Changing a Community Begins with the Confidence of a Child
A key theme this session here at TYO is community. TYO chose this theme in order to help our children value their individual qualities and the qualities of those around them. We believe that in gaining appreciation of individuality, the children better understand the relationships between themselves and adults. In addition, having an awareness of individuality allows children to recognize their roles within the greater community, which, in turn, will promote self-efficacy. While all of our programs focus on the idea of community, I believe an area where the emphasis of Community is particularly vital is in our Core Child Afternoon Program. Our Core Afternoon program works with children aged 6 through 8 years old - a time in children's lives when personalities strengthen, teamwork is of utmost importance and children begin to understand and appreciate their roles within the community. In our community, children face great adversity during the earliest years of their lives. At a time when children’s needs must be nurtured, they face a lack of satisfaction in all phases of development. Daily, our children confront issues such as domestic violence, neglect, and physical and emotional forms of punishment. They come to TYO feeling as though they are not “worth it." They have not been taught to appreciate their self-worth, and they have not been given the tools to improve their self-image. Through psychosocial-focused lesson plans and activities, we aim to prove to our children that they are worth it. We strive to provide our children with the wisdom that this school was built with their talents and we have deep hope that this will improve their self-efficacy and self-worth.
In the TYO Core Afternoon program, we place emphasis on correcting our children’s blurred images of self. If we want our children to participate in, make changes to, and have their voices heard within the community, we must help them build stronger egos. If we strengthen our children’s egos, and improve their sense of self, we will make a difference in the family as a whole – and the family, a small unit within the greater community – is where change begins. If our families participate in the community, it helps the community at large. So we see how one small change in one child can be the conduit of change for an entire community.
One perfect example is the child who throws garbage on the street. If you ask this child if this is the correct way to treat the environment, he or she might pause and be silent. The child knows in their heart it is wrong, but they were not raised to respect the environment. At the TYO Core Afternoon program, we help kids see the relationship between their actions at present and the future. We then focus on how they can change their actions to improve the future. In this way we are introducing the child to his role within the community and how simple changes, like appreciating themselves and their environment, can make a difference in their communities and in their lives.
Research shows that when working with children living with trauma and occupation, and with those who have lost control of their outside environment, stringent attention must be paid to building internal capacity. This can and will impact the larger system. That is why our theme this session at TYO may be community, but our focus, as always, remains with the confidence and self-esteem of the individual child. When we are able to help our children see the value in themselves, we are able to inspire change within the greater community.
Suhad is the Psychosocial Program Manager at TYO in Nablus. This blog was edited by TYO Fall 2013 intern Jessica.