Intern Journal: Multi-generational programming

The soundtrack to my yoga class differs from any I’ve been in before. Many of the women participating in the class are mothers and some of them bring their children with them when they come to yoga. So in addition to audible deep breaths in and out, I can also hear infants gurgling or the pattering of toddlers’ feet as I guide the class through forward bends, standing poses, and twists.

The yoga room offers just one view of the multi-generational environment at TYO. The Core Child Program consists of health, art, sports, and technology classes for 4 to 8 year-olds, but early childhood education is not the only site of learning here. This session I and another intern teach classes in art and drama for 9-12 year-olds, while two former interns are leading a mural painting and photography project with 12-15 year-olds. The volunteers who assist in our classes are local students from An-Najah University. And just this week 25 women began orientation for a economic empowerment project started by TYO.

As an organization, TYO itself is still in its infancy, having started just 2 years ago. Its ability to offer programs and involvement to community members of all ages creates the unique setting where at any moment I can ask advice from an older staff member, hear about growing up during the second intifada from someone my age, or smile at the sight of small children sliding across the marble-like floor of the main hall. When I asked Chelsey, the program coordinator from Maine, if TYO anticipated the young students in my class eventually becoming volunteer assistants, she told me that in her mind TYO will be a success when a child who completed the core program becomes the center director. What a positive vision for tomorrow’s youth!


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

TYO Celebrates International Children’s Day

Yesterday, TYO celebrated United Nations’ International Children’s Day. About 200 community members, including children and parents, came to TYO’s Open Day to enjoy an exciting array of activities, including art and sports activities, face painting and debka.

A special thanks to all the  TYO volunteers who did an incredible job orchestrating the day and leading activities.

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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.

Intern Journal: Small Steps, Positive Change

After reading Chelsey’s blog entry yesterday, I wondered about my own effectiveness but was given an early morning example of the effectiveness of TYO’s unique approach to education.

As usual, I had a few early arrivals for my 10:30 a.m. sports class and I realized that my classroom equipment was not in proper order. Knowing the boys would be coming soon, I asked one of the early boys, ten-year-old Mo’min, and his eleven-year-old big brother to help organize the tangled jump ropes, hula hoops, balls and cones. I started the task with them and then I realized that I had forgotten to go over some logistical details with an administrator downstairs. Leaving them alone for only five minutes, I came back to find that they had continued with the work and had put all of the items in their respective places, tucking everything neatly into the corner.

It might be considered a small behavioral change, but it is something I never would have imagined two months ago when my rambunctious boys ran in to a neat room and grabbed any and every toy they could while screaming on the first day of classes. But, after developing a set of classroom rules with the students’ input and critiquing their behavior during supervised play, they have begun to realize the value of structure. They spend less time quarreling over minute details and more time enjoying their activities.

Even more important than that is the increased group cohesiveness. At the beginning of the summer, the boys often limited their interactions to their brothers and cousins, never really bothering to play with the other boys. Splitting up these small social units proved difficult and would often lead to complaints, but it is now a simpler process to divide the boys into groups and teams, an indication that they are less reliant on comfortable relationships, and more willing to accept others.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the problems these boys face when they leave TYO and head to their homes. However, we have to accept that there are no miracles and that we have to hope that the changes we impress upon them will pervade their everyday lives in a positive manner. And this is something that I have seen, something that has proven effective.


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