Stretching our Limits
Three years ago, TYO opened its doors to the communities living in our five target areas; El-Ein, Balata, New and Old Askar, the Old City, and the surrounding Khallet Al-Amood neighborhood. We have struggled with the Arabic-English barrier, buses that aren’t always on time and, of course, the burning sun we have all come to love. Perhaps the most difficult task, however, has been saying “No.” Today, a mother from El-Ein refugee camp came into my office with her three children, two boys and a girl. Her children's ages ranging from 3 to 7 years old. She had heard last night that there was a respected free community center in Khallet Al-Amood and had desperately tried to put her kids on the TYO bus this morning. As a matter of organization, our bus drivers strictly limit who can and cannot get on the bus via a TYO List of Participants. (After all, we do not want to accidentally take a scared and confused child across town.)
This particular mother, though, was not going to give up so easily. Despite not having any money with her, she took a private taxi across town with her three children at her side and found her way to my office. She sat down in front of her children and me and begged. I couldn’t help but match her tears with my own. Her husband recently suffered from a stroke that left the right side of his body incapacitated and the home without a breadwinner. She has little supportive family in the community and is, as a result, left alone to take care of her husband and three children in an impoverished household.
Her desperation brought her to TYO four weeks after our Core program began. My immediate response was a difficult denial not because it is difficult to integrate new kids in the program, but because we simply do not have the resources to enroll every child who wants to and needs to come to our center. But her persistence and her story made me realize that TYO is the one place where we can’t afford to say no. It may force us to have larger class sizes and we certainly can’t take in every child, but we have to try our best.
Her kids, she said, are very shy and have no place to go in the refugee camp. They ask her each day why they can’t just be like the other kids in the world, why they can’t be children. These words from a three-year-old brought a mother to TYO, a place whose doors opened specifically for these kids who lack support elsewhere.
In the end, we managed to enroll her two older kids in the program, but there are still children who need help, children who we can’t help. This is easily the hardest part of my job, and I don’t know if there is anything to be done.
Suhad is the Psychosocial Program Manager at TYO Nablus.