Humans of Nablus 41


While working at TYO, I have learned that education depends on the community as a whole. Children need time and support from both their teachers and parents. They also need personalized activities. Some children are visual learners, some learn best through physical activity, and some learn best by listening. TYO provides children and the community with these valuable learning resources because they care about them.

خلال فترة عملي بمنظمة شباب الغد , تعلمت بأن التعليم يعتمد على المجتمع بشكل عام فالاطفال يحتاجون الى الدعم من اساتذتهم وابائهم كما ويحتاجون الى نشاطات تعتمد على شخصيتهم, فبعض الاطفال يتعلمون من خلال النشاطات البصرية ,بعضهم الاخر يتعلم افضل من خال الانشطه الحركية وبعضهم من خلال الانشطه السمعية . نوفر في منظمة شباب الغد للاطفال والمجتمع مصادر تعليمية متعددة ذات جودة وقيمة عالية لاننا نهتم.
Isra’ is a volunteer at TYO with the Core Early Childhood Education Program.

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Winning More Than Just First Place


Academic students and a volunteer laugh together as they play a game during English class.

This session at TYO marked my first-time teaching 5th and 6th graders English, and with it the introduction to a huge group of students who seemed to have boundless enthusiasm and limitless amounts of energy. In the spirit of TYO, I looked for ways to redirect and focus this energy, rather than trying to suppress it and control it, and ended up introducing my favorite personal teaching style into the classroom: Competition.

I am hardly the first teacher to harness the benefits of competition. Its effects have often provided positive results. The use of team competition in education has been documented in psychology before, including the 1981 study Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures on Achievement. The study tested how students preformed when they competed against each other individually or as a team working in a cooperative effort. The study concluded that, “Cooperation with intergroup competition is also superior to interpersonal competition and individualistic efforts,” (Johnson, W., Maruyama, G., Johnson, R, 47). By adding a teamwork element to competitive learning, students were able to remove themselves from their insecurities and play together, learning the lesson material without realizing they were studying through play.

The study supports the claim that team competition can help students academically, but that’s not all competition can provide students. Competitions help to meet students half way by using the energy that they naturally bring to class and redirect it in positive directions. Energy in a classroom can cause disruptions and distractions during class, but it’s not an inherently negative thing and can be used in a positive way. If students supply the energy, teachers should supply the means to use it in constructive ways and change how students view learning.

Academic students line up to play a racing game to practice English letters and numbers.

Confidence can be cultivated during activities when students recognize their abilities and overall contribution to their team getting points. During an intense moment of competition, students will try to help their team however they can. Win or lose, the sense of contributing to a shared goal can often boost the confidence of even the shiest students.

The positive impact of competition in the classroom became obvious through my own anecdotal experience with one of my older students as the class participated in a competitive activity in 4 teams. The subject was spelling, one of the less engaging subjects, yet when points were on the line, my students scrambled to find the necessary letters out of a pile. The student, who is normally the most reluctant to answer any question and tries his best to sit in the corner, was now completely hunched over the table, sorting through letters with his teammates and excitedly yelling that he had found the necessary vowel. This complete transformation wasn’t merely limited to the spelling challenge. He continued to amaze as he encouraged his teammates, excitedly pumped his fist when his team scored and was the first to throw his hand up in the air when his team had completed their task first. As an individual, he was unsure and timid in his answers, but surrounded by his teammates and the chance of victory, he was a completely different student. The student now shows his confidence outside of competitions and is more likely to engage in lessons when he knows that he might have an opportunity later to use that same knowledge to gain some much-coveted points.

Academic students race to grab a lettered beanbag when their number is called.

Games and activities allow students to grow academically, gain confidence in their abilities, and express themselves through play. Education that is effective, fun, and leads to personal growth is what TYO is all about, and what distinguishes it as an education center rather than a traditional school. The goal isn’t merely to have students leave our doors with a little bit more knowledge in their heads, but to create a personal love of knowledge and to grow as individuals.

Johnson, D. W., Maruyama, G., Johnson, R., Nelson, D., & Skon, L. (1981). Effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 89(1), 47-62.


– Tallin, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Humans of Nablus 40


When I’m not in TYO, and I don’t have exams, I like to paint. My favorite thing to paint is faces because they show emotions and feelings. I hope that if I take some courses, my painting will improve and I can fulfill my goal – to be an artist.

عندما لا اتواجد في منظمة شباب الغد ولا يوجد عندي امتحانات.أحب ان أرسم. رسومي المفضله هي للوجوه لانها تعكس المشاعر والأحاسيس. أتمنى أن أخذ دروسا تساعدني على تطوير موهبتي بالرسم لكي أصل الى طموحي_ أنا أكون فنانه


Majdoleen is a volunteer at TYO with the After-School Academic Program.

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The Art of Making Mistakes


Core teacher Mahmoud and his students roar with their lion masks.

“There is no such thing as a mistake in art.” Even now, years later, I can still remember my elementary school art teacher encouraging me to embrace mistakes. She showed me how a misplaced line or extra paint splotch could become a new design. There is always a way to transform an accident into an opportunity. As a child pre-occupied with perfection, art gave me space to develop at my own pace. I enjoyed learning without worrying about making mistakes.

My elementary teacher must have known that using art in education helps students to develop and become well-rounded individuals. In June 2017, The Arts Fund USA released a statement confirming that students who learn through art are well-equipped to express themselves, show empathy towards others, and collaborate and solve problems. They are also willing to take risks and are resilient in their learning. The California Alliance for Arts Education adds that students with exposure to the arts tend to have higher test scores, higher school attendance rates, and are more likely to continue their education beyond the secondary level than their counterparts. They grow into critical thinkers and innovators.

Core Early Childhood students and a volunteer work together to create lion masks.

I have come to appreciate the truth of these findings while using art to teach English to students at TYO. Including daily art projects in my lesson plans has provided children with a critical sense of both structure and accomplishment. They feel prepared for class each day and they know that even if they make mistakes while learning English, they will always be able to take pride in their work. Art emboldens students to be creative and to make the mistakes that language learners must make in order to develop.

For example, I recently asked my 3rd grade students to create family trees. They were allowed to include as many family members as they wished. Many were proud of their artwork and ran up to me beaming to show me what they had done. When they did, I praised each one and pointed to a person on their family tree and asked, “Who is this?” Some students stared at their drawing for a long time while formulating an answer. They were not afraid to take the time they needed to gather their thoughts. When they said the correct answer, their faces lit up with pride. Even when they made mistakes, they were still eager to try again and share their art with me. The art created a safe space for them to learn.

Two Core Early Childhood students pose in their lion masks.

Including art in my lessons empowers students to develop at their own pace. During art activities, I play age-appropriate music and circulate around the room to interact with students while they work. I visit each cluster of students to talk with individuals in English. Shy students sometimes hesitate to look up from their art projects. In those cases, I praise the work the child is doing and then talk with the student next to them. In the course of my conversation with the other student, the shy student will gradually look up and start to engage in conversation with me. In this way, art projects give students agency to decide if and when they will take language risks.

Core Early Childhood teacher Mahmoud leads his class as the students as they wear bee wings and pretend to fly around the classroom.

Art also gives students freedom to make mistakes and take risks in their daily lives. Many of my students live in crowded homes and neighborhoods. Due to space and noise restrictions at home, they do not always have the ability to buzz around in bee wings, make a kite and then fly it, or roar while wearing lion masks. TYO is a place where they do not need to worry about being perfect, still, or quiet. They are free to complete an art project, take pride in their work, play with it, and simply enjoy being children. I have seen that freedom translate into an eagerness to continue learning and attending class at TYO.

Core student Ali smiles with his bee wings.

Art has instilled my students with a new sense of self-esteem and motivation in their learning. It has also enabled them to build stronger relationships with one another and with me. In my two months at TYO, I have watched every single one of my students grow through art. Art has fueled their imaginations and their curiosity about themselves and the world around them. Even after our session together ends, I hope they will continue to approach their education with enthusiasm and a willingness to take risks.


Katherine, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Humans of Nablus 39


If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to just do what you want to do, and study what you want to study, no one can force you to do anything different. Try hard to achieve your goals because, if nothing else, at least you’re trying

اذا استطعت  اعطاء  نصيحه صغيرة ستكون فقط اعمل ما تريد وادرس ما تريد دراسته ولا احد يستطيع اجبارك على عمل شيء مختلف.ابذل كل ما بوسعك للوصول الى هدفك لانك ان لم تبلغ مبتغاه عالاقل كان لك شرف المحاولة


Saffanah is a volunteer at TYO with the After-School Academic Program.

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A Fleeting Return


The TYO Team and the Fall 2017 International Interns pose for a photo on Niamh’s departure day.

It is easy for recollections of a place to fade almost as soon as your feet leave its soil. Indeed, as I adjusted back to life in mainland Europe, the problems and accuracy of past events begin to be dominated by new people, fresh adventures and daily quandaries. Unfortunately, my abysmal level of Arabic also returned to its original non-existent state.

Of course, there are some elements which I could not forget even with distance and time. The children, teens and adults with whom I worked left a marked impression on me; their smiles, sadness and frustrations were all part of our time together in the classroom and on the football pitch. Despite the many great experiences, I had during my first internship, it is the people that I met here that I remember most fondly.

I think this explains why, as we drove to Nablus after an excessively long journey from Dublin, it felt like I was returning home again. The prospect of continuing friendships beyond a laptop screen, exploring the rolling landscape and forging new memories was exciting and inviting. And reuniting with the staff and volunteers of TYO did not disappoint. There were new stories of motherhood, engagements and summer adventures in the three months that I had been gone. It was great to reacquaint and hear updates from everyone, to smile and laugh and to see familiar faces. There is a sense of community here that is similar to my village at home; a diversity in personalities but a collective mentality and sense of unity.

However, there was not much time chit chat. The hustle and bustle at the center was indicative of the Fall session already being underway as women conversed on their way to class and children ran through the corridors while volunteers attempted to catch them. The return of the sonorous swell of everyday life at TYO has been like music to my ears, the positivity and excitement palpable in the air for the upcoming activities. Seeing local people engaged in TYO and the work that we do is such a satisfying feeling, that we are facilitating personal growth and learning despite the difficult living conditions here.

And although I must leave TYO this week, much sooner than I had hoped or anticipated, I am thankful for my short time here. In my final blog of the Spring session in May, I felt a deep sense of sadness to be leaving the organisation and those I met while here. I imagined that I would not see many, if any, of those with whom I worked again once we drove out the front gates. However, unexpectedly I returned not even four months later, straight back into the madness. This time, saying goodbye to the organisation, I feel both disappointed and hopeful; dissatisfied at being unable to stay in Nablus but hopeful that TYO will continue to grow, teach and empower those who come through the doors. I cannot say when I will be in TYO again after I leave on Wednesday but this time I am sure that it won’t be the last time I pass through those green front gates. Until next time Nablus!


Niamh, Fall 2017 International Intern

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What Lies Beyond My Comfort Zone


International Intern Katherine practices the ukulele.

In three short weeks, the teachers, staff, and students at TYO have helped me to discover a new confidence that I did not know I had. That confidence has come to me through playing music. Whether singing for staff, learning to play the ukulele for children, drinking tea and playing music with the guard, or simply strumming a guitar on the balcony overlooking the valley, music has unlocked both the culture of Nablus and my own sense of identity and purpose.

Music first began to shape my experience while I was singing for staff. The day before classes began, I was petrified to sing and play music in front of people. I grew up singing and playing different instruments, but always suffered from terrible stage fright. I finally overcame my fear while lesson-planning at TYO and invited others to listen to me practice a “Hello” song that I wrote on the ukulele. Their support gave me confidence to play the song for the children.

All of my students were enthralled by the ukulele. Even when I made mistakes in week one, they still clapped and requested that I include their names in the verses. In the second week, one third grader even started dancing. Students also began to sing and do hand gestures while I played. The music has inspired an atmosphere of love and community. It means everything to me that my students enjoy learning and that our class is a safe space for them to express themselves.

International Intern Katherine sings with her Core Early Childhood education class.

I quickly learned that music also builds community in Nabulsi culture. I sat one night for nearly two hours drinking tea and playing the guitar with TYO’s guard. We passed the guitar and took turns playing traditional songs from our cultures. It was a beautiful expression of tolerance and reaffirmed the welcoming spirit that I witness on a daily basis from local staff. Once again, the experience required me to challenge my comfort zone and play music in front of others.

On a personal level, music has given me peace and helped me to feel at home. I often sing and play the guitar on the balcony overlooking the valley. When I do, locals living nearby will sometimes stand on their balconies to watch and listen. I am no longer afraid of anyone listening to me sing or play. On the contrary, the music has become a way for me to introduce myself to locals and break down any linguistic or cultural barriers that might otherwise divide us.

Music has shaped my first impressions of Nablus in every way. I came here to serve the children to the best of my ability. Playing music is allowing me to accomplish that goal while also helping me to recognize my own identity and potential. I have calluses on my fingers and a small bump on my thumb from where I have been strumming the ukulele and guitar. I hope those marks remain as a lasting reminder of this experience and the healing that music can bring.


Katherine, Fall 2017 International Intern

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The Heart of Palestine


International Intern Sally and TYO students smile for a photo after classes wrap up for the day.

Before arriving in Palestine, I had read and heard many stories of the warmth of the people, and the beauty of its landscapes. I expected that I would be met with the friendly faces of the people working at TYO, and that I would enjoy taking in my new surroundings. I thought that these expectations put me in good stead for my 3 months here. Yet, after just two weeks of the internship, I am still often overwhelmed by the reality of my experiences in Nablus. While I expected that I would meet good people, I was not prepared for the great warmth and compassion of the staff at TYO. I learn something new each day from working alongside the incredible teachers here, and the support that the staff provide both for the children and each other is unlike anything I have experienced before. Daily experiences with the teachers, staff, and children, reveal more and more that it is the people, and their heart, that is driving this organisation.

The Nablus skyline in the evening from the TYO Center.

Another reality of life in Nablus that I was under-prepared for is the endless, stunning, scenery. Again, before arriving in Palestine, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect from what I’d seen online and in books. I expected that the landscape would be beautiful, with the sun shining over rolling hills. But being able to sit in amongst these sun-kissed hills evokes particular emotions that you cannot feel when simply looking at a picture on Google Images. I sit here reflecting on my first two weeks on a balcony in the TYO building, which is set up in the hills, with the valley lying below. I moved here straight from the urban north of England, and being able to look out over miles of undulating hills simply takes my breath away.

Delicious knafeh in the heart of the Old City of Nablus.

As well as getting to know compassionate individuals, and admiring the beautiful hills of Palestine, there is also some time to sample the local cuisine. Whenever I go somewhere new, discovering the local delicacy often plays a big part in assessing how well I am going to fit in to my new surroundings. Considering I am vegetarian, and a staple here is falafel, we were off to a good start. Add to that copious amounts of hummus and yogurt, and you have one very happy vegetarian. The cherry on the top came during a visit to Nablus’ Old City, where we were introduced to knafeh; a delicious combination of melted cheese and syrup. The first time I tried this dish, I wasn’t quite sold. However, I have since tried it a few more times, and it is fast becoming a staple in my diet.

The minaret of the Great Mosque in Old City of Nablus.

Inevitably, these first few weeks have involved a lot of learning, and adjusting to a new environment that can sometimes be overwhelming. Considering this, I could not be more excited to see what the next 2 months hold. I look forward to spending more time getting to know people, and learning from the incredible teachers here. I am eager to explore more; to walk in the hills, and float in the Dead Sea. And, of course, I look forward to another 2 months of a knafeh-based diet.

In the meantime, I think it is safe to say that we are off to a very good start, Nablus.


– Sally, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Who Says Grey Isn’t a Warm Color?


Before I had even formally arrived at the TYO building, I was introduced to the hospitality of Nablus. I arrived in the early hours of the morning when few reasonable people are awake, yet I was greeted by one of the school’s security guards when I drove through the gate. As I unloaded by bags and was led upstairs to my new home, it was explained to me that the guard had voluntarily stayed after his shift in order to welcome and greet the new intern for the session. This unbelievable thoughtful and kind gesture soon proved to be the rule, and not the exception for Nablus.

In my brief week here I have had people warmly smile at me, greet me in Arabic and English, wave to me, offer services, food, assistance and explanations, and even invite me to a wedding (which was absolutely phenomenal, and I strongly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go).

While children are wise to be wary of strangers, the majority of students have warmed up to me quickly. To watch a child cautiously eyeing you from across the room and then resolutely walk over to you and offer you their colored pencil, it absolutely melts your heart. Children will often stare at the new interns in the hallways, especially me being the tallest of the four, but undoubtedly you will have one daring and bold child enthusiastically shriek, “Hello!” with an aggressively uncoordinated wave. This creates a domino effect and suddenly you have three and then seven little voices echoing the greeting as they march past on their way to snack or the playground.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to keep reminding myself is to be fun and friendly while still establishing cultural boundaries and reinforcing personal space. In one of the classes with my older students, a student wanted to see my multi-colored necklace and started to reach for it to simply touch it. I was quickly pulled to the side by the teacher and it was kindly explained to me that they discourage students from touching simply so students can learn boundaries and respect personal space. TYO tries hard to teach and establish the meaning of personal space in order to ensure that students have a healthy concept of autonomy and respect.

This was difficult for me to grasp since I naturally want to pat my students on the back encouragingly and let kids examine my necklace or let a student gently tug on my sleeve for my attention. Fairly innocuous physical interactions that happen just from being around children, but I suddenly had to constantly check myself and monitor my space and movements. If I happened to slip or let students get too comfortable physically getting my attention, it could create a bad precedent for how to respectful of others’ space.

It helped to contextualize for me that while Nablus is an overwhelming friendly and welcoming city, it nevertheless has its own unique cultural norms and traditions. This has meant that I’ve had to intertwine caution and restraint into my interactions, while still seeming open and approachable. The situation isn’t so simple as a black and white duality between friendly and distant, it exists in a respectful and warm grey. During the rest of my time here, I look forward to seeing all the shades that this colorful city has to offer.


Tallin, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Welcoming Our Fall 2017 Interns!


International Interns Tallin, Niamh, Katherine, and Sally.

Introducing the Fall 2017 Intern team! 4 international interns from the United States, Ireland, and England have been selected to lead English classes with children and youth. Read all about them!



Tallin grew up right outside of Washington D.C, in Takoma Park, Maryland. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Linguistics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in a rather unorthodox fashion. While obtaining her university degree, Tallin lived in Nicaragua, Turkey, Chile and Slovenia. While in Nicaragua, Tallin discovered her passion for linguistics and learned Spanish. She then turned her love of languages into a career choice by teaching English in Istanbul, Turkey. After a year of teaching, she returned to school in Alaska for a year and then headed off to Slovenia for an internship and to complete her studies online.

Tallin joined the TYO intern team because it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use her past professional experience, gain new knowledge by working with a widely recognized NGO, and learn about a new culture and group of people.



Niamh grew up in the west of Ireland. She moved to Dublin to complete an undergraduate degree in Medical Research and obtained a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Action in the Netherlands. Niamh became interested in Palestine at the age of 16 when she traveled to the area to attend a summer course on conflict resolution. The community-focused approach that TYO takes towards its work and the love and appreciation that is felt by local people really drew her towards TYO originally in Spring 2017 and again for the Fall session. She is excited to be back in such a positive environment and is really looking forward to working with the people of Nablus and the organization once more, doing some good work, and having a bit of fun in the process.



Katherine is originally from the northern suburbs of Chicago. After earning her BA in Religion with focus on Middle Eastern Studies from St. Olaf College in 2012, she completed a two-year MA in Religion with focus on Women and Gender Studies at Yale University. She spent the next two years working at a women’s empowerment center in rural Morocco, doing foreign policy work in DC, teaching humanities and literature at an all-girls school in Jordan, and doing humanitarian work with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees in Greece. Inspired by these experiences, she recently earned her Ed.M. in International Education Policy from Harvard University with a focus on child protection and education in crisis and conflict settings.

Katherine is excited to gain field experience working on refugee education programs with the TYO team. She sees this as a wonderful opportunity to learn more about education in conflict, further develop her Arabic and other professional skills, and deepen her understanding about the region’s culture, history, and people.



Sally grew up in Liverpool, England, before moving to Nottingham to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies and French. She spent a year in Bordeaux, France as part of her undergraduate degree, where she realized her love for learning about other cultures and the importance of this for both personal and community development. After graduating, she bought a one-way ticket to Martinique in the Caribbean, where she explored a new culture, made great friendships, and discovered her unwavering desire to work in development. A voluntary placement in Senegal with Y Care International, the international relief agency of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), left Sally with a strong commitment to do more. On her return to England she undertook a Master’s degree in International Development with emphasis on Development Management, in Manchester, which she finished in August 2017.

While in Manchester, Sally enjoyed Arabic lessons with a local non-profit organization that provides community support for Syrian people. She saw the difference language and culture exchange can make to overcome social barriers and build communities. Now that she has completed her studies, she can’t wait to take up the fantastic opportunity with TYO, and hopefully play a part in contributing to the Nablus community.


Welcome to TYO!

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