Mohammed Assaf & Meaningful Relationships

As you might know by now, June 22 was a very exciting night in Palestine- after three months of tough competition with other musicians from the Middle East, a young Palestinian singer named Mohammed Assaf won the wildly popular television show, Arab Idol. From fireworks to Facebook updates, it seemed all of Palestine showed their pride for Mohammed Assaf in some way. Yet before his fame, Mohammed Assaf lived in Gaza’s Khan Younis Refugee Camp, where many people lack basic life necessities and regularly experience violence. Mohammed’s dream to become a singer began in early childhood, but he faced continued challenges all the way up to his audition spot for Arab Idol. Despite the difficulties that his environment placed on his dream, Mohammed persevered- and most importantly- received ample support from his parents and community.

So as Palestine waited for the results of the show and celebrated as he won, Mohammed’s victory sent the message that no matter where you come from, you can still succeed. At TYO, I felt as though it gave many of our children a small glimpse of hope for their futures- a hope that is often lost because of the daily pressures of life in Palestine, poverty, or exposure to violence. In addition to always asking to play his songs, many kids ask about his situation, and where he’s from. Assaf's victory also brought out a bit of confidence in some of my students, like Abdul from Askar Camp. In the last few weeks, he's been singing constantly in class, and talks about his dream to be on stage like Mohammed Assaf.

That's why in our Core Program, we work to create a creative space for children to develop both in and out of the classroom, and build meaningful relationships. Many overcrowded refugee camps and other disadvantaged communities lack the imaginative atmosphere and safe environment children need to play and express themselves, so we hope to provide a creative place where they can build their self-confidence and support network. This approach aligns with recent research presented in this Harvard University Impact of Early Adversity on Childhood Development report that nurturing relationships in a child's early years can prevent- and even reverse- the affects of extreme poverty, abuse, or violence that many of our kids face.

Core Teacher Ahmed  builds meaningful relationships & encourages creativity both in and out of the classroom

As a teacher, this is what inspires me- I want kids from all over Palestine- from Mohammed Assaf to Abdul from Askar Camp- to have the confidence to develop their dreams and talents. Without them, we will lose out on the future.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb is a Core Program Teacher at TYO. Above, he reflects on Mohammed Assaf's victory, and what it means for his students at TYO.