Learning to communicate : if talking is silver listening is gold
Communication is a difficult concept to teach in our culture- not just in Palestine but also in the Middle East at large. In our community and with our target groups we find, generally speaking, that authority figures- such as parents and teachers- struggle to send clear messages to children as they never learned how to properly express themselves or how to vary their means of communication for different recipients. This is further complicated by the fact that children themselves are still learning how to interact with the world around them, and thus are not always capable of properly interpreting messages they receive from authority figures. The general lack of guidance thus creates chaos. This creates an added challenge for children growing up in the refugee camps. In such crowded areas it’s hard for young children to be themselves- they need to fight for other people to hear them. Further, they are unable to learn from their mistakes as equally, it’s a constant barrage of people yelling at them. This stunts any growth in the realm of development as it pertains to communication.
Sadly, the school system is not much different. The school systems are very top-down, with authoritative figures issuing directives without much time for children to respond. No one asks for children’s opinions, so it is very difficult for children to practice open communication and learn what is appropriate/ not appropriate. Our culture rewards children who are quiet- assuming this means they are behaving. We never take the time to get to know what they are thinking or how they are feeling. Equally, our culture punishes loud and outspoken children as they are told they must abide by a strict set of rules and there is no room for their creativity.
This is where TYO comes in as a unique place in children’s lives. At TYO we encourage children to communicate better and creativity is fostered and rewarded. Quiet children are empowered to understand that their voices matter. But helping children to understand the meaning of communication is only one part of our job- the other side is that we need to teach children that they are valuable and that they matter within their communities and their families. We are not trying only to improve the culture of listening amongst children, but also amongst parents. The Women's Group at TYO was started so women understand they also have a voice and can be role models for their kids, with the ultimate goal of having positive communication rooted in the homes. TYO aims to create a safe place for children to improve their skills and personalities and this is how we contribute in changing our community.
-Core Child Teacher, Haithem