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.

Hip Hop at TYO!

What better way to celebrate the last day of classes than with a performance by the hip-hop dance troupe Dar Al-Fonon from Nablus’s Old Askar Refugee Camp.  Participants in both the Core and Intern Program classes were treated to a multi-faceted show that began with sketch comedy and ended in full blown dance off between the members of Dar Al-Fonon and some of the Volunteer Program’s braver, or at least less self-conscious, participants!

As many TYO’s attendees come from the refugee camps of Nablus, it was doubly thrilling for students who recognized the dancers from their community.  It was furthermore exciting to see a particularly familiar face in the hip-hop project as one of the members is an all-star player for Lyon in the emerging Nablus Premier League.

Sure, our class party was cut a bit short, but with the way my Fifth Graders swung to the music, I can’t imagine a better way to sign off the Spring 2011 semester!

Photo of the Day: Literacy Training

On Saturday, February 19, 2011 Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, completed the final workshop in the training series for the new TYO-MEPI literacy collaboration.  For more information on this collaboration, read: TYO launches a new literacy project in partnership with MEPI.

Intern Journal: Dawn’s Embrace

I’ve always been something of a morning person. A quiet time for reflection, reading, caffeine, meditation for those of such admirable initiative, checking last night’s box scores, and all the luxuries of that misty, yawning interim period before the day and all its trappings come completely into focus.

Early morning is more than the chill of living in a mind-fog, though. I believe the greatest gift of all so generously provided by our first hours of quasi-consciousness is the brief window for musing, hoping, planning, and creating the path that we might walk in the fresh set of hours to come, hours that are undefined and so limitless in promise, an expansive frontier with which our imaginations can roam unchecked until at least 7:30 when our realities and obligations might begin to clamor (usually in the kitchen). Even if the day never turns out as cool as it might have looked in our brain, these waking dreams are well worth it for me.

Here in Nablus, the early hours have shown themselves to be even more pleasant, even more invigorating. The call to prayer from the muezzin, the laid back white light calmly creeping over the hills a bit earlier each day, and the parades of four year-old children on their way to the TYO core program make manifest what Adam so aptly called “The Joy!” No alarm clock needed; no weighty gravity pushing you to stay in bed.

The Core kids rock for a number of reasons. Firstly, as it turns out, these children are super, super small, and that’s a funny and entertaining concept to me in itself. They have their own embryo of a social order, their own protocols for interaction, both of which are ingrained with intentional and unintentional humor. Beyond any Darwinian impulse to continue our line, I think the chance alone to watch toddler excitement, occasional toddler fear, and the transformation of both these emotions into smiles and laughter and singing is reason enough to one day have children. If you don’t involuntarily have a smile on your face in watching this kind of procession (I always get a special kick out of the tenuous sense of balance that little kids have when they walk and run, always teetering on the edge of tipping over before managing to find their equilibrium), you’re straight ice.

So these young girls and boys jump-start the early hours without fail, rain, sleet, or snow. By afternoon, older students begin rolling in. Amongst my responsibilities here at TYO is to lead and direct the Big Brothers’ Club, comprised of a selection of twelve to fourteen year-olds from the local neighborhood and the four refugee camps that dot the city’s landscape. Along with an incredible crew of translators and volunteers from the local university, I am working to engender self-confidence, self-control, and a capacity to trust and work in teams amongst this crew of young teenagers. For the most part, we are using the vehicle of team basketball and team soccer to help nurture such values as well as to create an environment where the students can feel safe, can feel a genuine union and connection to one another, and can feel the pride that comes with membership on a sports team.

The first three sessions have given me great encouragement. We’ve done lots of trust and hype-building exercises, introduced them to a good few dribbling and passing drills, and finished each and every session with the most raucous team huddles we can. Despite having only just departed our journey together, I have already seen leaders and a collective strength emerge, auspicious signs to say the least. On Monday, all players and coaches signed written contracts binding them to our team ethos of respect, brotherhood, risk-taking, and fun times, and we will be deciding on our official team name by week’s end.  Check back next week for photos and progress.

Until then, stay fly.

– Colin

Colin is an intern at TYO Nablus.

TYO Volunteers Attend Successful Youth Camp

On Monday, August 9, 2010 a three-day youth camp sponsored by TYO came to a bittersweet close. Forty-two university-age volunteers from the spring and summer sessions participated in the camp, which was led by Sports Teacher Haitham and Volunteer Coordinator Imad. The end of summer is an important time for reflection and forward thinking as the new academic year approaches, and the main objective of the camp was to pledge a commitment to improving personal competencies like communication and leadership skills and a commitment to improving the local community.

The camp featured various service projects, workshops and sports activities. Workshops were geared at honing important skills and discussing how to make positive social changes, including a workshop titled “The Art of Listening” led by Khamis, 20, from Askar refugee camp and Ruba, 21, from Khallet al-Amood and a workshop titled “Understanding Others” lead by Imad and Yousef, 21, from Awarta village.

“The harmony between the volunteers during the camp was incredible. It was such a unique experience for us to be together outside of the TYO Center,” said Khamis.

The camp culminated with a workshop in which the participants were asked to identify problems in their communities. Each participant was asked to identify two and then a general vote was cast in which a single social problem was nominated to become a targeted project for the volunteers in the coming year. At the end of much debate, it was decided that the most pressing issue is the community’s struggle to learn the English language. This problem affects many – from the youngest primary-school student who struggles with his homework to the most brilliant engineer who cannot break into the international arena. Over the coming year, these TYO volunteers will work to engage and support local organizations and institutions that teach English in order to increase awareness of and access to their services for the entire community.

“You cannot imagine how high their commitment was during the workshops. It was 100% successful,” said Imad.

Stay tuned for photos from the event!

Intern Journal: Variations on a Familiar Theme

Over the past few weeks, I have been pondering the idea of home and what it means in the context of the lives of Palestinians. In my Arts & Crafts class last Tuesday, I read a beloved book from my childhood — The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. As a child, this story enraptured me and I remember begging my mother to read it each night, so that I could once again see those beautiful illustrations. The entertaining and lively story follows the life of a pretty pink house who although content with her life in the country, “…was curious about the city and wondered what it would be like to live there.”

Over the next few decades, urban sprawl takes over the once beautiful countryside surrounding the little house and she finds herself lost and abandoned in the big city wedged between tall skyscrapers, apartments, subways and trains. “She didn’t like living in the city. At night she used to dream of the country and the fields of daisies and the apple trees dancing.” Although rejected and ignored by the thousands who passed her each day, the Little House is one day saved by the great-great-granddaughter of the man who originally built the pretty Little House oh so long ago. The great-great-granddaughter then moves her from the dirty and noisy city back into the countryside filled with daisies and apple trees where “once again she is lived in and taken care of.”

The story seems simple enough, but last week, when I began to read the book to my class, I found myself looking at it with a completely different set of eyes. What did this story mean to children who grew up knowing their families were from places and houses they had never seen, but had only heard about like Jaffa and Haifa? Places where you can see the vast and endless Mediterranean Ocean, where checkpoints do not exist, where the freedom of movement is not even a question. Every person deserves a place to call home and a country to call their homeland, but this right is not extended to the ten million Palestinians worldwide with about five million of all Palestinians currently registered as refugees with UNRWA. Will the children in my classes ever return to take care of and live in their family homes just like the great-great granddaughter of the man who built the Little House did? Will they ever feel the ocean breeze and play in the crashing waves far from the crowded and cramped refugee camps — the only place they’ve ever known as home? Insha’Allah they will.


Hannah is an intern at TYO Nablus

In the Media: Hollywood goes to the West Bank (VIDEO)

TYO is thrilled to be featured in Palestine Note CEO Fadi Elsalameen’s recent column on The Huffington Post, “Smart Power: Hollywood goes to the West Bank.” We are indeed very proud to contribute to the smart power that Elsalameen cites, including providing children and youth in Nablus with enriching and innovative summer programming and activities.

Why would an American youth who grew up in Hollywood, worked there as an assistant director on TV shows, a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International studies want to live and work in the West Bank city of Nablus?

It’s the same reason anyone would want to live and work anywhere else in the world: the opportunity and the reward.

Read the full text on Palestinenote.com or The Huffington Post and watch Rick’s video below!