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Jul 16, 2018

From Tubas to the World-Maysaa's Journey

Maysaa
Maysaa

My name is Maysaa. My soap business, called "Tubasee Soap," is named after my hometown. I make and sell handmade soap using herbs and natural ingredients such as olive oil, lavender, rosemary, sage, camel milk, and goat milk. I started making soap in 2009 after I participated in a training lead by NICCOD, a Japanese non-profit organization, where I learned how to produce soap using natural ingredients. After the training, I gradually started to experiment with producing different kinds of soap and trying them on myself. I immediately noticed that my skin looked and felt much healthier after using the natural soaps compared to the more commercialized and chemical products upon which I had been depending for so long. I decided to turn this skill and discovery into a profitable business and took the first step by joining the 2012 Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East (FWEME) program at Tomorrow's Youth Organization (TYO) in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

I always knew that I still needed to improve upon my business management and marketing skills. I found the opportunity years later when I joined TYO’s Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE)  project in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The project offered a chance to step back and evaluate how my start-up was doing and improve some of my business practices. A few months into the project, I used my business plan developed through APWE to apply for a scholarship and was selected to join the Active Citizen Summit 2.0, a three-week trip to the US to gain more business skills and study new techniques in soap production. Looking back on the trip, I can see what a profound impact it had on me both personally and professionally. It boosted my confidence and self-esteem and it also helped me to see how my small idea and micro-business could transform into a much larger and more prosperous business. I came back to APWE even more eager to learn.

It is hard to point to one single way in which I’ve benefited from APWE; there are so many ways that I have changed. Before joining the program, I was much more focused on the quality of my product and the production process and less on how I myself, as the business owner, promoted my product. Through the APWE marketing and branding intensive, I began to understand the importance of product marketability. I learned that certain marketing strategies – such as how I present my soap to new customers, my business logo, the tagline, and having professional photos of products – could all help to grow my customer base and increase sales. During the mentorship module, I asked to be matched with a graphic design and photography mentor in order to improve my photography skills and capture professional shots of my products for advertising. The photography techniques I learned were very simple, but have made a huge difference in how my products look in advertising. I immediately noticed that I was able to attract new customers. The demand for my soap products increased significantly once I started sharing my improved product photos.

Fellow entrepreneurs frequently ask for suggestions about how to start up or strengthen their businesses. I always encourage them to reach out to TYO and to sign up for entrepreneurship programs. I know that the programs will put them on the right track towards realizing their strengths and gaining the business practices they need in order to turn their dreams into a reality.

Handmade Tubasee Soap
Handmade Tubasee Soap
May 29, 2018

Winning More Than Just First Place

Students and a volunteer enjoying English class.
Students and a volunteer enjoying English class.

This session at TYO marked my first-time teaching 5th and 6th graders English, and with it the introduction to a huge group of students who seemed to have boundless enthusiasm and limitless amounts of energy. In the spirit of TYO, I looked for ways to redirect and focus this energy, rather than trying to suppress it and control it, and ended up introducing my favorite personal teaching style into the classroom: Competition.

I am hardly the first teacher to harness the benefits of competition. Its effects have often provided positive results. The use of team competition in education has been documented in psychology before, including the 1981 study Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures on Achievement. The study tested how students preformed when they competed against each other individually or as a team working in a cooperative effort. The study concluded that, “Cooperation with intergroup competition is also superior to interpersonal competition and individualistic efforts,” (Johnson, W., Maruyama, G., Johnson, R, 47). By adding a teamwork element to competitive learning, students were able to remove themselves from their insecurities and play together, learning the lesson material without realizing they were studying through play.

The study supports the claim that team competition can help students academically, but that’s not all competition can provide students. Competitions help to meet students half way by using the energy that they naturally bring to class and redirect it in positive directions. Energy in a classroom can cause disruptions and distractions during class, but it’s not an inherently negative thing and can be used in a positive way. If students supply the energy, teachers should supply the means to use it in constructive ways and change how students view learning.

Confidence can be cultivated during activities when students recognize their abilities and overall contribution to their team getting points. During an intense moment of competition, students will try to help their team however they can. Win or lose, the sense of contributing to a shared goal can often boost the confidence of even the shiest students.

The positive impact of competition in the classroom became obvious through my own anecdotal experience with one of my older students as the class participated in a competitive activity in 4 teams. The subject was spelling, one of the less engaging subjects, yet when points were on the line, my students scrambled to find the necessary letters out of a pile. The student, who is normally the most reluctant to answer any question and tries his best to sit in the corner, was now completely hunched over the table, sorting through letters with his teammates and excitedly yelling that he had found the necessary vowel. This complete transformation wasn’t merely limited to the spelling challenge. He continued to amaze as he encouraged his teammates, excitedly pumped his fist when his team scored and was the first to throw his hand up in the air when his team had completed their task first. As an individual, he was unsure and timid in his answers, but surrounded by his teammates and the chance of victory, he was a completely different student. The student now shows his confidence outside of competitions and is more likely to engage in lessons when he knows that he might have an opportunity later to use that same knowledge to gain some much-coveted points.

Games and activities allow students to grow academically, gain confidence in their abilities, and express themselves through play. Education that is effective, fun, and leads to personal growth is what TYO is all about, and what distinguishes it as an education center rather than a traditional school. The goal isn’t merely to have students leave our doors with a little bit more knowledge in their heads, but to create a personal love of knowledge and to grow as individuals.

 

Citation:
Johnson, D. W., Maruyama, G., Johnson, R., Nelson, D., & Skon, L. (1981). Effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 89(1), 47-62.
Apr 16, 2018

From Pharmacist to Businesswoman - Ma'ali's Story!

Introducing Ma
Introducing Ma'ali!

Ma’ali is a pharmacist who studied at An-Najah National University. She is married and has two children. Despite her studies, Ma’ali does not work in pharmaceuticals and has been working at a money exchange store for 9 years. As Ma’ali’s eldest son began to grow up, she realized that he was incredibly intelligent and that his cognitive abilities far exceeded any educational tools available in Palestine. Both Ma’ali and her son endured a very difficult period, as her son was not challenged in school and developed behavioural problems. Conversely, it was evident early in his development that Ma’ali’s second son had a learning disability. Ultimately, Ma’ali was confronted with the same problem as with her eldest son; there were no educational tools for her second son that would address his cognitive needs. Ma’ali decided to find a solution to meet the educational needs of her children. She began attending conferences and workshops to meet teachers, psychologists, and social workers to inquire about the types of educational tools required for both disabled and advanced students. Ma’ali began to develop multi-level books and games for children who fall on a wide range of the learning spectrum.

Ma’ali first learned about the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs project (APWE) at the Tulkarem Rural Women’s Association. Ma’ali joined APWE because she is a new entrepreneur and wants to learn how to operate her business well and widen her business networks. Because Ma’ali studied pharmacy, she had no experience creating a business or financial plan. Through APWE, she learned how to price products correctly, how to balance income and expenses, and how to use business and financial plans to create new business connections. Additionally, she learned how to create a market research study and how to target customers and identify market needs. Through marketing and branding training, Ma’ali better understood the importance of an authentic logo and how it can be fundamental to business success.

Ma'ali greatly benefited from the business plan she developed with APWE and used it both to introduce her business to new partners and to participate in competitions. She participated in the Pioneers of Palestine program with non-profit organization Synergos and had the opportunity to attend a number of additional business training focused on fundraising, legal advice, and human development. In October 2017, Ma'ali registered her business with the Chamber of Commerce after learning how important this was to expand her business further!

In the future, Ma'ali hopes to produce hard copies of her educational tools, including kits for science and a series of educational books and puzzles for children with learning disabilities. She also wishes to open a learning centre for children to help them understand school curricula using different approaches.

 
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