Youth in Focus: An Interview with Jamila J.

Jamila J. is from Salem, a village outside of Nablus. She graduated from An Najah University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She now teaches preschool at Dawhet Al-Eman school in Nablus in addition to volunteering at TYO. Jamila

What sparked your interest in TYO's Youth Service Learning Program? How did you hear about TYO?

I heard about TYO’s volunteer program from my sister, who had volunteered at TYO previously. She always told me about the early childhood education program, particularly about the nonformal approach and how rewarding it was to work with children from high-need areas around Nablus. I was already teaching at a local preschool, but I joined TYO’s afternoon volunteer program so I could spend both my mornings and afternoons working with kids.

What do you hope to do as a career, and how do you think TYO’s Core Program will help you?

I am currently teaching preschool, but in the future I would love to teach in a school similar to TYO’s Core program. Through volunteering at TYO, every day I learn something new about taking a nonformal, play-based approach to education. It is completely different from the traditional education approach other schools in Palestine use, and I have seen how much more effective it is in encouraging creativity in children.

Additionally, as a Core volunteer at TYO, I work closely with a child Kareem who has special learning needs. I have learned so much about how to work with and encourage Kareem, and I have also seen the importance of integrating children like Kareem with other children – he learns from them, but they also learn so much from him.

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

Most women in my community prefer to work as teachers or other professions typically expected of women because of family tradition, mainly the expectation that they do not pursue work that involves interacting extensively with men. It is an expectation that I faced with my own family when starting my career. It is also something that I continue to fight against because TYO has shown me a mixed gender work setting that can be safe and comfortable. Another challenge is that women in general are paid much lower salaries that do not meet the high expectations and hours we work, and we are forced to accept that because there are no other options for work.

What do you think your generation can do to overcome that challenge?

Women in my generation need to know their self-worth and fight for their right to make their own career and education decisions. I insisted on pursuing my education and career, at first against my family’s will, and other women need to do the same. It is not easy and will not change the community in the short-term, but if we want to see change we need to start with ourselves.

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

It is my dream to speak English fluently. I know how important it is from my work at TYO, and I know that I need to start taking courses. I also need to improve my self-confidence and public speech skills; TYO is already helping me to do that.

- Interviewed by Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator