Flower Habibis

colorful sea scenes

The second week of our Ramadan arts course revolved around the theme of nature – from the sea, to the land, to the sky. We asked the kids, ages 4 and 5, to demonstrate how plants grow. And they showed us step by step – digging the hole, planting the seed, adding water and the rays of the sun, sprouting and slowly growing till we all were trees swaying in the breeze, arms aloft.

planting flowers

We then put these ideas into action, planting flowers along the entrance of the TYO center. The children loved digging about and watering the plants, seeing their efforts leave something beautiful to brighten up the way into TYO for everyone that comes here.

The houses and multi-story apartments in this neighbourhood (Khallet al-Amood) are built close together, rising vertically up the hillside, with unforgiving steps replacing streets between the densely populated homes. Thanks both to the geography and to urban planning, they rarely have gardens, so a flower-planting activity is a great opportunity for the kids to get their hands dirty, learn a little more about nature and see how we can brighten up even inner city environments.

The next day we moved onto painting. After some butterfly themed stories and games with core teachers Jawad and Haitham, the children painted half a butterfly, folding it in half to print the same colourful pattern on the opposite wing. Each symmetrical creation was unique, bringing joy to the kids as they saw through each step to make their own butterflies and take them home to show all the family.

butterflies / flutter byes

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Racing the Planet for TYO – $25k in 25 days

In just over a month, TYO friend Usama Malik will race through the Sahara Desert for seven days to raise funds for TYO!  During the race, he will cover an amazing 250 km/156 miles of desert sand while facing temperatures up to 122°F.  The Sahara Race is part of the 4Deserts series, which TIME magazine has named one of the Top 10 Endurance Competitions in the world.

Want to ensure that Usama’s incredible feat translates into meaningful programs for some of the Middle East’s most marginalized populations? Join the Racing the Planet for TYO campaign.

The Start of the Sahara Race

From September 1st to September 25th, people across the globe will Adopt, Join, and Mobilize the miles of Usama’s race to raise $25k in 25 days.  By participating in the campaign, you can help make sure that the race has the biggest possible impact on the children, youth, women, and parents that TYO serves.

Choose a race track:

  • ADOPT A MILE.  Adopt one of Usama’s 250 km /156 miles by donating at least $100.  For more information, read How to: Adopt a Mile.
  • JOIN A MILE.  Join one of Usama’s miles by raising at least $100 and moving a mile with him.  You choose how you move (run, hopscotch, skip, or jumprope, to name a few) and who you ask to sponsor you.  You’ll get a personal project page on Crowdrise to spread the word about your mile among your friends and family.  For instructions on joining a mile and resources for sponsors, read How to: Join a Mile.
  • MOBILIZE A MILE.  Mobilize one of Usama’s miles by moving a mile with at least 5 people to raise at least $500.  This is a great option for student groups, community organizations, or individuals who want to get really involved.  You can choose to keep your event low-key or make it big and public.  Your team will get a personal project page on Crowdrise to spread the word about your event.  For instructions on mobilizing a mile and resources to help you organize larger events, read How to: Mobilize a Mile.

Want to make an off-track donation?  We welcome them too! Just check out How to: Adopt a Mile for detailed donation instructions.  Gifts of every shape and size will help us raise $25k in 25 days.

To learn more about the Racing the Planet for TYO campaign, check out our Crowdrise Project Page.

The Sahara Race

Introducing TYO’s First Fellows

TYO welcomes Clare and Karen to the Nablus Center.  They come to TYO as recipients of the Princeton University ReachOut 1956-81 International Fellowship, an alumni-funded grant awarded to a graduating senior (or pair of seniors) pursuing an international service project.  The ReachOut Fellowship enables graduates to leave a lasting impact on some of the world’s most marginalized communities.  Over the course of the coming year, Clare and Karen will work on many projects, including the design and implementation of community needs assessments, a social media strategy, fundraising campaigns, and local and international outreach strategies.  They will also teach classes to youth and mothers.  A brief introduction from each follows

Clare Herceg

About Clare:

A government-sponsored trip to Egypt during high school first drew me to the Middle East.  It was there that I heard Arab perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time.  I left Egypt with a desire to learn Arabic, so that I could better understand these opinions from people themselves, as opposed to relying solely on the American media.  At Princeton, I immersed myself in Near Eastern studies courses in politics and history, striving to better understand both sides of the conflict and the extent of the American involvement in it.  Regional study-abroad experiences in Amman and Cairo supplemented these studies.  I also explored my interest in education policy by taking classes on the achievement gap and race relations, while complementing these courses with teaching in a local prison.

TYO has given me an incredible opportunity to combine my interest in education with my desire to serve Palestinian refugees.  I am already impressed by the sheer volume of its programming and the emphasis placed on monitoring and improving its programs to ensure that it continues to effectively meet community needs.  I hope that this fellowship allows me to better understand the effects of the Occupation on Palestinians and to serve this community in a meaningful and lasting way.  When I look at the beaming faces of the children as they rush into the TYO Center, I know that for now, this is exactly where I want to be.

 

About Karen:

Karen Campion

A bit of hubris, combined with the conviction that current U.S.-Middle East relations were based on a set of serious misunderstandings, led me to Arabic 101 during my first semester of college. I quickly discovered how little I knew about the region, and I became more determined than ever to develop a nuanced understanding of its societies, politics, and people.  The following year, I helped coordinate a conference that brought Arab and U.S. college students together to discuss relations between the United States and the Arab world.  There, I learned that U.S. policies towards Israel and Palestinians were a very real source of anger and frustration in the Arab world.  Moreover, as I studied the conflict itself, I began to appreciate the devastating impact that conflict and occupation have had on  individuals and communities alike.

In the last three weeks, I have already witnessed the power of TYO, where friendships, field trips, and classroom activities allow individuals to learn about themselves and each other in profoundly new ways.  I am honored and excited by the chance to be a part of this joyful and transformative community in the coming year.

Goodbye for now

The activity in my arts and crafts class was simple; to write and/or draw a picture about your favorite memory from these past two and half months. As I saw my students writing about the time we made paper lamps for Ramadan, new friends, water balloons, and pool day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how important this experience has been to me and how I just can’t seem to shake the perpetual pit I’ve had in my stomach about leaving so soon.

Nearly three months ago I said goodbye to my family and boarded a plane with a certain amount of excitement and trepidation for a new and often misunderstood place, a new adventure. Although I had never been to the Middle East, I immediately feel in love with the resilient and vibrant spirit of the Nabulsi people. From the first week onwards, life has moved at an extraordinarily fast pace with little time to process.

But in this short time I have seen my students take leaps and bounds in developing their confidence and personality. One student, Aya, came into class the first two weeks and sat down with her head on the table. She was silent, upset, and refused to participate in many of the activities. Eight weeks later, I am bound to find Aya attached at the hips of a new group of girlfriends from a different neighborhood, coming to class early to practice her numbers in English with me, and standing in front of her peers to present her art projects with a shy but steady smile. What is even more encouraging is that Aya’s story does not stand by itself but is representative of TYO’s impact on the children who participate in its programs. Throughout these 8 weeks, I have heard similar stories repeated time and time again from my other interns; it’s one song I will never get sick of listening to.

My students and the intern program has challenged me to grown in new ways both personally and professionally. The lessons learned, stories I have had the privilege to hear, and experiences I have shared with my fellow interns will stay with me wherever I go.

Until I’m back in Nablus…ma’a salama.


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

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus. 

The Man Behind the Wheel

The view of Munir we see most often...

“Marhabaaaaa! Keifik?” Every time we climb into Munir’s spotlessly clean taxi we are welcomed by this cheery greeting as he, always the gentleman, holds the door open for us. “My favorite part of driving is talking to the interns,” he said. “Americans are always happy, and they always like to talk.” This may not be news to anyone who has experienced Americans abroad, but neither is Munir’s genuine interest in our lives surprising to me, as this open friendliness has become indicative of most of my interactions with Palestinians.

Munir has been driving interns all over Nablus (and the West Bank) for four years now, ever since TYO first opened in 2007. With each trip, he has taught us valuable lessons to use and build upon before our next journey with him. I learned quickly to listen carefully as, without fail, Munir always remembers to quiz you the next time you get into his car. “Hatha al-Diwar. Hatha hajiz. (This is the central circle. This is a checkpoint).” On my first grocery shopping trip, Munir decided to teach me the names of all the stores and the ever-necessary word “fatoora” or “receipt.” Inevitably, on our very next ride to the store, I had my first vocab test, which I passed only after every word of “badee narooh ile mahal fouwaka (I want to go to the fruit store)” was drilled into my head. Ever since, whenever I call him up, he makes sure to correct my pronunciation and verb agreement, my unofficial Arabic tutor checking up on me. This has produced great results, as my halting Egyptian Aameya has slowly morphed into a more confident Palestinian form of colloquial Arabic.

So if it’s our bi-weekly trips to Salfit to teach English (an hour round trip), a weekend trip down to Hebron, or a simple trip to the grocery store, Munir is there for the interns, ushering us through every leg of our discovery of Palestine. If one passenger even looks slightly concerned, whether we’re eyeing a passing army vehicle or we’re simply stuck in traffic, his immediate “Noooo problem!” always calms us down.

What lies ahead for our humble guide? “I will go wherever TYO goes. Anywhere they need me.” So, future TYO interns, you can look forward for years to come to many long and interesting rides with the ever-charming Munir. Yaslamu li kiteer rihlat momtaza, ya Munir!

An Evening with Lina and Friends

Walking up what felt like 100 flights of stairs, Samin and I finally reached Lina’s house in our neighborhood of Khallet al-Amood. Lina is a mother who is in both my nutrition class and Samin’s aerobics class, and after weeks of asking us to come to her house, we finally had the time to visit with her in her home. I can speak for both myself and Samin when I say it was one of our favorite experiences in Nablus thus far.

Lina outdid herself with delicious tabbouleh salad, cakes, and fruits piled higher than I have ever seen! Slowly, one by one, familiar faces began to enter the room. Other neighborhood women from our classes began entering Lina’s living room to join us in conversation and good food. The women talked about their families, their children, their frustrations, and their lives during the first and second intifadas.

For me, the most interesting part of the entire night was speaking to Lina in Arabic and her responding in English. Throughout the evening we would switch between the two languages so that each of us had a chance to practice speaking and understanding.

Quickly into the night, Lina’s youngest son Hassan and Jenan’s son Saleem joined us. Both boys, are arguably the most adorable 6 and 4 year olds ever. They spent the entire night running in and out of the house, eating cakes and making and flying paper airplanes across Lina’s living room. Samin and I could have stayed there all night playing with the two boys. When it started getting late, Samin and I politely excused ourselves and thanked Lina and her family for their hospitality. We promised we’d be back to visit before we leave Nablus.

As our time here comes to an end, I have had the chance to reflect on my experiences here. I have fallen in love with the city of Nablus, that was undeniable, but until last night, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why I loved it so much. And as cliché as I know it sounds, I have fallen in love with the people of Nablus. Just yesterday when I walked down to the juice stand with my fellow interns, I heard my name being called out and as soon as I turned around, I saw one of my students, little Alaa, waving her hands furiously from 100 feet away. It’s Alaa’s enthusiasm and joy and Lina’s wisdom and hospitality that are a constant reminder of why I love Nablus so much.

-Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus