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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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Triple Exposure murals complete in Askar boys’ school

Triple Exposure mural teacher Rimah and her volunteers went to visit the boys’ school in Askar UNRWA refugee camp, Nablus. Over two visits she worked with fifteen boys, ages 10-11 on two murals in the hallways of the school. Whilst representing the themes of nature and school, these murals have a more kaleidoscopic feel to them, with unexpected colours inside the branches and leaves of the tree, really bringing an extra splash of colour to the walls of Askar.

Like many schools in the West Bank, the school doesn’t have an art teacher or art department, and these were the first murals ever in the school. Even the teachers were interested in how the different colours were mixed and applied. The director of the school liked the mural so much he has asked Rimah to come back and do one more any time.

After they had finished the murals, the boys wanted to go home and show their parents they had been working with paint, and thoroughly enjoyed drawing moustaches on each other. The boys showed so much talent and dedication, seeing the project through to completion with admirable focus. If they had an art teacher or more opportunities to practice, the kids could really work on their art skills and creative thinking, on top of making these vibrant and lasting contributions to their community.

To date, Triple Exposure has complete fifteen murals around Nablus. For more details, please see the Triple Exposure blog.

Painting complete in Nablus Basic School

The Triple Exposure mural class were busy painting during June and have brightened up a hallway in UNRWA Nablus Basic School. The students worked together in class to come up with ideas of how to protect the environment, and images that they could create to represent these. They personified the environment as the sun and the water droplet, and showed that if we leave taps running we are wasting a precious resource, and if we pollute the skies we ultimately damage ourselves. The earth represents the one planet we all share.

After painting their designs onto hardwood, the art work was then installed in the school. On Thursday, mural teacher Rimah took the students to view their painting, and both the students and the school were delighted with the finished piece.

The mural class and their painting

Intern Journal: Taking it all in

After a thankfully thorough week of orientation and training, we have completed our first two days of classes. As the days go by, I’m increasingly getting a feel for the rhythm of my week, the TYO centre, and a taste of life in Nablus. The working week begins on Sundays, and our days are punctuated by the now familiar call to prayer echoing out across the valley which holds this ancient city.

I taught my first class with fellow intern Leila – fitness for the mums. The women are so friendly and inquisitive, seeming to enjoy Leila’s lively kickboxing introduction and counting down the beat in flawless Arabic, but were soon distracted by the dramatic and deafening hailstorm outside that seemed to come out of nowhere. I hope to have them all doing Sun Salutations by the end of the course…

After lunch, the kids for the afternoon classes began to arrive in dribs and drabs from their respective areas, allowing me the chance to personally meet each child that was entering my basic photography class for Triple Exposure.

After a little warming up I explained (with the invaluable assistance of my local translator, Waleed),   to the students how to use the basic functions of the DSLR cameras, and had them take each others’ portraits, before setting about on the scavenger hunt game in teams. The team to find and photograph the most objects off the list given at the start, wins.
They ran around the TYO centre with their volunteers in tow, taking turns to capture the random objects listed – some harder than others!
The kids really enjoyed the competition, and two latecomers said they wanted more time to take photos, but I suggested they make sure to come to the rest of the classes and try harder to be on time!

Working at TYO is like juggling. With all these balls in the air and only two hands to catch with, you’ve got to be ready to switch things up if things don’t quite go to plan. Intern Coordinator Chelsey had been sure  to forewarn us that flexibility is key here. With bad weather hampering attendance for my first basic photography class – I ended up with as many local volunteers as children, when they should have been outnumbered by at least three to one! But my volunteers were patient, helpful and very happy to get involved.

This first week for me has been about taking it all in. It’s my first time in the Middle East. On the one hand I’m absorbing like a sponge all the new information, people and environment, whilst simultaneously trying to be creative, productive and give classes. It’s a stimulating process but also quite tiring. Needless to say, after bouncing so many ideas around and off each other, we’re all getting early nights to be organised and full of energy for our kids the next day.

– Mathilda

Mathilda is an intern at TYO Nablus.

Triple Exposure Update: Investing in Youth

To give you an update on how our Triple Exposure project is going, let me tell you the story of Mahmoud Aghbar. Mahmoud is 14 and lives in the same neighborhood where TYO is located, which means he is free to stop by whenever he wants! He joined our photography class in the Fall of 2009 and the last time I saw him was last week, when he popped into my office to ask when classes would begin again (we’re currently on a short break in between the fall and spring sessions at TYO). Mahmoud took to photography immediately – after only four months of class, his beautiful photo of a man walking in the rain was selected for first prize in the Waleed Photography Magazine Young Photographers’ Competition! Though we took on a new batch of photo students in the Summer of 2010, Mahmoud asked if he could keep coming to class as a volunteer; since then he has helped me teach photography and film to kids as old as and sometimes older than himself. He loves using computers and is my go-to for help when teaching the kids how to edit their photos and films. He’s not always available to come help out – like far too many young Palestinian kids, Mahmoud spends his spare time (particularly during the summer) working to help his family. But he’s been continuing to work on his photography, using the camera that he won from the competition, and last year he came to my office with a particular question.

“Doris, how can I go to visit America?” I answered that there are a number of programs that will invite and pay for young Palestinians to visit the U.S. “Okay, how can I apply?” I told him: “I’m sorry, Mahmoud, you have to speak very good English to participate in these programs.”

“Okay, can you teach me English?” We started English lessons twice a week. Soon his cousins and friends came to join the class as well, and I work to help them develop conversation and comprehension skills.

This is how Triple Exposure has progressed since its beginning in 2009. Our emphasis on working with the same children for years at a time has helped us really get to know them, to learn their hopes and ambitions and to help them grow as leaders, as self-initiators, as voices (and maybe someday ambassadors!) to the outside world. At the “Suwarna” Children’s Photography Exhibition in Ramallah last year, Mahmoud was interviewed by a Turkish TV channel: “I feel very proud to have won the contest, and I dream of becoming a photographer or a journalist like the ones who come to visit our class,” Mahmoud told the correspondent.

To see more Mahmoud’s photography and learn how you can get involved with Triple Exposure at TYO, visit: http://www.tripleexposure.net.