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.

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The spaces between hello and goodbye

The spring session came to a swift end (I suppose that is always how things end, isn’t it? No slow-mo montages like in the movies, no lengthy, profundity-laced embraces accompanied by a melodramatic musical score), a whirlwind of goodbyes, celebrations both happy and melancholic, early morning flights back stateside, and a constant reaching and searching for words that would always be inadequate in describing what the past three months have meant to us all. The world keeps on spinning without asking our approval, and we all have to roll on with it. Such is a reality no philosopher or theologian or clever songwriter has satisfyingly retorted or provided an alternative course of action for. However, even though time and space shifts for one and all alike, no matter where we go or what we do, I think I can speak for all the spring interns in saying that our time together with TYO Nablus will bond us indelibly, both to one another and to this city. It was a wonderful time, a foundational time.

Pardon me, the reverie and reflection, yet I want to convey just what the program at TYO has come to mean to those who have passed through. Seminal might be a good word. So thank you, for everyone that has made this program possible.

As for the here and now, well, I’m back to Nablus for another few months to help with the launching of our summer camp. Being back in town also means I can continue the Midnight Football League that Adam and I organized over March and April.

For the summer, we will be expanding the program to new age groups, starting a youth academy for the young lads and lasses just getting their feet wet in the sport, and also opening up the senior league to as many new recruits as Khallet al-Amood can provide us. I can’t wait to get started, and will be sure to keep you all informed of the league’s comings and goings via these posts, new photos, and even video footage. Action will kick off again this week.

Oh, and big ups to Bayern Munich for winning the Cup Championship two weeks ago! Great leadership from their captain Ameed Bawab set the tone, and they delivered quality performance after quality performance across the tournament. Congratulations should also be extended to Arsenal for winning the League Championship (best Regular season record) and to Sameh Kharoshe for taking home the League’s Golden Boot award (top scorer).

I’ll be writing again soon. Until then, folks, stay fly.

– Colin

Colin is a former intern and currently the Youth Camp Coordinator.

Intern Journal: Do Whatchya Wanna!

There aren’t too many jobs in the world where people ask their boss if they can take on more work, and she readily allows it.  As TYO interns, we are not only allowed to develop projects of our own, but are encouraged to do so!  We’ve come as interns, recent graduates, and young professionals.   We will leave (not too soon, thankfully) as coaches, teachers, artists, and league commissioners.

Having received my work assignment by e-mail before heading to Palestine, I worried about all the blank spaces that pocketed my class schedule.  In order to preempt what I was sure would be long lazy days, I packed a bag full of epic novels and slung my travel guitar over my shoulder.  By the time I left in April, I was sure that I would be not only incredibly well-read but also be ready to take on the open-mic circuit.  Six weeks in and I’ve only barely put a dent in my bookshelf while the guitar has collected more dust here than it does at home!

So where does all that time go?  Everywhere, and anywhere!

Since our first day of orientation, we have been encouraged to take ownership of our classes and our role as interns.  The four of us newbies were each shown an empty classroom, and told to make it our own.  We were given basic class outlines, and instructed to devise curricula.  We were introduced to our volunteers, and encouraged to develop friendships.

What we were never asked to do was take on an extra piano class, start a soccer league, make connections in the community, or finish a mural.  But all of this, and more, has happened.

Too many people go to work each day only to go home again at night.  They do nothing that isn’t explicitly asked of them, contribute comparatively little to their employing organization and are bound by rigid, though often abstract, responsibilities and expectations.

What a treat it is to work here at TYO amongst an incredible group of people, striving to fulfill and incredible mission, with an incredible amount of support on so many levels.

When Leila’s piano class overflowed with students the first few weeks, she decided to add a second class.  I’m not entirely sure if she ever asked permission, or just did it, but either way, it’s happening, and that many more kids are getting that much more exposure to the beautiful world of music education.

Through his Big Brother course, Colin quickly recognized that the local youth are deprived of opportunities for socially-productive physical exercise.  So, he went about writing a proposal for a soccer league.  Volunteer Coordinator Ahmad has helped secure translators for the league, Outreach Coordinator Futoon helped recruit kids, Sports Teacher Haitham has generously loaned us equipment, Intern Coordinator Chelsey has provided all the support in the world and Center Director Humaira signed off on our procurement form for two new soccer balls, without which the league would be a mere mirage!

A few weeks ago, Humaira was overheard musing about how she wished that the mural outside was finished.  Without delay, Chelsey organized an impromptu lesson in mural-making from the art teacher, Rimach.  By the time the weekend rolled around our fingertips were cut to pieces and our skin felt like lizard hide.  However, the long stagnant mural was finally completed and we all got a little bit more Vitamin-D, from working outside, then we have in weeks past!

The cut fingers has made it tricky to play music, but who has time for that when I could be reviewing reports with Ahmad or helping Core Child Teacher Maram write her weekly update in English!  Reading is more tactually possible but there’s always the volunteer who’s anxious for a guitar lesson or Facilities Assistant Um Ibrahim who’s ready to chat, nevermind that she and I share no more than four words in any given language!

But then again, at then end of the day, when lesson plans are finished and my computer is turned off, I’m free to lie on the couch and reflect, watch year old episodes of Treme in lieu of attending Mardi Gras, or just stand outside and wonder whether the beautiful mountainside is real, or merely a Hollywood backdrop.

If you’re ever bored here at TYO you could always ask someone if they need help with anything, or, then again, you could just do whatchya wanna!