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Jan 8, 2019

"This is a golden opportunity for real!" - Rawshan's Journey

As a young artist growing up in Nablus, when Rawshan Malhis discovered that local art shops weren’t carrying sketchbooks, she decided to create and start to sell her own sketchbooks with beautiful covers. Though her original business model did not work out and sketchbooks are now available locally, like any resilient and successful entrepreneur, Rawshan was not discouraged. She participated in TYO’s Youth Rehabilitation Entrepreneurship Program (YREP) in the beginning of 2017 to learn how to grow her business. Rawshan now specializes in creating beautiful portraits and providing beginner art courses for anyone from 10 to 35 years old. TYO recently caught up with the 24-year-old artist, entrepreneur, and law student, to see how she has implemented the skills she gained from YREP.

As a part of the interview, Rawshan showed us the room where most of her artwork is created and proudly yet carefully displayed. Her room defies any stereotype of the messy artist. Billie Holiday records and different Van Gogh sketchbooks cover her deskside. As she says: “My life depends on details.”  When looking at her portrait sketches, glass designs, and engraved wood pieces, it’s hard to believe that Rawshan has never taken a formal art class. According to her, “art should aim to capture feelings” – after taking one look at her work, it’s clear that her own artwork is certainly driven by her emotions.  

How long have you been an artist?

“I have been drawing for a long time, since I was a child. When you’re a child, you are passionate about so many things: playing, sports, drawing, singing, all these things. However, the people around you are the reason [why you pursue a certain passion]: my teachers at school would tell me, “you are talented, keep drawing, participate in competitions” – and I would win.

What motivates your creative work?

“I don’t want to be dramatic, but I would say that the pressure around you allows you to be creative. If not for sadness and pain, life would be very dry. As for sadness, I don’t see it as a negative emotion; it’s just an emotion. It plays a big role in all kinds of artistic creativity. If you look at the greatest musical pieces or the greatest portraits, they have a story behind them and these stories are very tragic.”

Why did you decide to participate in TYO’s Youth Rehabilitation Entrepreneurship Program?

“I was encouraged to join TYO’s YREP because my dream is for people to know about my idea and project. My business idea wasn’t just to sell my drawings, I also wanted to teach art since there was a demand for that. I was already providing small art lessons: I would contact an organization and tell them I wanted to conduct a training in their organization. I set the prices for these classes at an affordable low price as a way to make it more accessible for others. But I wanted to develop my work further through the program at TYO.”

What would you tell other entrepreneurs that want to participate in YREP?

  1. “Be punctual. The most important thing is to be committed to the time. Try as much as you can to commit to the dates of the program.
  2. Don’t miss any training! Every word that is said in the training is important.
  3. Implementing is very important; go home from the training you had that day and implement it. The implementation isn’t hard. You will say, “I still don’t have a business,” no – you can implement it in the smallest details, even in your personal life you can implement what you’ve learned. Not only were we given advice on the business level but also on the social level: how to deal with people. Your engagement with your family becomes different, and the way you think also became different.
    So, I advise them to benefit from each word and not waste any minute. Because this is a golden opportunity for real.”

YREP helped Rawshan to better promote her artistic ideas and her personal story. Following trainings on marketing and social media, she created a Facebook page that showcases her artwork and business. Through its program, TYO provides young, passionate, and driven Palestinians like Rawshan with the skills and networks they need to turn their ideas into reality. If you are a Palestine-based entrepreneur, check out TYO's Youth Rehabilitation Entrepreneurship Program to learn more about how you can develop your own business ideas!

Nov 26, 2018

A Space to Learn, Play, and Grow!


TYO is in the seventh session of the Academic Support Program for students between ages 9-14. What started out as a pilot project for the residents of the Khallet El Amoud neighborhood, the Academic Support Program has been scaled up with incredible success to welcome children from the wider Nablus community, including all four of the refugee camps in the city. This affords the children of the most underserved communities with an opportunity to learn, play, and grow through TYO’s interactive approach to education. New beginnings are also an important time for reflection. As such, we invited Raneen, who is entering her fourth session of the program, to share her thoughts and experiences at TYO.


Welcome back! Can you tell me about yourself and how you got started at TYO?

I am eleven years old and in the sixth grade. I come from the Khallet El Amoud neighborhood and I am the oldest of five siblings. I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters. I started out at TYO in the Core Program and am now in the Academic Support Program. My parents noticed how my grades in Math and English started to improve, so they decided to enroll all four of my brothers and sisters at TYO.

It seems that TYO has become a family affair! How has TYO impacted your family?

My mom comes from a village nearby and my dad is from Nablus. My mother attended school until the eighth grade and my father attended school until the fifth grade. My mom is a housewife and my dad is a worker in his friend’s carpentry shop. My mother registered me in the program because I had trouble with English and Math. My parents cannot help my siblings and I with our homework and they do not have the money to pay for a tutor. TYO is where my brothers, sisters, and I come to learn and play.

Have you noticed any particular changes in yourself since starting at TYO?

Before I came to TYO, I was very shy and did not feel comfortable speaking in the classroom. Now I am the first student to answer questions in class. I even volunteered to participate in this interview! This confidence came from being able to play games and activities with other students and volunteers. I also like learning English and practicing math, especially multiplication.

What are some of the activities you participated in at TYO that helped you build your confidence?

When the weather gets really hot, we go outside and have water balloon competitions in teams. This is definitely one of my favorite games because I get to make new friends from different neighborhoods and villages. I have made friends from my neighborhood that I never spoke to at school, as well as the Balata camp and the Old City. I really like how TYO teaches us activities that use materials I can easily find at home. After I learn a new game, I teach it to my siblings so we can play it together. The fisherman game is really simple to set up and I love to play it at my house with my brothers and sisters.

You mentioned how you really enjoy playing the games you learn at TYO in your home, why is that important to you?

I usually only leave my house to attend school and the Academic Support Program at TYO. Before learning new games that I can play at home, I was bored and my house is very crowded. I study between 3-4 hours a night when I am at home. In Palestine, we have many tests at school, which does not leave much time for students to play. My house is very small, we only have two rooms, one for my parents, and one for the children. I am not allowed to leave and play in the streets like some of the other kids in my neighborhood, because my parents do not think it is safe. TYO is a safe space where I can be a kid.

Can you give me some more examples of how TYO is different from your experiences at school?

I really enjoy coming to TYO because it is a completely different way of learning than at school. At school, we have to remember everything we learn by studying with our books.  When I am at TYO, we learn by playing fun games. The students at school are always shouting at each other and it can be very distracting for the teachers and the class. There are fewer students at TYO and the classrooms are much bigger, so students have more space to speak and do activities.

Do you have a favorite memory since starting your journey at TYO?

All of the volunteers at TYO are so nice and helpful, but there was one volunteer from the Academic Support program that I liked the most. She took the time to help me work through the challenges I had in English and Math. Her patience and kindness is what really encouraged me to keep coming back to TYO.


Oct 11, 2018

"I Still Have Hope" - Ikhlas's Story


TYO's Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneur project seeks to empower women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. The entrepreneurship training and development programming that Tomorrow’s Youth Organization offers is both timely and highly sought after. TYO’s entrepreneurs are strong, forward-thinking women who face countless adversities, but seek to create and maintain successful businesses with hopes of investing heavily in their communities and education. Today, we interview Ikhlas, an entrepreneur from Salem village outside of Nablus whose insatiable drive is very much attributed to her desire to support and financially contribute to both her family and her community. Ikhlas is a visually-impaired woman with a Master’s degree from An-Najah University. Our interview was conducted entirely in English.

1. Tell me about yourself and your family. Where are you from? How many people are in your family?

My name is Ikhlas and I am from Salem village. I was born in 1987 as a blind woman to a poor family. I have three brothers and two sisters. One of my brothers, Mohammed, is blind like me. We all live with our mother, as our father was killed in 2004. I come from a very loving family who loved me and gave me tremendous amounts of love and care. I have a special bond with my mom. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in English Translation and Applied Linguistics. I am an advocate for disability rights and am a member of four disability organizations. I have represented Palestine through a United Nations conference in Malta in 2011 and traveled to the United States in 2012 through Stars of Hope.

2. How, when, and why did you learn English?

Given that I was born blind, I attended a girls’ boarding school in Ramallah, where I learned British English. Knowing English gives me a highly competitive edge in the workplace. I also highly enjoy the language.

 3. Tell me about the business you are developing?

I want to open an educational center for both sighted and visually-impaired people. I would like to teach people how to comprehend and speak English. As a blind woman, it is important for me to have my own business. Palestinian law does not protect disabled people from discrimination, so it is very difficult for me to secure employment. I can not only help myself by opening my own business, but can also support my family and eventually provide jobs to other blind people.

 4. What are you learning in the Women Entrepreneurs program?

When I first came to the business development trainings, I had no idea what a business was or how I could run my own business. I had random ideas in my mind, but now they are becoming more organized. With the expertise of the trainers, I am able to organize my thoughts and generate my ideas. I am learning how to refine the service I am offering, develop a business plan, incorporate branding and marketing strategies into my business plan and so much more. I am excited to learn how to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis as a way to study both my internal and external environment as a business owner.

5. What are the challenges you face as someone who is blind? How do you overcome those challenges?

As a blind woman, I suffer from a great deal of discrimination. I was treated very badly throughout all of my schooling as a child. I have been treated very badly by people in my society, but have always had my family as my backbone and primary support system. I am blessed to have such a supportive family and I seek to open a business to support them and other disabled people who are not able to secure employment. Sometimes, I feel weak and I weep. After my father died, our family became even poorer than we were before. Despite it all, I still have hope and a tremendous will to live.

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