TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?
I'm familiar with monitoring and evaluation processes, with how to develop strong programs to meet a certain need in a country or community, and with recognizing successes and learning from shortcomings -- all because I did all of that with my classes at TYO.
A Bethesda, MD native, Anna taught Arts & Crafts, IT and Fitness for The Women's Group, and Professional Competency at An-Najah University as an intern at TYO Nablus in the spring of 2012.
What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO?
It's hard to pick just one! Amidst the many challenging dimensions of TYO's work in Nablus - whether witnessing the difficulties of the children and women's daily lives under the occupation or, more prosaically, the challenges of managing a classroom of rowdy kids -- the moments that stick out to me are those of joy and revelation. Like during a lesson on color mixing, when Ishaq jumped up from his seat and yelled “Portuqalee!!” in total amazement at the fact that red and yellow make orange, a fact I've taken for granted for way too long. Or in my Women's IT class, we did Power Point presentations on what it means to be a woman in Palestine for International Women’s Day, and in describing Palestinian women’s progress in recent decades, multiple women mentioned that they now had the right to pursue an education, and cited our class as an example. I was so happy that the class was meaningful and, dare I say, empowering for them.
What do you miss most about TYO or Nablus?
Definitely the relationships. TYO is a community center in the truest sense. Whether being welcomed into the homes and the lives of the women we taught, sharing a juice cocktail with my awesome translator, or waving to the Khalla kids on a walk through the neighborhood, you truly feel part of a community. There is also something uniquely special about living and working with a group of people who all care deeply about the Middle East and Palestine and about our work with the children there. It was great to end the day smoking hookah with my fellow interns and 6th floor residents, sharing advice on handling challenges in our classrooms or laughing together at the hilarious things the kids had done that day.
What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?
I recently started a position as a Program Assistant with the Middle East and North Africa team at the National Democratic Institute, which does international democratic development work. I'm specifically working with the North Africa team to support our field offices in Tunisia and Mauritania. I thought I wanted to work in international development in the region before coming to Palestine, and TYO definitely confirmed that for me. In the future, I plan on going to grad school, and I'd love to do another stint in the Middle East.
How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?
TYO really pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided a great opportunity for personal growth. I’d never taught art before, and I'd definitely never taught aerobics, so I was always on my toes learning new things and feel like I left Palestine with new skills and interests. After coming up with a 10-week arts & crafts curriculum and modelling yoga poses in front of a room full of Palestinian women, I feel like I can take on any challenge that might come my way!
Professionally, TYO gave me a great taste of international development work, especially experience with designing and implementing a program on the ground. Now, when I read (and eventually write) reports at NDI, I'm familiar with monitoring and evaluation processes, with how to develop strong programs to meet a certain need in a country or community, and with recognizing successes and learning from shortcomings -- all because I did all of that with my classes at TYO.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?
Apply! TYO interns come from diverse backgrounds and interests, so give it a shot. If a TYO internship is something you hope to do in the future but you're not applying just yet, I think it helps to gain extra experience working with kids, especially in non-formal settings. My volunteer work at 826DC and my tutoring definitely helped me in the classroom in Nablus. Come to Palestine armed with ideas (and even supplies) for your class - orientation week goes by fast. And if you can spare the time and money, definitely try to travel in the region after the internship ends. A fellow intern Claudia and I had an awesome time traveling in Turkey after we left Palestine.