The TYO Bubble

Our journey from the airport to Nablus left the extravagance and western influence behind us and took us into the harsh reality of life in the West Bank. The trip lasted only an hour, but we found ourselves worlds apart. Our first week and a half here in Nablus has been spent almost entirely within the confines of TYO. The center, which is our new home for the next three months, is large and beautiful and provides a second home to the communities of Nablus as well as us. Most of our first impressions of Nablus are inevitably of how TYO relates to the larger community that it is situated within.

Due to our busy orientation schedule along with transportation strikes over fuel prices occurring here in the West Bank, we have not had much opportunity to go out into Nablus. Our planned trips to the Old City and Balata Refugee camp needed to be rescheduled, though even without those tours we are starting to see how TYO provides a kind of safe bubble for moms and kids who are used to living in insecure and difficult conditions.

One of our most important orientation lessons was on the psychosocial aspect of the work TYO does. Working with Suhad, TYO's Psychosocial Program Manager, to learn about the needs of the Nablus community was definitely humbling, and gave us our first real overview of how we need to provide for the kids in our classes. Suhad told us stories of what life is like here for adults and children living in the confines of refugee camps or in low income communities. That TYO helps the community to deal with the realities of living in difficult conditions while still raising healthy, happy kids by providing a safe haven for kids and moms alike to come and play, learn and even work out.

Library Day last Saturday was our first real interaction with the kids in our neighborhood. We broke into groups and worked with kids on reading both English and Arabic MEPI My Arabic Library books, and for the first time, saw the importance of TYO to the youth here. Kids started rolling in early, playing in the yard and showing obvious excitement for the day of reading ahead for them. Back at TYO for the first time since the break, the kids high-fived the familiar faces of our translators Ruba and Mohammed, and greeted us with a chorus of Arabic and English.

The enthusiasm of our neighborhood kids encouraged us to put the finishing touches on our curriculum and start the new term matching their level of excitement, providing engaging and fun classes for the kids so that TYO could continue to feel like their home away from home.  Although our picture of Nablus is far from complete, the image of Nablus cannot be depicted without its youth.  We are confident that our time here will complete a promising chapter in the bigger story of TYO, and that our presence here will make a different in the lives of the children we serve.

- Mary, Megan and Tommy

Mary, Megan and Tommy are Fall 2012 Interns