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2018: A Year of Hope

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Suhad Jabi Masri is the Center Director of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and has worked with the organization for ten years. She specializes in therapy for women who suffer from domestic abuse and traumatized children and families. Suhad holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from An Najah University, a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from European University in Switzerland, and a Master of Arts in Family Therapy from the University of Rochester in New York. As Center Director, she approaches TYO’s programs with the goal to empower people to realize their potential, broaden their thinking, and shape their own futures.

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization has an exciting year coming up! What is new for TYO in 2018?

2018 is an exciting year of growth for TYO! We will begin implementing several new programs with the support of Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD). With this support, we will continue to improve the quality of our current programs while simultaneously expanding our reach into the community with new programs for new target groups. We will work on scaling up the quality of the Palestinian education sector through direct investment in early childhood education for young children, academic intervention for older children, and drop-out prevention for youth. Throughout the foundation years of childhood, youth spend the majority of their time in educational environments. Challenges they face throughout the early years of their lives have a direct impact on their futures. By investing in children and youth through supportive and empowering programs, TYO seeks to positively impact individuals, families, and the community to reach their full potential. In addition to educational support, TYO is furthering our holistic approach by providing a team of psychologists and social workers to work side by side with teachers to best meet the mental, emotional, and physical needs of children and their families.

For university students and recent graduates, there are unique challenges to be faced as they transition into adulthood. For many, the expectation of obtaining employment in their area of interest after graduation is an unfulfilled dream. Without employment, these youth struggle with confidence and limited vision of what the future can be. At the end of university studies, students have the theoretical knowledge needed to pursue their interests, but lack the real world skills needed for successful employment. TYO provides opportunities to university students and recent graduates to participate across our programming as volunteers. Through volunteering, young adults receive training in soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication while also obtaining professional competency skills that can be vital for employment such as time management, professional writing, and public speaking. Time spent as a volunteer in TYO classrooms also prepares youth to be role models for children in their families and communities.  Under the support of QFFD, volunteers with excellent participation in TYO programs will have the opportunity to apply for scholarships to continue their education at local universities.

In addition to volunteer opportunities, TYO is launching a new youth entrepreneurship program to address the issue of unemployment for recent university graduates in Palestine. Years of high unemployment rates have left communities with an excess of workers for minimal positions. To address this issue, with the support of QFFD, TYO is initiating a new entrepreneurship program for youth with a dream and the passion to create their own businesses. By providing tools, training, and financial support to new entrepreneurs, youth will have the skills and knowledge needed to become their own boss and employ others in their community.

TYO embraces a multi-generational approach and it would not best serve the children and youth to provide an environment for growth that does not reach beyond the walls of the TYO Center. TYO is extending our expertise in developing supportive environments for children by providing classes and training for the mothers of participants in our early childhood programs. As the youngest children participate in TYO classes, their mothers will also receive training in parenting skills to support their children as they learn and grow. Mothers will also have a safe, supportive environment to build a community of parents with a common goal of ensuring their children are happy, safe, and loved.

That sounds an exciting year! What are you looking forward to the most in 2018?

For the past 10 years, the team at TYO has always done our best to insure the needs of our beneficiaries are met. By focusing on the quality of our programs instead of the quantity, we have been able to provide excellent services for participants of our programs. However, the needs in the community are great and we want to do more. We are fortunate to have the support of QFFD as we extend our services to meet the community where they most need assistance while also maintaining a high quality of services. My hope for 2018 is that the roots of the past 10 years anchor themselves deeply while we continue to grow taller and wider in impact for the Nablus community.

 

– Interview conducted by Katherine, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Brewing Friendships

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Enjoying a spot of tea while taking in the view of Nablus

I don’t even know where to start. I have learnt and felt so much since being in Nablus, that summing it all up in a few simple words feels like an impossible task. So, I’m going to do it in the most British way I know how – through tea.

At home, tea is a focal point in many situations. When you visit a relative, there is an offer of tea. When you’re stressed at work, there is an offer of tea. Whether you’ve had a bad day, or are sharing good news, there is always the supportive response of, “Would you like some tea?” I didn’t realise just how embedded in me this ‘tea culture’ was until I arrived in Nablus. Sharing living quarters with 3 Americans, I realised on the first day when I felt utter shock at the sight of one of my new roommates making tea in a microwave. I have since taught them well, however, and one of them is even returning to the US with her own teapot.

So, how does this all relate to what I’ve learnt and felt during my time here? Well, it relates in every way. Surprisingly, the tea culture that is strongly internalised within me is also widespread in Palestine. Not only is there always an offer of tea when visiting someone’s home, but also while out shopping for souvenirs in the different places we visit. We have even been offered tea while shopping for groceries! It is always very warmly received, and often much needed, after hours of having to resist buying every beautiful item we come across while (supposedly) shopping for friends and family.

The gift of mint tea in a shop in Bethlehem

Initially, I thought that being brought tea while out shopping was an unusually gracious gesture, but I was soon to find out that this kindness was just the tip of the iceberg. A teacher at TYO, Ahmad, recently took the interns for a hike to explore the nature surrounding his hometown, Jenin. Halfway through the hike, we stopped for a spot of lunch in the middle of an olive grove, with no other people in sight. It was beautiful. But what could make this moment more perfect? You got it – tea. Pulling a teapot out of his rucksack, Ahmad and his uncle saw to it that everyone had a refreshing cup of tea to enjoy while soaking in the autumn sun and reflecting on our time in Palestine. We were all very impressed at their commitment to tea. It certainly trumps anything I’ve seen in Britain!

The group relaxing with a cup of tea while taking a break from a hike.

Indeed, tea has played a central role in some of my favourite memories during my time here. Moments I will never forget include sitting at night with TYO’s guard, drinking copious amounts of tea and playing guitar. Limited in our ability to communicate through language, we have used tea to welcome each other and music to express ourselves and understand one another. This same guard has also become a personal doctor for the interns, providing us with herbal teas to help with whichever ailment was affecting us that week.

The friendly faces of TYO often meet over cups of sugary mint tea

It seems that something so simple, that I had never given more thought to beyond what constitutes my favourite blend, has been transformed into something beautiful. Tea has become a sign of hospitality, providing a warm welcome when exploring new and unknown places. It has become a sign of comradery, to enjoy while getting to know each other better and reflect on important memories. It has become a way to communicate, to build friendships, and support one another. Most significantly, tea is a symbol for the most important lesson I have learnt during my time here – to never underestimate the value in spending time with people and showing them that you care.

Tea among the olive trees

 

Sally, Fall 2017 International Intern

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All the Good in Goodbye

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International Interns Tallin and Katherine have knafeh while exploring Nablus.

As the internship draws to a close, it is time to reflect back on all of my experiences in Palestine. How can I possibly capture all of my thoughts, impressions and experiences inside a single blog post? The people of Palestine, my co-workers, students, and friends are all so incredibly warm and kind. The landscape of Palestine can only be described as breathtaking. My favorite past time had to be road trips between cities because it gave me a chance to look at the rolling valleys, the sprawling olive tree groves, and the mountains that cast their long shadows as the sun set. And lastly, the food here was consistently amazing with not a single disappointing meal coming to mind for the entire three-month duration of my stay. That’s not even starting to talk about the heavenly wonder that is fresh warm knafeh. I could dedicate an entire blog to any one of these topics and it still wouldn’t do them their full justice.

I’ve been considering the main things that I will tell my friends and family when I head home. I will certainly tell them that if they believed everywhere in the Middle East is hot and sunny, Palestine can quickly change that point of view if you are there in winter. But even cold rainy days have their charm here when you watch people bustling about or the children completely wrapped from head to toe paying a great homage to Randy from A Christmas Story. I’ll tell my family how on the coldest days the weather sent my students into a competition of, “I’m wearing the least layers and I’m still not cold.”

I’ll also tell people how much it was the people of TYO that made every day bright and exciting. That I was able to form good friendships with my fellow interns, teachers, and volunteers. I’ll also tell them how I had so much fun spending time with students and they were consistently the highlight of my days. However, I think that it is the teachers who were ultimately the most impactful for me. The teachers of TYO are some truly incredible people that I doubt I will ever forget. Their patience, kindness, and support helped me grow not only professionally but personally as I dealt with new challenges in the classroom. They never for a moment treated the interns simply as new coworkers, but as new friends with which to get acquainted. Outside of TYO, we went for a hike in northern Palestine with teacher Ahmad and on a shopping excursion with the female teachers. Their openness and welcoming personalities are the cornerstone of this entire internship for me.

The landscape of Palestine is not easily forgotten.

I’ve sent friends and family dozens of pictures during my stay in Nablus, but I still wish they could see it first-hand. I hope that one day in the future, Palestine becomes an accessible destination for everyone so that they can also appreciate everything that this unique place has to offer. I am sad to leave when in many ways it feels I just started, but it always helps to know that TYO could not be left in more caring, passionate, dedicated, and talented hands.

Tallin, Fall 2017 International Intern

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Random Acts of Kindness

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3rd grade students in TYO’s Academic Program love learning together.

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.

Katherine and staff member Rawan have enjoyed spending time together this session.

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

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Humans of Nablus 41

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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

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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.

Citation:
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

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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

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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

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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

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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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