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Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile

by Tomorrow's Youth Organization
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile
Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile

During my time at TYO I have learnt a lot; and I learnt the most during the craft activities in my classes. Teaching grade 1 during the summer camp meant I was able to dedicate lots of the time to simple activities that would help the children engage with the topics we were discussing. Whether that was basic English words or the life cycle of butterflies, drawing activities and songs were the activities the students would throw themselves into and enjoy the most.

But what struck me with each of these activities, whether in groups or solo projects, was the apparent fear the children felt about following their own ideas. They preferred to copy others or have someone else do it for them. Let me illustrate with two boys from my class: let’s call them Kareem and Zain. These two stuck out to me from early on, and both for very different reasons.

Kareem is small for his age, but what he lacks in stature he compensates for in his outgoing personality. He is memorable for me because of one craft activity I set the class. He seemed to be extra bold and was loudly proclaiming things to his table in his proudest voice. I asked my translator, who informed me he was telling his peers how amazing his drawing would be, and how it would be much better than all of the others. But after five, then ten minutes he still hadn’t made a mark on his paper.

When I asked, with help of my translator, why he hadn’t started his drawing, he boasted once more about how good it would be. I prompted him that I would really like to see his drawing. He seemed to deflate a little before whispering he didn’t know how to draw and didn’t want to mess it up. It touched me that despite all his showboating his confidence was so low, so I showed him some examples and thanked him for telling me how he felt.

Zain hardly smiled and never spoke during the first few weeks I knew him. He was reserved and disliked attention, nodding or only following instructions given if someone spoke with him individually. It was difficult seeing him come into class each morning with his sincere and quiet manner and not interact with anyone. Even during the morning singing and dancing, he would simply sit and observe. After much coaxing, his behaviour changed gradually but slowly. He would stand with the group and watch the others move, seemingly unsure of how to follow their actions and not wanting to get it wrong.

Despite the differences in character, both of them needed to hear that their effort was appreciated. When resources are low and with so many kids in the classroom, it can be very easy to be product-orientated and not acknowledge the process. Confidence and self-belief are essential to take the first steps.

Zain took those steps when he first stood with the group and repeated with a growing smile the moves he saw his peers doing. Kareem took those steps when learning to trust his own creativity and slowly accepting that the effort and time are just as praiseworthy as (if not more so than) the final drawing. I hope that my students learnt to be more confident during their time with me, because I have learnt from them how important confidence is.

Elisa
Elisa's students shower her with hugs

Since I was little, I have been fascinated by languages and the thousands of combinations of sounds and symbols that human beings have developed to communicate. Whenever I have been travelling, I’ve always loved to hear people speaking their own language and to try to imitate the sounds of their words. When I found out I had been accepted for an internship in Palestine, I was really excited about the idea of living in an Arabic-speaking country. I still didn’t know that I would learn another language during these months: the language of children.

I remember that my main concern when I started teaching at TYO was the language barrier. How will I communicate with my students? Will I be able to understand their needs and to provide them with the right support? What if the lack of communication between me and them will affect their learning process?But after the first time I saw my students entering the classroom one by one with their contagious smiles, proudly greeting me with a loud “Good morning!” and an energetic high five, I remembered something precious I learned from my previous working experiences with kids abroad: there is no linguistic or cultural barrier children can’t break.

Over the years, I’ve come to know that kids have this magic inside them. They live in their own pure world, made of imagination, games and exploration. It’s the same world in which we used to live as well, before we “grew up,” and children can lead us there, if we are open to it.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak: kids have this incredible skill of communicating by easily creating an emotional connection with others.

As soon as we grow up, we tend to hide our feelings and we are ashamed of showing them. Children, on the other hand, through their pureness and spontaneity, seem to have much more emotional awareness and empathy than adults.They actually don’t need many words. Children know how to reach out to people and how to connect with them by using a wide range of spontaneous facial expressions, body language, and eye and body contact to express their emotions and feelings. They can easily show happiness and excitement or show genuine pride when they succeed in things. They can make you understand when they are sad or disappointed. They know how to ask for help and how to communicate their needs, as well as to show their gratitude. The only thing you have to do is listen to them.

During these months, I learned from my students that what children really need and expect from us is to put our heart and passion in what we do, to create a safe place for them where they can feel listened to, understood and loved. There is no need to share the same language or culture to create a meeting point with kids. Little simple actions like sitting with them, teaching them a song, miming things, making them smile, and sharing laughs are enough.

Working with children at TYO reminded me every day of the importance of expressing and identifying emotions in our daily life as a precious component of connecting and communicating with others. Sometimes, what we need to do is forget about the rationality of adults and listen more to the little child inside us.

Core class shows their handmade Mother Day cards
Core class shows their handmade Mother Day cards

Links:

In my modest teaching career, one of the main problems I have run into is classroom management. With my 2nd grade here at TYO, I encountered my biggest challenge yet. My co-teacher informed me about different methods she tried and said she was open for any other suggestions. I was scared. One of my major concerns was the fact I didn't speak any Arabic and the students themselves had only limited knowledge of English. My fear proved to be right: two lessons in I was ready to quit. I am not qualified to do this. They are not going to learn anything... But then, I never quit a project before.But I also do not punish kids for bad behaviour. The good always wins, right? And so I began my research on the most effective reward systems. Having the above said in mind, it didn't take too long until I came across a reward system called “Birdie Buck.” It seemed to be worth a try. After adapting it here and there and with approval from my co-teacher, I was ready.

How it works:

Three boxes are set up as a small shop. Each box contains educational and useful rewards such as colouring books, a toothbrush, and play dough. At the beginning of the session, the class established four ground rules. Students who follow these rules and encourage their classmates do the same receive a play dollar in the next lesson. Doing extra tasks such as distributing worksheets earns them an extra dollar. When enough money is saved – 3, 5 or 8 play dollars – they have the chance to “buy” a prize of their desire. The other option is to save money for a more “expensive” reward,thus teaching responsibility and evaluating savings.

The DIY aspect of it all was very important. Students made their own wallets, which would literally have their own personal touch. Owning something that is entirely theirs, something they made with their own two hands – to top it off – makes it even more special.

When handing out the wallet templates, one student – let’s call him Husam – was not happy with the colour he received: grey, the colour the majority of the class received. He wanted yellow. I gave him the option to keep the colour he was given or not to have a wallet at all. This tendency to want to “choose-the-best-out-of-everything” I observed often in this class, be it pencils or chairs. Well, sometimes you need to compromise the small things to get what you want which is far more worthwhile.It is important to see the bigger picture. In this case, the grey, yellow or blue colour of the wallet would not affect its functionality, which is to keep valuable things safe and organised. Husam disagreed and crossed his arms. He was pouting and chose the option not to make a wallet at all unless it was yellow. He was determined to stay stubborn as usual until he got what he wanted. But so was I.

Engaged and eager, the class started folding their wallets step by step as instructed. Husam was still pouting, arms crossed, but observing the others. Five minutes into the folding process, the wallets being folded to a third, I offered Husam his grey template. His response was a cold shoulder shrug. He was still stubborn and so stayed I. The class carried on. Their faces glowing in excitement. Husam's observations of the others grew more intense. The wallets were nearly done and I offered Husam his grey template one last time. This time, with a determined and now also excited face, he nodded and grabbed his template, immediately starting to fold it. My stubbornness achieved what I wanted: Husam saw the result of the folding process; he realized that his stubbornness didn't get him anywhere and that it was not worth it. Unknowingly, he compromised for the bigger picture.

Within minutes, he had caught up with the rest of his classmates. I approached him, asking if he needed help with the last tricky bit. He nodded, pulling me down at one arm. I kneeled down to his height. Slowly and with his help, we folded the tricky part. His eyes never left my hands and the wallet. What happened next, I would never have imagined to happen: With the last folding touch, Husam realized that the wallet, HIS wallet, was done. Out of nowhere, he jumped up and hugged me. With the most sparkling eyes, he said, “Shukran! Thank you!” Then he quickly let me go to admire his work. His eyes wide open, smiling in disbelief. The hug surprised us both. This split second, however, in which the hug took place and seeing his proud face were enough for me to think: this was worth it.

At this point, it is important to mention my aim for implementing this reward system. Even though the children who receive play dollars for good behaviour might think that this is all that this system is for, the ultimate goal behind it all goes deeper. It is about learning how to be patient in order to achieve what you really want: Do I buy this toy because I have saved enough money or do I save some more for the toy I really want? It is about seeing the bigger picture: I want the wallet so I compromise for the grey colour even though I don't like it. It is about learning how to keep valuable things safe. In this case, it is play money. In life, it might be something more valuable. Seeing that Husam quickly understood one of these (life) lessons was a major reward for me already.

In the following week, the volunteers and I handed out the wallets, which now each contained a play dollar. Seeing the students' faces when they opened their handmade wallets and found their first dollar felt like a warm wave of genuine happiness that only children can radiate. Their expressions gave me the motivation I was lacking. We can and will make this work.

English classes at TYO are much more than teaching a new language. They are about teaching responsibility, manners, and what matters in life. They are about – pardon the corniness – believing in others and not forgetting to believe in yourself. Taking on this challenge taught me how not to give up and stop walking when the hill gets steep, but to lean forward and ascend. Seeing the bigger picture myself, I once more realized that great things are achieved taking it step by step. And also knowing when to give in. Making even one child grasp this important life lesson is the biggest reward I get.

Links:

Yazan & Tala are so excited on their first day!
Yazan & Tala are so excited on their first day!

In our spring 2019 session, we are excited to be offering 2 morning programs for children – the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program for children between the ages of 2-4 and the Core Early Childhood Program for children ages 4-5. Our session kicked off on Monday, February 11th with a great morning here at TYO!

Children participating in our Core Early Childhood Program were the first to arrive. From the moment they set foot in the center, they filled it with laughter, enthusiasm, and lots of hugs! TYO’s staff and volunteers welcomed the children and accompanied them to their classrooms. The classes started with various introduction activities to help the teachers and children get to know one another. During the day, each of the 4 classes rotated between the sports, art, imagination, sensory, and computer rooms. As of week 2 of the program, Core students are getting to know all about friendship and the importance of cooperation. In the upcoming weeks, children in our Core Early Childhood Program will learn all about clothes, careers, seasons, recycling, plants, animals, transportation, colors, and science.

The second group to arrive to the center was children between the ages of 2-4 participating in our ECE Program. They arrived with their mothers, who are enrolled in the Women’s Empowerment and Parenting Program (WEPP). TYO’s ECE teachers and volunteers greeted them as they entered and led each child and mother to their specific classroom. Mothers joined their children in the classrooms on the first day. This made the first day easier for the children because they had a familiar face beside them. They loved spending quality time playing and learning together. Throughout the week, as the children became more comfortable around teachers and volunteers and more acquainted with the center, it was time for mothers to leave their children and attend their own program. This made the separation process healthier as it was done gradually, giving children the time they needed to adjust to their environment. In the upcoming weeks, children in our ECE Program will develop skills in naming, throwing/catching, dressing, identifying objects, drawing/copying playing with others, sorting/building, listening/repeating, jumping/balancing, following instructions, and sharing/taking turns.

We would not be able to offer such enriching programming to our children, youth, and women if it weren't for our donors - we appreciate you all so much. We look forward to witnessing the growth of our children throughout this spring!

Teacher Ahmad is happy to see his students again!
Teacher Ahmad is happy to see his students again!
Mothers and children enjoy playing together!
Mothers and children enjoy playing together!
Kids loved posing behind the frame!
Kids loved posing behind the frame!
Mo
Mo'men & Yara are all giggles showing their signs!
Friends show off their FRIENDSHIP tree!
Friends show off their FRIENDSHIP tree!
Oday and Karm race to win during sports class!
Oday and Karm race to win during sports class!

Links:

Raneen
Raneen

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.

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Tomorrow's Youth Organization

Location: McLean, VA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @tomorrowsyouth
Project Leader:
Suhad Jabi
Director, Tomorrow's Youth Organization
McLean, VA United States
$28,517 raised of $35,000 goal
 
434 donations
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