Youth in Focus: An Interview with Eman S.

Eman S. is from Balata refugee camp in Nablus. She graduated from university in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Eman describes herself as a person who loves to keep growing and challenging herself and says that is what led her to volunteer with TYO. EmanS

What sparked your interest in TYO's Youth Service Learning Program? Have you volunteered elsewhere before?

My friend is the mother of a kid in TYO’s Core Child Program, and she has told me many times how happy she is about what TYO is doing for kids and families in the refugee camps around Nablus. Since I am from Balata (the largest refugee camp in Palestine), I feel that it is my responsibility to help the children in my community realize their potential and find healthy ways to express the difficulties and trauma they have faced. Additionally, volunteering for an organization that provides psychosocial support to children is a great way to apply what I learned as a psychology major in university and prepare me for full time work in the field of psychology.

What are your career goals, and how do you think TYO’s Youth Service Learning Program will help you reach those?

I would love to work as a full-time psychologist with a Palestinian organization. I’ve discovered that I would enjoy working with an organization like TYO that helps employees and volunteers grow through regular observation and feedback in addition to pushing staff to take initiative and be creative. Volunteering here with a group of other graduates from different backgrounds has also been a great way to develop my teamwork and leadership skills.

What is the greatest challenge that youth like you face in the current labor market?

I would say discrimination between those from Nablus city neighborhoods and those from the refugee camps. In my own experience, I have seen many from the refugee camps marginalized by those from the city – in school, when applying for jobs, and in day-to-day life. Additionally, restrictions on women in our society – due to tradition and conservatism – significantly hold us back professionally. For example, my family originally did not approve of me studying psychology, and I worked extremely hard to push back against their conservatism and study what I was passionate about and what I knew I would succeed in. They had the same attitude towards volunteering, but I knew I had to do it to gain work experience. Every college student and recent graduate should volunteer.

What do you think your generation can do to overcome those challenges?

We need to defend our right to pursue our education and careers against those who want to stand in our way. We also need to believe in ourselves and our skills entering the labor market; part of that is continuing to develop our skills during and after college to prove to employers our determination and capabilities – as women and as individuals living in the refugee camps. We need to prove that we deserve a chance.

If there was one skill you wish you had (English, IT, etc.), what would it be and why?

English, since it is the skill in greatest demand in the labor market. Our education system, particularly English language instruction, is very weak. In addition, most of my university classes were taught at least in part in Arabic (although they were supposed to be taught in English), so I have not had the exposure to English necessary to become fluent. I would love to learn from a native speaker, because it is both more enjoyable and more effective than learning from a textbook.

- Interviewed by Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator