It’s a Session for Open Expression
With a mission to enable children in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members, Tomorrow's Youth Organization started the Core Child Program. The Core Child Program encourages children, ages four to eight, to "re-discover open expression and find themselves in their emotions" by introducing them to a "wide array of innovative activities." The Zahi Khouri Fellowship Program presents me with the opportunity to experience professional development in the field of education by applying psychosocial and multigenerational methods. Being able to work in both of the Core AM & PM programs has allowed me to work with ages varying from four to nine.
In the Core AM Child Program, we are piloting full immersion English language lesson classes, in which we only speak English in the classroom. Working primarily with ages four and five, I did not expect many children to engage for two reasons; first, because they are being presented with a different language and second, because children at a young age are usually hard to reach. After only 5 weeks of classes I am able to have full conversations with these children, consisting of "how are you", "where are you from", and "what is your name." Moreover, it is clear that these children are eager to learn, as each day they come to class asking for the meaning of new words.
Having experience applying psychosocial methods to pediatric nutrition, I was asked to focus on the health class in TYO's Core PM Child Program. In TYO's health class, we focus on relaying important health and nutritional information through innovative activities that are fun and educational for the children. Since we target discovering open expression and emotions, we also incorporate activities that reveal children's emotional health. Children are encouraged to write in their 'health journals' and are constantly reminded of their value and importance within both their families and communities.
Working closely with these children on a regular basis has enlightened me. Though I came to Nablus knowing that many of these children have experienced extensive psychological trauma, having never previously entered a refugee camp, I was unaware of their living conditions. It was only after visiting Balata refugee camp with TYO that I was able to gain insight into the harsh and congested living conditions in which our children live. Large families occupy 3x3 meter cement block rooms. Several homes had sheets hung as doors, and metal bars that covered their windows. Children played in 3-foot-wide alleyways. The majority of TYO's children live in similar overcrowded refugee camps and other disadvantaged communities. The absence of imaginative atmospheres and open spaces these children need, factors in their psychological trauma. Providing these children with the very basic needs every child deserves is a large part of TYO's mission.
Reema is a Zahi Khouri Fellow for the Fall 2013 session.