TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?


Tommy Laferriere

When you have a student realize the progress they made and express their gratification for your work, there is nothing quite like it.

Originally from North Kingstown, RI, Tommy taught Sports, Beginner and Intermediate Computer IT as part of The Women's Group and Professional Competency at An-Najah University as an intern at TYO Nablus in the fall of 2012.

What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO? 

I mean besides the Turkish bath with Mohammad, I'd have to say my favorite moment was the closing celebration at the end of the semester. Watching students that I laughed with, got laughed at by, taught, learned from, played with, and got headaches from, come up in front of the TYO community at tell us how much the appreciated us gave me an indescribable feeling. Every day is a struggle as a teacher and every day you see the small steps forward by your students, but when you have a student realize the progress they made and express their gratification for your work, there is nothing quite like it.

What do you miss most about Nablus?

Bar'a's dimples. Hands down one of the best all around dimple/smile combos on a child I've ever seen. She was always one of the first ones to arrive at TYO and one of the last ones to leave. Bar'a, along with all of the other girls would come and greet me by yelling "Tom, where is Jerry?," start cracking up, then start climbing on me like a jungle gym. These kids put a smile on my face every day, no matter what kind of mood I was in. The friendships I developed with some of the children at TYO are ones I will never forget. And possibly more importantly, I'll never eat kanafeh that is remotely close to Nabulsi kanafeh.

What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?

In June I arrived in Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe, as an English Education Peace Corps Volunteer. I spent the summer learning Romanian, studying the Moldovan education system, and learning effective classroom teaching techniques. I currently live and work in Briceni, a town in the far north which's population is split between Moldovans, Ukrainians, and Russians. I work in the Romanian speaking school, partner teaching English to grades 3-11; however I also organize holiday parties, school concerts, etc. In addition to teaching English, I am the Assistant Communications Director for a Peace Corps program called GLOW/TOBE (Girls Leading Our World/Teaching Our Boys Excellence). The program aims to address gender inequality in Moldova and empower the youth to take their futures into their own hands by coupling with local NGOs to put on seminars, run camps, and have weekend events for youth. The plan is to be here until the summer of 2015, so I'm not quite sure what is coming my way after I leave! One step at a time.

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

My experience with TYO was a major reason why I trudged through the Peace Corps application process. Working with the kids from TYO deepened my interest in volunteering my time, energy, and skill set to a cause focused on youth development. In that way, my experience at TYO touched me on a personal level, in terms of seeing the refugee camps and working with the troubled youth, and this resulted in guiding my life professionally. More specifically, TYO gave me the opportunity to watch how an INGO works, how it is run, how it interacts with the local community, etc. Furthermore, TYO provided me with instrumental teaching experience, professional development skills, etc. that I currently use at work now. Because of TYO, I hope that I will return to Palestine or the Middle East in the future, with a more developed skills set so that I can make a difference on a much larger scale.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?

Do it. It's an experience like no other, and you will never forget it. Additionally, I think for those of you who are applying, it is important to understand that although the West Bank and Nablus has an amazing culture, interesting politics, welcoming people, and gives you an opportunity to study the region, it is really about the kids at TYO. If you have a passion for working with youth, then TYO is the perfect opportunity.