Youth In Focus: An Interview with Ola B.

Ola is a resident of Nablus. She studied Agricultural Engineering at An Najah National University. She has twin 5 year-olds, both currently in TYO’s Core Child Program, and this is her first session with TYO. Ola Boluss

What inspired the change from studying agricultural engineering in university to volunteering with children at TYO? Are you interested in going back to your field of study?

I studied agricultural engineering and spent nine months working in that field, but I left work when I had twins - they’re five years old now - because I needed to spend more time with them. Family is a top priority for me and I enjoyed spending my time with my children; at the same time, without balance I was also neglecting my social and professional life. I felt disconnected from my community and knew I needed to find ways to get involved outside of home. My children participated in TYO’s Core Program, and they loved it! I was curious to see what employment opportunities TYO offers, and after spending some time on the organization’s website, I knew I wanted to get involved with the children any way I could. The work TYO does is tremendous; I see it in my own children.

The skills and connections I have developed at TYO have inspired me to further pursue a career with young children, maybe at a preschool or kindergarten. There are not many jobs in agricultural engineering that also allow me to keep up my responsibilities at home. However, I greatly enjoy the volunteer work I do with TYO and because of that, I feel encouraged to pursue my career goals again. As a mother, I feel deeply connected to the work the organization does and the work I do as a volunteer. I have come to embody TYO at home; I strive to provide emotional and psychosocial, as well as educational, support to my children. The two main pillars of TYO are also important pillars of motherhood.

Additionally, I’ve strengthened my patience working with kids here, and I now have new techniques for working with my children when they act out at home. In the classroom, TYO's teachers give a lot of responsibility to us as volunteers, and though challenging this helps foster our leadership. I feel more empowered now, and feel more capable of handling the challenges I face at home as a wife, and as a mother. Most of all, I feel driven to once again join the work force.

What are some of the biggest career challenges you face and how has TYO helped you face them?

As a married woman in Palestine with two young children, my life is all about balance. For every opportunity I seek outside of the home, I must compensate the same amount of time with my responsibilities as a mother. Marriage and motherhood are still considered top priority for women in our society, and unfortunately many see work as secondary. This imbalance between men and women has been a societal norm for so long, that nowadays women are expected to just 'work harder' if they want to pursue their careers in addition to continuing to be the primary caregivers at home.

I volunteer with TYO in the mornings so that I can go home and take care of my children in the afternoon and evening. I've realized that working in education would allow a similar schedule where I can schedule my work time while my children are also in school.  TYO has helped me gain more command of my own time management; finding a work and home-life balance has been much easier since I started volunteering here. I have also gained a new set of skills, most of all teamwork and the ability to delegate tasks, which I know are valuable in the field of education. The practical experience I am gaining here will help set me apart in my job search. Prior professional experience is often required when you look for a job here, but also very hard to find in the first place.

Regardless of how much more responsibility and work I must find finding work out of the home, it builds my confidence and happiness. I feel empowered when my children see me work and I hope it impresses upon them the importance of being a happy, confident member of society.

- Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern