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!