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Jul 4, 2016

A Mother's Inspiring Story: TYO's Early Childhood Impact

Malak, 5 years old, with her teacher Fawz.
Malak, 5 years old, with her teacher Fawz.

Sonia, is the mother of Malak (5 years old) who is entering her 3rd session in TYO’s Core early childhood education program. Sonia has four children, Moath, Mina, Malak, and Moatez, and lives in Balata refugee camp. She studied Sociology at An-Najah University and she first learned about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization eight years ago at an outreach event, which occurred in Balata’s Yafa Cultural Center.


Sonia, can you tell me about any changes you have seen in your daughter Malak since she joined TYO’s Core early childhood program? How was she before, during, and after?

Malak has had the pleasure of participating in two Core Early Childhood Programsessions and this summer will be entering her third. Before joining TYO, she was very shy, would run away from strangers, and refused to talk to anyone who was not in our immediate family. She was afraid of most people and if someone came to our door, she would run and hide. She was also very sensitive—simple questions would make her run away and cry. Now she loves to sing and dance in front of anyone and is just a ball of energy and enthusiasm! We didn’t see much of a difference after her first session with TYO, but following her second session, we began to see incredible changes in her behavior and personality. She began to make friends in class, talk about those friends at home, and still asks me if she can invite them to our house to play. She also speaks in a loud voice, she explains and defends herself more, and has more overall confidence. As her mother, it is important that my daughter have the confidence to make friends in school and engage with people in our community with confidence and without fear. The ways in which Malak has developed at TYO will carry her throughout the rest of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and I could not be more grateful. Malak has begun to find her voice.

What do you think Malak enjoys most about  her classes at TYO? What does she talk to you about at home?

I am incredibly proud of the progress my daughter has made. Malak loves sports and art classes. She was never able to properly hold a crayon to draw and color until coming to TYO. When TYO was in session, she would come home and tell her siblings what she had learned that day. She likes to announce when she is going to wash her hands before mealtime, she proudly puts her toys away, and she makes sure the entire family knows she learned these habits from her TYO teacher Fawz. Right now, she constantly asks me when she is going to come back for a third session and says that she misses the TYO community, her friends, and the delicious meal she is always fed.

Are there other centers in Nablus that offer similar Early Childhood programming? What do you find unique about this program?    

Personally, I love the energy here. I love the beautiful building and the sunshine that streams through the windows. My family has a long-standing and positive relationship with TYO—my older children attended TYO and now Malak and I are both actively involved. I have not sent my children to any other organization as my family is seeing countless positive outcomes.  When my older son Moath started with the organization, he had similar problems as Malak— he was very shy and unable to speak up and defend himself. Moath used to only walk close to our house and wouldn’t confidently walk in the street like the rest of the boys his age. The longer he stayed at TYO, the more confident he became. As I saw positive outcomes in my children, I decided not only to keep them at the organization but to also join TYO myself. We live in Balata refugee camp, which is not a safe place for our children. TYO offers them a safe space to play, to breathe and to be who they are: children.

Have you noticed a change in your children's academic performance? Have you noticed a change in their attitude towards school or behavior in their school environment? 

Malak has not yet started school but I undoubtedly saw an improvement in my son Moath’s academic performance. Moath is more confident, earns better grades, and looks forward to school. Before starting at TYO, he hardly had any friends. Soon after, he developed relationships with his school classmates at TYO. TYO allowed him to develop relationships with his classmates he had known for years but never befriended.  TYO teaches the importance of friendship, relationship-building, and respect; my children have greatly benefitted from these lessons. I always speak positively about TYO and encourage all of my friends, neighbors, and family members to register themselves and their children. I tell them about the TYO approach of “learning through play” and the positive impact it has had on my family. I also encourage young mothers to join the Women’s Group and tell them all about the amazing seminars and educational classes I participate in and how beneficial they are for me.

What have you learned in TYO's Women's Group that has impacted the way you engage with you children? How has it impacted your relationship with your children?

I really enjoyed the educational parenting seminars with Suhad Jabi-Masri, TYO’s family therapist. By attending her sessions, I learned that I got very angry, very quickly and that my anger outbursts were negatively impacting my family in a serious way. Suhad taught me and the other participants that the first step to addressing negative family dynamics was to take responsibility for our role in perpetuating them. One time, my youngest daughter was imitating me and she acted like she was angry and resentful. Seeing myself reflected in my daughter’s imitation was such an important wake up call. Suhad’s sessions provided me with the tools to help me begin to change my behavior as a mother.

I also learned that I must take time for myself in order to be a better mother and better person overall. Now, I take my children to my parents’ house occasionally and either go out alone or relax at home alone. I am now more social, have strengthened my relationships with my friends, and am a more patient and loving mother. 

May 10, 2016

Manar Shab'an: Jalameh's Trailblazer

Manar's enterprise funds her daughter's education.
Manar's enterprise funds her daughter's education.

"Many businesspeople say they started from zero, but I really started from zero. As a Palestinian woman without a college degree, who comes from a village in the north where resources for start-ups are so few, all stakes were against me. I fit all the criteria that our society says make me doomed to fail, and that is what drives me to succeed." – Manar Shab’an of Jalameh, Jenin

In 2010, Manar and her family found themselves in dire financial need. With practically zero starting capital, Manar took the bold move to invest her energy in starting up her own vegetable-growing business. All along, the political climate meant she faced the continuing confiscation of her village’s land and quickly learned innovative growing techniques. Manar continuously experiments and discovers new ways to create “vertical” gardens, growing taller vine vegetables over others that require shade to make the best use of a small area of land. Manar’s greenhouses weave together vertical and horizontal growing patterns, maximizing the quantity of vegetables grown on the least amount of land. Given the village’s limited and irregular access to water, Manar also continues to experiment with water-recycling techniques to ensure that the excess water of one plant is used to hydrate neighboring plants.

Although Manar initially started her business to meet the basic financial needs of her family, as her enterprise grew, she imagined greater possibilities by providing education and a better life for her children. As she generated income, bought land, and built a larger house, Manar’s role in the family soon shifted to that of an outspoken decision-maker and leader. Not having had the opportunity to attend university herself, Manar used the profits of her business to save for her children’s higher education. Currently, Manar funds her eldest daughter’s education entirely on the profit she gains from her business.

Through her micro-enterprise, Manar has also stepped up to give back to her community. After receiving a rain barrel from a local aid organization, Manar offered to share it with neighboring farmers who needed access to one. Manar firmly believes that her business’s success should benefit the collective, not just herself and her family.

Since she started her business, Manar has furthermore become very active in her community and is one of the co-founders of Al-Jalameh Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of village women and children. Manar leads councils in the municipalities of both Al-Jalameh and Jenin in order to ensure that women’s issues are at the forefront of local decision-making. Although Manar has always been a veritable force, as her business grows, she is becoming a stronger and more confident leader who tackles the core issues that her family and community face. Manar receives increasing recognition for her business and leadership, most recently being named one of Jenin’s leading entrepreneurs by the Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, Manar grows pumpkins, mint, and parsley, renting the land on which she works. Her long-term goal is to grow more expensive produce such as strawberries and tomatoes so that she can generate enough profit to buy her land. Until then, she proudly uses the profits of her business to fund her daughter’s undergraduate education and vows to do so until graduation day. Manar is a testament to the fact that there is no mind more innovative than that of a woman who must support her family, and no spirit more determined than that of a Palestinian.

Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Apr 5, 2016

Providing After-School Academic Support

Mariam, Abdul Aziz & Shahd read in the TYO library
Mariam, Abdul Aziz & Shahd read in the TYO library

TYO is pleased to announce the newest addition to its programming for school-aged children. Academic instruction in public schools in Nablus is very weak and there is a great need for additional academic support.The education system, from primary to higher education, stresses rote learning and educators are often ill equipped and unable to provide additional support outside the classroom. To increase our support to children, this spring we launched a pilot after-school academic tutoring program for students in grades 4, 5 and 6. Focusing on math, English and Arabic, the children’s’ commitment has been remarkably high. Led by a group of 51 university youth volunteers, over 100 students attend the TYO Center four days a week for our academic tutoring program. The students have voiced that the program has helped them tremendously. We interviewed Mariam, Abudl Aziz and Shahd, to learn more about how the program has benefitted them.

Mariam, 5th grade:

I registered for this program because I want to be better in English. I was so happy when this class was being offered because I know TYO is a safe place to learn. My teacher yells at me at school and I am scared to raise my hand or ask questions. At home, my mom has no time to help me study because she’s busy helping my younger brothers and sisters. I felt that I want somebody to help me. At TYO I have Khaltu Malak to help me understand what I’m reading and to teach me how to write correctly. She also has a lot of vocabulary. I feel excellent now because I learned new words and my handwriting is better. But I’m still scared of my tough teacher at school.

I really recommend this program to other kids! I have encouraged a lot of girls in my school to register because there are many who need help and who are always being sent to the principal’s office at school for not understanding assignments. If they get help at TYO, they don’t have to be punished at school, they develop their English and they will feel better about themselves. And my mom is very grateful because she feels that because of this program, I’ve gotten better at school. Please don’t stop this program. It should be continued because we’re doing better at school!

Abdul Aziz, 5th grade:

I like this program because of the academic focus. I feel like I’m good in Arabic and math but English is my struggle. I can read English but I don’t understand what I’m reading. I feel that I’m getting a bit better, but I wish the program would never end. I want to be better and smarter. At home they help me but here at TYO, I feel that I have more individual attention. My family is very happy to have me in this program because they see progress in me. I want to be a surgeon when I grow up and I heard that if you want to be a surgeon you need to read and write English. Also if there’s a group of foreigners visiting me in the hospital, I should be able to speak with them. I like the program because I’m learning but I’m a fast learner and so I also like helping other kids learn too. I like the volunteer teachers at TYO very much because they respect me a lot.

Shahd, 4th grade:

The academic program is very nice. I learned things I never learned at school. I’m getting better and smarter. The teachers at school are surprised when I answer questions correctly and one teacher was so proud and surprised, she asked the other students to clap for me. I like to come here every day and TYO has become part of my family. Last week when I get home after TYO, my mom asked me if I studied at TYO, and I said yes. She asked me if I understood what was being taught and then reviewed the material with me. When she found out that I have learned the material, she said, “TYO is really is great!” I’m so happy because I’m young and still in 4th grade and that means I can still keep coming for academic support next year when I’m in the 5th grade.

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