and the Middle East. She is one of my go to people when we are out and someone is speaking to me in Arabic and I’m confused. I can definitely count on her to help me out. I’m sure that Alex will continue to do great work in the Middle East and I look forward to hearing about her future adventures.

Cate is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met but she is no push over! She is incredibly honest and sincere in all of her words and actions. I love seeing Cate with her Arts and Crafts Class students because it’s obvious that they love her so much and that they make her happy to be teaching them. Nothing cheers me up more than one of Cate’s stories about the cute things her students did that day.

Samin is just hilarious. I love love love her sense of humour and often fall into laughing fits that ends with coughing and crying, I can’t eat around her, but it’s so worth it. Samin also tells it like it is and I really appreciate her honesty. She also talks in a baby voice when looking at photos of her nieces and nephews on her computer. It’s priceless.

Amy is my rock on tough days. She just listens when I need her too and doesn’t brush off my concerns even when they are a little bit silly. Amy is a fan of the “funny cat video” genre of film that can be found on YouTube. I get a kick out of seeing her giggle at her computer because I know that’s what she is watching.

I have been lucky to spend the last two months living and working with this group of extraordinary, hilarious and talented people. I will be sad to say goodbye to everyone when our internship ends but we are already talking about having our 10-year TYO Intern Reunion in the new city if Rawabi!

– Megan

Megan is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Intern Journal: Lessons from Suhad

In my art and storytelling class Tuesday I asked the children to draw a person important to them for the last 30 minutes of class. I figured this would be a simple way to learn a little more about them, since speaking in front of the group has been a tough sell. I learned, though, that there is a lot more to discover from “simple” drawings than I expected.

As I walked around the room, asking each student, “meen had?” (Who is it?), I came upon a drawing that would cause uproar at a school in the States: a person with a gun. Two of the boys in my class had drawn people in their life that were killed. Saed told me that the person he drew was his friend who had been outside school when he fell down and died. The image didn’t surprise me at a logical level—I knew that this is a common experience for these kids whose childhood is defined by the 2nd Intifada. Yet I froze, because I did not want to display my own emotions in a way that would make Saed upset. So I responded to his picture the same as any of the other images.

The next day I visited Suhad, our psychosocial specialist, to discuss what types of questions I could have asked of this child to allow him the chance to share and also validate his feelings. I learned from her that I could have asked more questions of all of the children’s drawings, whether they depicted a soccer player, a dead friend, a friend or myself. Because I underestimated the depth of the activity, I had stuck to the simple question of “who,” and neglected the highly important question of “why?”

As Suhad sifted through the drawings that I had collected, she pointed out many details I had not picked out before. For instance, from the fact that Ayasar drew buttons and an orderly outfit, Suhad guessed that he is one of the more mature students. Why, though, she asked, did he make one of the person’s shoes a different color? Does his mom sometimes forget to wash his sock? Does he know someone whose leg has been amputated? Maybe it means something entirely different, but certainly I could have asked him why he drew it that way. Or I could have asked some of the kids why their drawings didn’t have a mouth, or had blonde hair. Suhad advised me that for now, I need to concentrate on creating the space for the children to share with me as individuals. Later, they will be more comfortable sharing with the group.

One of my goals as an educator is to encourage children to analyze what they see and hear beyond the surface story. I, too, need to learn to find the multiple layers of meanings behind everything the children do. Language is never innocent, as critical literacy scholars say: it is laden with people’s experiences and perspectives. The same goes for kids’ drawings.


Kara is an intern at TYO Nablus and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.