There are many experiences that I could highlight as my time at TYO ends. I could talk about the joy of watching children discover their potential. I could talk about the teachers and the unfailing support they have given me. I could talk about local culture and opportunities I have had to witness how Nabulsis live, interact, and view the world. The common threads uniting all of these experiences, however, are the random acts of kindness that I have experienced since I arrived. The staff, community, volunteers, teachers, and even the students have taught me what it means to put others before yourself. I will carry that spirit of Nablus with me long after I leave.
The staff at TYO have been selfless with their time and resources. For instance, in the middle of my time here, I developed a bad cough. The guard, Muhammad, gave me aniseed from his own supply with instructions about how to put it in tea. He also spent time digging next to his hut to find me fresh thyme to add to the tea. He gave his own time and limited resources to help me when I needed it most. Another staff member, Rawan, similarly worked overtime one evening to make sure that Sally and I had all of the art supplies we needed to make our classes a success. Staff worked tirelessly to make sure that we were healthy and prepared, even if it meant they needed to make sacrifices.
The community has also sacrificed its time and resources. One afternoon, while walking down the hill, I slipped and hurt my legs. An elderly woman climbed down the stairs of a nearby house with a large jug of cool water and poured it over my injuries. She sacrificed her own water, a scarce resource, solely to help me feel better. Her selflessness was deeply moving. The community also showed generosity whenever I went shopping. Whether buying vegetables or shopping in the Old City, merchants were eager to offer tea, lemon and mint drinks, and Arabic coffee. The cost of the drink mattered less to them than the chance to make us feel comfortable.
The volunteers at TYO performed acts of kindness every single day. The classes would not have been possible without their support. They made a point of greeting me daily and taking the time to learn about me as a person. Their openness laid the groundwork for relationships of respect and mutual understanding. That understanding translated into constant teamwork to support the children’s learning. Volunteers in all of my classes would often stay late to help me gather my teaching materials and bring them back to my office. Their acts of kindness forged comradery between us. The volunteers let me know that they cared about me and my well-being.
The teachers at TYO likewise showed me kindness every day. Even when I knew teachers were having a bad day or were stressed out, they always made a point of asking after my well-being first. I was amazed by their strength and their unfailing ability to put others’ thoughts and needs before their own. That generous spirit translated into the classroom. The teachers constantly helped me to adapt my activities to serve and develop more meaningful relationships with the students. They welcomed me into their classrooms as a co-teacher rather than as a guest. Their patience and words of encouragement inspired me to learn and grow in new ways.
Even the students at TYO performed random acts of kindness on a regular basis. I sometimes dropped materials as I transitioned from one class activity to another. The instant a piece of paper or marker hit the floor, children as young as five years old would hurry to pick it up and hand it back to me. The students would also make a point of helping me clean up after activities. If I asked each student to pick up five crayons or five pieces of tissue paper, they would all pick up ten. I have never encountered such helpful children. Their compassion is a true reflection of the kindness of TYO, the community, the volunteers, the teachers, and their parents.
While many experiences have made my time here special, the little moments connecting them have made it truly unforgettable. TYO is a place that brings out the best in people and challenges them to become more than they thought they could be. My interactions with the staff, the community, volunteers, teachers, and students have shown me the true meaning of generosity, friendship, and compassion. As I leave TYO, I am inspired to pay it forward and support others the way people here have supported me.
– Katherine, Fall 2017 International Intern