Making Strides in Different Ways

The kids who come to Debra’s sports class and Elizabeth’s art class all have the opportunity to have a safe space to play and be creative. Yet, each child grows in unique ways. Asem channels his creativity in Elizabeth's Arts & Crafts class.


One child, Asem, is an energetic bundle of smiles and laughter. When he first came to Summer Camp at TYO, he didn’t always want to participate in the activities. He would act as though he was too cool to play the games. Always trying to make others laugh, too often he wouldn’t fully engage with the activities. One day though, we asked to him to help us in taking pictures of the class. For the first time, he was perfectly calm and focused. He walked confidently around the class, taking photos of his fellow students in action. We were able to see the multidimensionality of his personality. More importantly, he was able to see it. He learned how to let go of his self-consciousness and just do something that he enjoys. He learned how to allow something to affect him in a positive way.

The classes as whole units also showed significant growth. The more the kids interacted as a group, the more cooperation we saw. Sometimes, however, growth can be measured in unconventional and surprising ways.

One of our students, Amin, underwent significant changes throughout the course of the program—but unlike Asem, Amin’s progress was not so obvious. At the beginning, Amin was exceptionally quiet, and did not even speak when the volunteers or other kids spoke to him. Amin always worked diligently, and he never caused any disruptions in class. On the surface, Amin seemed like a well-adjusted child who did not need special attention.

Amin listens intently in the intern classes.

But around the third week, Amin’s behavior changed dramatically. He was no longer the shy, careful child we saw at the beginning—he became more aggressive and less willing to cooperate. If Amin did not want to stand in line, he would try to sprint ahead of our group. If Amin became upset with another student, he would confront them instead of turning away.

It seemed as though Amin had regressed. However, we realized that his initial demeanor was not that of a well-adjusted child, but that of a fearful child. Amin has not yet learned how to channel his energy in positive ways, and he has not quite figured out how to deal with his frustrations, but he is comfortable enough at TYO to express himself without fear of being punished. He does not stifle his feelings, and he does not shy away from expressing himself, even if the manner in which he expresses his feelings may not be completely appropriate yet. In the future, Amin will likely need more psychosocial interventions and one-on-one guidance, but in the span of four short weeks, Amin has made tremendous improvement.

Seeing the progress the kids made over the course of the summer camp session has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the internship. Although we do not witness long-term transformations with our short-term interventions, we hope that our classes have truly been a point of light for these children. We hope that we have given them a strong foundation upon which they can continue to develop in future TYO classes.

- Elizabeth and Debra

Elizabeth and Debra are Summer 2013 interns at TYO in Nablus.