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Nov 5, 2019

Confidence is Key

During my time at TYO I have learnt a lot; and I learnt the most during the craft activities in my classes. Teaching grade 1 during the summer camp meant I was able to dedicate lots of the time to simple activities that would help the children engage with the topics we were discussing. Whether that was basic English words or the life cycle of butterflies, drawing activities and songs were the activities the students would throw themselves into and enjoy the most.

But what struck me with each of these activities, whether in groups or solo projects, was the apparent fear the children felt about following their own ideas. They preferred to copy others or have someone else do it for them. Let me illustrate with two boys from my class: let’s call them Kareem and Zain. These two stuck out to me from early on, and both for very different reasons.

Kareem is small for his age, but what he lacks in stature he compensates for in his outgoing personality. He is memorable for me because of one craft activity I set the class. He seemed to be extra bold and was loudly proclaiming things to his table in his proudest voice. I asked my translator, who informed me he was telling his peers how amazing his drawing would be, and how it would be much better than all of the others. But after five, then ten minutes he still hadn’t made a mark on his paper.

When I asked, with help of my translator, why he hadn’t started his drawing, he boasted once more about how good it would be. I prompted him that I would really like to see his drawing. He seemed to deflate a little before whispering he didn’t know how to draw and didn’t want to mess it up. It touched me that despite all his showboating his confidence was so low, so I showed him some examples and thanked him for telling me how he felt.

Zain hardly smiled and never spoke during the first few weeks I knew him. He was reserved and disliked attention, nodding or only following instructions given if someone spoke with him individually. It was difficult seeing him come into class each morning with his sincere and quiet manner and not interact with anyone. Even during the morning singing and dancing, he would simply sit and observe. After much coaxing, his behaviour changed gradually but slowly. He would stand with the group and watch the others move, seemingly unsure of how to follow their actions and not wanting to get it wrong.

Despite the differences in character, both of them needed to hear that their effort was appreciated. When resources are low and with so many kids in the classroom, it can be very easy to be product-orientated and not acknowledge the process. Confidence and self-belief are essential to take the first steps.

Zain took those steps when he first stood with the group and repeated with a growing smile the moves he saw his peers doing. Kareem took those steps when learning to trust his own creativity and slowly accepting that the effort and time are just as praiseworthy as (if not more so than) the final drawing. I hope that my students learnt to be more confident during their time with me, because I have learnt from them how important confidence is.

Oct 3, 2019

"Smart Shirt for Autistic Patients" - a Project by Reham and Saja.

Reham & Saja take part in an exhibition.
Reham & Saja take part in an exhibition.

We are Riham and Saja and we are partners in our project called Smart Shirt for Autistic Patients. We developed our business during TYO’s Youth Rehabilitation Through Entrepreneurship Program (YREP).

The Smart Shirt for Autistic Patients is an interactive electronic shirt designed to monitor an autistic child’s condition and movements. Parents or guardians receive an alert when the child is exposed to any external harm through a headset connected to the shirt. This gives the parents a chance to help their child if there is a problem, but also gives their children a critical sense of independence. The shirt uses vibration and music to relieve tension and provide psychological treatment for children. It is possible to record several different sounds and music on the shirt so that it is specialized to help them learn, develop their mind, and encourage participation in dialogue with others. The beneficiaries of this project are autistic patients and their families, but we sell the product to autism centers, associations, and hospitals that have sections for autistic patients.

We first learned about YREP through social networking sites. We underwent all the training phases and sessions in order to gain all the information and experience we needed. The training included many practical terms to help us build our project fully and smoothly. We completed the training with a professional marketing plan and a detailed financial budget that we can present to anyone without hesitation.

The final phase of the program was the mentorship phase. Meeting an inspiring doctor who specializes in autism helped us answer many questions related to medical information. this enabled us to develop our project better by linking information with technology. At the end of the program we received a $1,000 financial grant. This money allowed us to develop our project electronically. We were able to buy modern and sophisticated electronics that helped us build the project in a competitive commercial way in the Palestinian medical and electronic market.

We have been working on the project for two years now, but the first year was before we joined the program. We can say that our project was following a completely different course in the first year from the one we are now following after the entrepreneurship program. Now that we have our own business plan and we can develop it regularly, we can create pilot projects fully and deal with any confrontations and difficulties. This program made us a completely different professional person. We feel very proud of ourselves after completing all the program phases and applying it all on our project. We have been trying to have funding from the Higher Council for Innovation and Excellence for a long time, but we couldn’t have it. After finishing the program, we provided them with our detailed business, financial, and marketing plan. Finally, they accepted us and we are now in the process of having the fund. Today, we are still working on this project in various ways to reach its successful final image. We are not far from the final version of our shirt and we proudly say that this is thanks  the entrepreneurship program implemented by TYO.

Aug 7, 2019

The Universal Language of Children

Elisa's students shower her with hugs

Since I was little, I have been fascinated by languages and the thousands of combinations of sounds and symbols that human beings have developed to communicate. Whenever I have been travelling, I’ve always loved to hear people speaking their own language and to try to imitate the sounds of their words. When I found out I had been accepted for an internship in Palestine, I was really excited about the idea of living in an Arabic-speaking country. I still didn’t know that I would learn another language during these months: the language of children.

I remember that my main concern when I started teaching at TYO was the language barrier. How will I communicate with my students? Will I be able to understand their needs and to provide them with the right support? What if the lack of communication between me and them will affect their learning process?But after the first time I saw my students entering the classroom one by one with their contagious smiles, proudly greeting me with a loud “Good morning!” and an energetic high five, I remembered something precious I learned from my previous working experiences with kids abroad: there is no linguistic or cultural barrier children can’t break.

Over the years, I’ve come to know that kids have this magic inside them. They live in their own pure world, made of imagination, games and exploration. It’s the same world in which we used to live as well, before we “grew up,” and children can lead us there, if we are open to it.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak: kids have this incredible skill of communicating by easily creating an emotional connection with others.

As soon as we grow up, we tend to hide our feelings and we are ashamed of showing them. Children, on the other hand, through their pureness and spontaneity, seem to have much more emotional awareness and empathy than adults.They actually don’t need many words. Children know how to reach out to people and how to connect with them by using a wide range of spontaneous facial expressions, body language, and eye and body contact to express their emotions and feelings. They can easily show happiness and excitement or show genuine pride when they succeed in things. They can make you understand when they are sad or disappointed. They know how to ask for help and how to communicate their needs, as well as to show their gratitude. The only thing you have to do is listen to them.

During these months, I learned from my students that what children really need and expect from us is to put our heart and passion in what we do, to create a safe place for them where they can feel listened to, understood and loved. There is no need to share the same language or culture to create a meeting point with kids. Little simple actions like sitting with them, teaching them a song, miming things, making them smile, and sharing laughs are enough.

Working with children at TYO reminded me every day of the importance of expressing and identifying emotions in our daily life as a precious component of connecting and communicating with others. Sometimes, what we need to do is forget about the rationality of adults and listen more to the little child inside us.

Core class shows their handmade Mother Day cards
Core class shows their handmade Mother Day cards


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