Youth In Focus: An Interview with Samer A.

Samer is originally from Balata Refugee Camp. He is currently finishing his final semester at Al Quds Open University studying management. In addition to volunteering with TYO, Samer is also an employee of Rifidia Public Hospital for 3 years. DSC_0188

What does TYO mean to you?

I have been here for 5 years. TYO means a lot to me. I heard about TYO from my cousin who volunteered here, and I originally joined because I knew TYO would help give me the chance to build my CV, develop skills to help me with my future career,  and meet new people. Over these past five years I’ve worked with almost all of the different programs: the Core Child Program, soccer clubs and the International Internship Program, and I've enjoyed each one because they were so different and I was exposed to so many situations. While I love working with the soccer program, my most memorable experience was in the Core program. In one of the sessions I was volunteering with the children in a classroom and it happened that the teacher was out sick for a couple of days. Without much notice, I was required to take full responsibility of the class due to the teacher’s absence. The trust put in my abilities and me is something rare among my peers. I cannot think of any other instance where I was trusted with such responsibility. This is a great example of how TYO has boosted my confidence. This is one of the reasons why I stay. Though I am working, I still make it a point to dedicate time to TYO. My time at TYO is mine. It makes me happy. TYO became my family and it’s my home.

As a young man in Palestine, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

This a complex question because there are many factors that create challenges. Unemployment is a community-wide problem and many of the young people think they’re to be blamed because they’re not developing their skills. This is not the case. When students get a degree and they can’t get a job in their field, it build frustration and deters the students from seeking higher education. It ultimately causes disinterest and leaves a void that can be filled with a number of really negative forces. Many think, why would I want to get a degree if I cannot use it? For example, the work I am doing at the hospital has nothing to do with my degree, but I know, and my family knows, the importance of a university degree. I think it’s a societal problem, not the youth, but the youth are feeling the full force of the problem right now.

One of the solutions is looking to leave the country for work. But this is not a sustainable solution. I mean, if I had the opportunity to travel abroad, I absolutely would for a short time, but I know it’s not healthy for the community. Young people give life to the community so if we all leave there won’t be a lot left to help these communities prosper. I think the government needs to help students transition from university to the job market. We need policies that help facilitate this education-career transition.

How does your living situation shape who you are?

I live in Balata Refugee Camp and from my experience people stigmatize those who come from refugee camps. We’re the bottom of society and I see this in the job market too. I fear that when I apply for jobs, I will be rejected, and if I get accepted my colleagues will judge me.  It is a lose-lose situation. All my life I feel like I am trying to prove myself, trying to get people to see me as merely Samer - not Samer the refugee.

One of the most important aspects of TYO is the diversity. The organization brings people from all backgrounds together. We have students, teachers, and volunteers from around Nablus and from different camps consequently working to break down the cultural barriers and fighting prejudice. There are refugees all around the world. We need to stop judging people based upon their communities or colors or languages or education.  There is good and bad in every community.  Being a refugee has pushed me to work harder and be better. It gives me the energy to work with the children at TYO because I can relate and I can connect to them.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator