Sisters Shahd (left) and Bara'a (right)
We're so excited to bring you this interview from the field! Meet Bara'a and Shahd - two sisters who have been attending TYO programs since we first opened our doors! Bara'a and Shahd are both from Khallet al-Amood, the neighborhood where the TYO Center is located. Read on to hear why these sisters keep attending TYO's programming and why their lives have been changed for the better.
This interview is conducted by Suhad Jabi, TYO's Psychosocial Program Coordinator.
Suhad: Tell me your name and a little bit about yourself.
Bara’a: My name is Bara’a, I am 11 years old and I’m in the fifth grade.
Shahd: My name is Shahd. I’m 8 years old - almost 9 - and I’m in the third grade.
Suhad: And when did you first come to TYO?
Bara’a: I’ve always been coming, every day since I was in preschool.
Shahd: Same, since I was 5 years old.
Suhad: And what do you remember most about your first experience at TYO?
Bara’a: Even now, I always think about Amo Youssef [a TYO Core Program volunteer]. I remember I loved coming to TYO to see Amo Youssef. He was the first person to really support me, and he taught me many things I didn’t know before. He was always smiling and available to help us. The best part of his classes was playing games.
Suhad: What did you enjoy so much about the games?
Bara’a: In the beginning when I came to TYO, I always felt angry and sad during the games because I always lost against my peers, and all I could think about was winning. It was so frustrating that it could ruin my day. With time, Amo Youssef helped me to learn that winning wasn’t the most important thing and that my sadness about winning or losing made me lose out on everything else that day, which I didn’t want.
Suhad: And what about you, Shahd? What do you remember most about your first experience at TYO?
Shahd: Everything I learned with Amo Samer [a TYO Core Program volunteer]. Amo Samer always gave me hints and support on how to succeed in sports, especially the hula-hoop activity. It was the first time someone gave me attention and noticed what I was good at.
Suhad: Imagine your daily life without TYO – what would it be like?
Shahd: I would have nothing to do and nothing to learn. It would be so boring. If there is anything in the world I wish not to happen, it’s that! If there were no TYO, I would have to keep myself distracted with friends in order not to think about it.
Suhad: At home in your neighborhood, you play with other kids in the streets. How is playing with your friends at home different than coming to TYO?
Bara’a: At home, I only see people who I’ve always known and most are my family. Coming to TYO allowed me to meet new people and learn how to make friends. Without TYO, that would never happen for me at home.
Shahd: I'm the same. When I see people at home they are my relatives and it is forced. There’s no option to see them or not. There are no boundaries at home so I have to see them. At TYO, you can choose to meet new people from new and different neighborhoods around the city. Sometimes, someone might not want to meet you. I learned to accept that and how to respect what others want.
Suhad: Who are the friends you have made at TYO?
Bara’a: My best friend is Reem from Balata Refugee Camp and I’m also friends with Raghad from Askar Refugee Camp.
Shahd: Everyone, they’re all my friends!
Suhad: What does everyone at home say about talking to those from the refugee camps?
Bara’a: They tell us not to talk to them. Our families say they are impolite and use bad words, so our parents do not want us to get to know kids from the refugee camps and learn those bad things.
Suhad: Did TYO change your ideas about that?
Bara’a: Yes of course. That kind of thinking isn’t allowed. But TYO didn’t just change how I think about others, it changed how they act towards me. I remember children here used to push me and hit me and insult me because they are from a different neighborhood. But with time, they changed their ideas towards me and my neighborhood, and that gave me the chance to become friends with them.
Suhad: And what about your friends, Reem and Raghad?
Bara’a: When I found out my classmate Raghad was from a refugee camp, I learned that I shouldn’t judge people. Now she is my friend.
Shahd: TYO has helped me at home, too. My best friend used to pick on me and fight to always be ahead of me when we were standing in lines. We used to compete all of the time. But after coming to TYO, I learned that I could talk to her or make an agreement with her so we can both be happy and get what we want.
Suhad: Your schools are separated by gender but at TYO, we mix boys and girls in the same class. Have your experiences at TYO changed your ideas about interacting with boys? Do you fear them?
Bara’a: Yes, now I know boys can be smart and nice sometimes, and at TYO I know that I don’t need to have any fear towards the boys in my class.
Shahd: Any person who grew up with fear will continue to have a feeling of fear, so I should not feel fear towards the boys at all. This is what I learned.
Suhad: We bring many interns from the United States to teach English classes and run other activities. Who do you remember most of those interns?
Bara’a: I loved Claire. She taught me a lot of new words and always helped me with my homework. Before, I had an extremely difficult time reading English in class, but Claire helped me to increase my confidence at school in front of my teacher and classmates.
Suhad: What did you find most interesting about the classes?
Bara’a: I never had the chance before to learn about another culture until our class with Claire. Claire talked a lot about the USA and different activities and games there. I feel that I got familiar with the culture.
Suhad: Do you think learning English is important? Why?
Bara’a: Yes. With Claire I learned to communicate with new people which will help me when I travel to new cities and places in the future.
Suhad: Do you think you’ll travel to many places in the future?
Bara’a: Of course I can travel. Remember you taught us “you can can”? [A lot of laughing.] I learned at TYO that if you want something just do it. Because of TYO I don’t have fear of doing what I want.
Bara'a in sports class in 2012
A five-year-old Shahd makes a new friend at TYO!
The girls come to register for TYO classes in 2011