Bring Refugee Children Education and a Smile

by Tomorrow's Youth Organization
Week 7: A fun lesson on respect with team relays
Week 7: A fun lesson on respect with team relays

Last July, we shared with you some exciting news! We finalized our curricula - the first non-formal education curriculum designed specifically for children in Palestine. Our curricula was developed through The Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!), working in coordination with Columbia University’s School of Social Work.

Our curricula for children emphasizes two main themes of communication and community, building a sense of security, trust, and self-confidence. In our last report, we explained how we integrate community-building into our curricula for children ages 4-5 years old in weeks 1-6. Now, take a glimpse into how TYO implements activities that build communication skills in the final six weeks of programming (see week seven's photo above):

Week 8: Improving listening skills with fun games
Week 8: Improving listening skills with fun games
Week 9: Teaching logic & reasoning with volcanoes
Week 9: Teaching logic & reasoning with volcanoes
Week 10: The group collaborates on an art project
Week 10: The group collaborates on an art project
Week 11: Problem solving with puzzles
Week 11: Problem solving with puzzles
Week 12: Students review what they learned at TYO
Week 12: Students review what they learned at TYO
Friends head to the pool during summer camp
Friends head to the pool during summer camp

We had such an exciting summer here at TYO! We offered summer camp for youth in the Khallet Al Amood neighborhood, where our center is located, for boys and girls ages 9-14. The classes at summer camp included pyschosocial classes that fostered identity, communication, creativity and team building skills. And thanks to the generous support of donors like you, we were also able to offer karate, "dabke" (traditional Palestinian dance), swimming, and chorus classes - see the final performance of our fantastic singers. We were also honored to welcome Palestinian-American comedian Maysoon Zayid for a day full of fun, laughter, and reflection with TYO's kids on their greatest strengths, fears, and dreams.

We would not be able to offer such enriching programming to our children and youth if it weren't for our donors - we appreciate you all so much. Thank you for making the summer in Nablus absolutely fabulous!

Ro
Ro'aa shows off her karate skills
Dabke lessons were a hit for both boys and girls
Dabke lessons were a hit for both boys and girls
Chorus class was great - the kids love singing!
Chorus class was great - the kids love singing!
Our kids enjoy their time with Maysoon Zayid
Our kids enjoy their time with Maysoon Zayid
Our boys and volunteers equally loved the pool
Our boys and volunteers equally loved the pool
Week 1: Defining self-value by making nametags
Week 1: Defining self-value by making nametags

We are very excited to announce a major progress update at TYO! Through The Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!), working in coordination with Columbia University’s School of Social Work, we completed the first non-formal education curriculum designed specifically for children in Palestine (ages 4-5, 6-8 and 9-15). In striving to create world-class development programs, we also finalized the TYO Youth Service Learning (YSL) training guide. Our curricula for children emphasizes two main themes of communication and community, building a sense of security, trust, and self-confidence. Developing these life skills empowers children with hope for the future and the skills to lead change in Palestinian society. As a part of the curriculum, integrating psychosocial interventions supports children dealing with conflict, isolation and poverty by strengthening their resilience in the face of challenging circumstances, and in turn contributing to the overall stability of an entire affected community. 

For children ages 4-5 years old, we spend six weeks learning about the themes of identity and community. Take a glimpse into how TYO's curricula comes to life in the classroom (see week one's photo above):

Week 2: Learning about the importance of family
Week 2: Learning about the importance of family
Week 3: Thanking our neighbors by writing letters
Week 3: Thanking our neighbors by writing letters
Week 4: Understanding the components of our city
Week 4: Understanding the components of our city
Week 5: Strengthening identity about our country
Week 5: Strengthening identity about our country
Week 6: Celebrating different global cultures
Week 6: Celebrating different global cultures
Core Teacher Fawz and her students at TYO
Core Teacher Fawz and her students at TYO

We're excited to bring you this update from the field! Our Spring session is in full-swing and at the end of week two, the TYO teachers reflected on the beginning of the program and how TYO compared to their previous work and classroom experiences. Fawz, having previously taught in a private Nablus preschool, offered great insights on the differences between her previous teaching experience and her first two weeks at TYO. We hope Fawz's story gives you more insight into Nablus and to TYO's work. Thank you again for all your support - we couldn't do it without you!

Since you have taught in Nablus preschools before — what do you find different about TYO’s Core Child Program?

When I taught in a Nablus preschool, you didn’t hear the word “child” as much when we talked about our work. The focus was on what we were teaching, not who. Our conversations as teachers centered around the content of our lessons, for example writing skills, reading the Quran, and basic math and counting skills.

Here at TYO, the word “child” is the center of every conversation. When we talk about planning lessons, we talk about how each activity helps the child grow, how it promotes his or her physical and mental well-being, and how it helps us understand the root causes of the child’s behavior.

The work environment is also very unique. At TYO, I have access to people coming from different backgrounds in both education and psychology, and everyone is involved in sharing classroom ideas and techniques. There is so much input behind every activity, that you can’t help but to feel confident when you finally have a chance to give that lesson.

What has been the most rewarding part of your first two weeks teaching in TYO’s Core program?

The more rewarding – and I would say surprising – experience has been teaching hands-on Arabic lessons. Because I have taught Arabic for this age before, that is where I can clearly see the contrast between my previous work and TYO.

At the preschool where I previously taught, we followed rigid lesson plans that did not invite creativity from the kids or from us as teachers. At TYO, I worked with Ahmad [another TYO Core teacher] to develop an art-based lesson plan for teaching the first few letters of the alphabet. I enjoyed teaching the lesson, but the most rewarding part was the day after, when the kids returned remembering everything we had taught the day before.

Do you see any difference in the kids in TYO’s Core program versus those you taught previously?

The children are not fundamentally different, especially not at such a young age. However, the environment at TYO is very different than a traditional preschool, and it brings out a different side of the kids.

I taught in a well-known private preschool, so all of our children had their basic material needs met. Additionally, their parents were willing to invest financially in their education. However, that financial commitment did not mean that the parents were truly engaged in their child’s development; on the contrary, I saw how the parents’ focus on investing [financially] in academics caused them to neglect other aspects of the their child’s life, like the importance of play and creativity.

At TYO, our children come in at very different levels of academic abilities, reading and letter/word recognition, speaking abilities, etc. Additionally, most of our kids come from a difficult home environment that does not offer options outside of the norm of frustration and violence. What amazes me is that that background does not limit their capacity to learn. For example, because of their restrictive home and neighborhood environments, many of the boys in our program struggle with hyperactivity. However, as teachers we learn how to embrace their energy and encourage them to put it towards something positive; we learn how to turn their energy and hunger for new experiences into curiosity to learn. It is much more challenging for me as a teacher, but it is also more rewarding.

Core teachers Fawz and Ahmad plan an Arabic lesson
Core teachers Fawz and Ahmad plan an Arabic lesson
Sisters Shahd (left) and Bara
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
Bara'a in sports class in 2012
A five-year-old Shahd makes a new friend at TYO!
A five-year-old Shahd makes a new friend at TYO!
The girls come to register for TYO classes in 2011
The girls come to register for TYO classes in 2011

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Organization Information

Tomorrow's Youth Organization

Location: McLean, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.tomorrowsyouth.org
Project Leader:
Humaira Wakili
Center Director
McLean, VA United States