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Mar 14, 2017

Positive Community and Success in School: Abdulhamdan's Story

Abdulhamdan, 5th grade student
Abdulhamdan, 5th grade student

Abdulhamdan is 10 years old. He is in 5th grade and lives in Khallet El Amoud, the immediate neighborhood of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Many of the neighborhood’s families suffer from very difficult socio-economic conditions and few community resources, but the neighborhood also boasts a very friendly and welcoming community.

Abdulhamdan, along with his older brother Rayeq, were both in dire need of academic support to stay in school. Last year, both enrolled in Tomorrow’s Youth Organization’s Academic Support Program for children from refugee campus and other highly vulnerable neighborhoods of Nablus, and both remained committed throughout the year. Below, Abdulhamdan shares how the academic support program changed his outlook towards school and his future.

Tell us about your first session in the Academic Support Program.

Yes, I was enrolled in the program for the first time last Spring and I loved it! I liked it because every day was fun, no matter what. Of course I knew that class was not only about having fun but learning in the process, and I knew that while I was playing games and enjoying my time at TYO I was also learning so much that would help me in school. In the first session last Spring, I improved in math, Arabic, and English. I think I improved the most in English. I had never been comfortable in school in English class, and I would get so nervous with reading, writing, and speaking in English. Now I feel comfortable in English class, which is great!

Why do you think you improved the most in English? Tell us more about your previous experiences learning English.

For me, I feel like I improved the most in English because the Academic Support Program teachers and volunteers were always so willing to help us and they gave us each attention as individuals, which is often missing in school. In school, there are so many students in class that it’s impossible for the teacher to really give individual attention and answer our  questions. But at TYO, I feel like I can ask anything and get help – and so now I do! I’m so happy now that I’m improving in English.

What is your favorite part of the Academic Support Program?

Last summer, I was in Ms. Mahfuza’s class and it was so much fun! My favorite part of the day is the ice-breaker activity. One student goes out of the classroom, and when they do the rest of us in class stand in a circle and choose someone to be the “leader.” The leader then leads the class in some kind of movement like clapping or snapping and all of us do it in unison. The student outside comes in and has to guess who the leader is. We laugh so much when we play this game and I think we all get better at it every day, so we just keep playing! I feel like after that we’re in such a good mood and I feel good to start working on my homework, even if it’s difficult. I have made a lot of new friends at TYO doing fun activities like this. Most of all, I’ve become a lot closer with other students in my class who go to my public school. Before joining TYO, I’d see them in the hallways but I didn’t know them well and didn’t know how to ask them to be my friends. But last fall, I saw them all the time at school and we always said hi and spent time together! Having friends makes me feel a lot better about being in school.

The volunteers who help Ms. Mahfuza are great too. Most of all I love Waed who always tutors me. She is so kind and patient, and she never gets angry no matter how many times she has to explain and re-explain new lessons to us. Even if we ask her a hundred questions, she answers them with a smile and never gets frustrated like others do. She is the best!

What do you hope to work on in upcoming sessions of the Academic Support Program? 

Right now, I hope to improve my math skills the most next session. Most of all, I want to understand division better and work on a lot of division problems with the tutors. In the program, our teacher and the tutors give us so much time and freedom to practice what we want to work on, so I know with time I will get better at division and become stronger at math. This session I’m also excited to work on my soccer skills in TYO’s after-school sports program! Doing both, I know by the summer I’ll be better at math, English, Arabic, and soccer!

I love coming to TYO and learning through the games here. I know if I keep coming I’ll become a great student. I am still having trouble in some subjects at school now, but I know if I keep coming to the program I’ll become much better. I can’t wait to get started again this Spring!

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Jan 30, 2017

Crocheting Her Way to Success - The Story of Kariman

Kariman
Kariman

My name is  Kariman. I was born and raised in Tulkarem. A couple of years ago, I started my own busienss "Tulkarem Crochet." I make and sell all types of crocheted products including but not limited to clothes, house accessories, hair accessories, and bookmarks. Whenever a customer wants to order a specific, customized product, I happily make it for them whatever it may be.

My mother taught me how to crochet when I was very young, so I have always had the skills but for a long time never knew how much I could do with it. Years later, when my nephew was born I decided to make him baby clothes using crochet techniques I learned from my mother. When people saw my work, they were amazed and asked if I could crochet clothes for their children as well. Seeing their positive reaction to my work encouraged me for the first time to see this skill as a business opportunity. I took the first step by making an online page for my business to take customized orders, and soon after I participated in local handicraft exhibitions held by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Palestinian Working Women's Society.

While my business was slowly improving, I knew that I needed to gain professional trainings in business development in order for it to continue to grow into a sustainable, profitable endeavor. When I heard about TYO's project for supporting Palestinain women entrepreneuers, I jumped at the opportunity and joined the program, and I have not looked back since.

Since joining TYO's entrepreneurshup rprogram, I have benefitted in countless ways. Before joining the program, I used to work on each crocheted item alone, and it would take me hours to complete a single piece. The time I spent on each piece and selling at a cost comparable to market prices just was not sustainable. Through a business development training I took at TYO, I noticed that having partners to work with me on large orders or throughout a heavy workload would help me keep the business running at the right pace during high demand. I now have 2-3 partners working with me, and it has been extremely beneficial for my business.

The increase in productivity has helped me maintain recurring customers and attract some new ones, too. Through the branding and marketing trainings offered by TYO, I also learned the importance of not only marketing my product, but also marketing myself as an entrepreneur. I learned how much choosing an effective and professional business name, logo, and slogan could advance my business's image and improve sales.

Last November, I had the opportunity to participate in TYO's "Entrepreneur and More" exhibition, which helped me on so many levels. The timing was perfect, as it was the start of winter and there was a high demand on my products so I was able to make many sales. Also, participating alongside many other handicraft businesses meant that the exhibition attracted customers specifically interested in handmade, high quality products and therefore helped me target the market I had been seeking. Following the exhibition, my customer base noticeably increased. That week, I had more than 300 new active followers on my business page who placed many customized orders after seeing more of my work online. Furthermore, upon seeing my products at the exhibition, a major Nablus retailer requested that I produce 100 crocheted rugs for the store in addition to crocheting pillow covers in the future. It was the first time I received an order of that size from a large retailer, and at that point I started to see how far I could really go with this business. Currently, I am even wokrking on orders to be sent outside of Palestine, one to a customer in Jordan and another to a customer in Lebanon. 

After the exhibition, the visibility of my business increased, and along with it my trust in the quality of my products and confidence in myself as an entrepreneur, and as a woman. In return, customers also began to trust me and my work much more. Recently, I was interviewed by two local TV stations about my business and experience as a woman entrepreneur in Palestie. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak about being an entrepreneur and how that how impacted my life on both a professional and personal level.

Most of all, this project has been such a self-esteem boost. I am more confident now after starting my own business and seeing that I could increase my business's potential through basic business development trainings and coachings. I used to doubt whether I could be like other businesswomen, particualrly in communication with customers. But now, I am confident that I can maintain and grow the great relationship I have built with current customers, and moreover I can use what I've learned this year to grow my customer base.

Links:

Dec 24, 2016

New Experiences, New Opportunities!

Muhaned and Shaima
Muhaned and Shaima

Participation in extracurricular activities for children and youth can be hard to come by in Nablus's refugee camps and underserved communities. TYO’s center provides children and youth with an open space to learn, play, and take part in activities that they otherwise would not have access to. The academic program offers students educational support in Arabic, English, and math. There is a free day each week where students have the option to attend different recreational activities at centers around the city, such as swimming pools, bowling lanes, and martial arts schools. These events are the only opportunities some students have to learn from new experiences outside of school and the home.

Below, Muhaned and Shaima, a brother and sister who participate together in the academic support program, share how they have gained confidence in both academic and social capacities from their time at TYO.

Welcome Shaima and Muhaned! Can you tell me about your family and how you are involved with TYO?

Shaima: I am twelve years old and in the sixth grade. I attend the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) mixed boys and girls school in Nablus. I have nine siblings - six sisters and three brothers. I am the seventh oldest in my family. I started at TYO in the Core early childhood program when I was in the second grade and now I am in the academic support program for older students. My dad also works at TYO as a guard, so I really feel like we are part of a family here.

Muhaned: I am ten years old and in the fifth grade. I attend the UNRWA school for boys in Nablus. I started at TYO in the Core early childhood program when I was in first grade and now I am in the academic support program with my older sister.

What makes your experience at TYO unique?

Shaima: They teach very differently here than at school because we learn by playing games and having fun. I have the hardest time in math and the weaker students do not get enough attention at school. Before I started the academic program, I would try to get my older sister to help me, but it is very hard because she is busy with her own homework. At TYO, the teachers take the time to explain new ideas in a way that we all can understand and there are many volunteers that are happy to help if I have any problems. I can already see my grades getting better. I have more trust in myself and I participate more in class.

Muhaned: I like coming here because we get to play games and we have space to run around.  At school, there are too many students and sometimes we get angry and hit each other. There is also a lot of yelling and I always feel lost inside the classroom. Only the strong students get attention and sometimes I feel left behind. Discipline is also done differently at TYO than at school because we talk about problems and try to find solutions. I realize now that violence does not solve problems. Hitting each other at the boys’ school is common, and even if a boy hits me, I will not hit him back anymore. I learned at TYO that I can solve the problem in other ways and ask adults for help.

Have you noticed any changes in your academic performance since starting the program?

Shaima: We play a lot of grammar games that teach us new vocabulary and sentence structures in a fun way. Last week we played a game where we had to talk about our dreams for the future and I felt really comfortable presenting to the class. Sometimes I repeat the TYO activities at home for extra practice or just for fun. At TYO, they build my confidence and encourage all students in the class to participate. It turns out that most of the time at school I had the correct answers to questions the teacher would ask us, but I used to be scared to say it in case I was wrong. Now I am not so scared. If I am right, that's great, and if I am wrong, that is how I can learn. I learned at TYO that is is okay to make mistakes, and that that is how I can learn and grow. 

Muhaned: The hardest subject for me is Arabic - I cannot even write! Math and English are easier for me, even though I speak Arabic at home. I do not even know the basics, and I am not getting better yet but I hope I will. In Math, I am doing well and the extra help that I get from the academic program is making my grades even better.

What has been your most memorable experience at TYO?

Shaima: I love the karate class the most. I never had the chance to do martial arts before coming to TYO. It teaches discipline in a fun way and I get to work on becoming physically stronger.  Also, I do not get to dress up often and at school there are uniforms. Here at TYO, I get to wear all my favorite outfits!

Muhaned: I love counting games with balloons and going to the pool on Thursdays, which is our free day!  We do not have many public swimming pools in Palestine, and the private ones are often too much to afford, but TYO makes sure that we get to experience new things. I love being in the water! 

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