Community and Country in TYO’s Children’s Eyes

Palestinian flag and the map from children Abd Aallh Kharma, Qasem Abu Sleem ,  Motaz Abu Ayesh and Seri abu Kheet At TYO, our focus and goals is to improve children's social interactions, and increase the way they see and appreciate themselves with the hope of equipping the next generation of leaders with the tools they need to resolve problems positively and peacefully. In week three of our summer program, we focused on introducing children to new experiences and life skills which help them to develop as individuals, but also increase their sense of belonging and commitment to their community.

As a teacher, I believe my focus with the children should be on increasing the confidence in children, so they will grow into competent adults who are able to make positive changes within their communities.  Children were exposed to the name of Palestine as their country, and discussed how each culture and each country has unique aspects and personal qualities that distinguish them from other places- but also show how we’re all similar. For their first time in most of their lives, the children at TYO were exposed to maps during this week and shown where their country is located in relation to other places in the world. They learned why maps are used- and they heard Palestine’s national anthem, discussing how each country has their own flag and maps.

During this week we also introduced TYO’s international interns to children in the Core Child Program. The interns were able to help demonstrate to children that different countries have their own cultures, maps, flags, and national anthems that represent their home country. The children adjusted easily to the new guests, and were proud to share what they had learned about their own country. I believe this is a good step for the children to start expanding their experiences, and accepting other people that are different from them. TYO’s children are from the most disadvantaged communities, and have limited opportunities to meet with new people, especially in Nablus.

Sometimes people ask me why we need to teach children vocabulary about countries, maps, and cultures- as children will just learn such information by default as they grow.  I respond that it is not our goal to just give information to memorize; Instead, we see it as part of their rights as children to know, as it is linked to their identity. When children learn and share new information they feel empowered. I've received several calls from parents tells me how surprised they are by their children's behavior- that the young children they have enrolled in TYO are now teaching their older siblings vocabulary and sharing the information they've learned in class at TYO.

At TYO, we think communicating with parents is just as important as working with the children.  We encourage parents to be models for their children, and support and nurture their children’s behavior. At TYO, our children are flowers that will grow up to spread hope for their community, and they are the source of change for their country.

-Core Child Teacher, Mufeeda