Home Sweet Home

Children make Kenafeh in an activity designed to teach them about what makes their city of Nablus unique. Last week children in the Core Child program learned all about their home- Nablus.  This is often a surprising week for children, as so often we find they aren’t aware of even the most basic information about their own homes. I recall when I was a child growing up in a small village and my parents took me to Nablus for the first time, I felt as though I was traveling to another country. Though I lived only a 15-minute car ride away, at that time many checkpoints separated my home from the city, making the journey feel like a lifetime apart. It’s very difficult for children to understand the environment they live in, here in Palestine. It was only as an adult that I realized that my village was part of Nablus and Nablus was part of Palestine.

Though times are different now, most parents still struggle to find ways to explain these things- like checkpoints- to children, as this generation of parents has greatly normalized these experiences. Children in Palestine, particularly children growing up in the refugee camps, do not grow up with clear information about themselves. Their histories are so complicated- when they ask where they are from, they are rarely told ‘Balata Refugee Camp.’ Instead children are told, ‘You are living in Balata Camp, originally from ____________.’  Children struggle to understand this distinction and therefore grow up questioning their own identity. It is sad for me when I ask the children in my classroom, where are you from and they say they don’t know.

Understanding one’s own identity is such a crucial part of finding community. At TYO we teach the importance of building community. ‘A child’s role in his or her community depends on the encouragement and support they receive. If they believe they can make a difference, then they are more likely to try. While many of our students have pride in their home, many do not realize the potential they have as part of their community.’

As a Palestinian teacher teaching children at such a foundational age (4 and 5 years old) and being aware the complex messages children are exposed to at such young age I work closely with my team at TYO to ensure we are providing children with the structured guidance they require to identify their own thoughts and help them to articulate the feelings they have each day.  We focus on the importance of teaching what makes us unique- as Palestinians and Nabulsis- which helps children to build self-confidence and a sense of responsibility to the community. As TYO’s goal is to create a positive and happy environment for children, we concluded the week’s focus on My City, on a bit of a sweet note; children made their own kanafeh in Art Class- a true Nablus specialty!

-Core Child Program Teacher, Shireen

This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.