Youth in Focus: An Interview with Wasfiya D.

Wasfiya D. is from Tubas, a village in Palestine northeast of Nablus. When Wasfiya was in sixth grade, she was forced to drop out of school. Her family’s home was on a mountain just outside of Tubas, and getting to school was not easy. Typically, Wasfiya’s father would take her and her brothers to school; but when her father was arrested, Wasfiya’s brothers decided that she should drop out of school and stay at home. They believed that it was enough for Wasfiya to read and write, and that anything more was a waste of time and money. In 2007 at age 25, Wasfiya decided to go back to school. She insisted on finishing high school, and afterwards pursued both vocational training and a college degree. Currently, she studies management at Al-Rawda College in Nablus.

Wasfiya assists a student with her math.

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

I heard about TYO’s volunteer program from my classmates in university. I had lived isolated from the outside community for so much of my childhood that I was thrilled at the idea of working at such a large center, working with children, and meeting many people from different backgrounds.

What are your career goals, and how do you think volunteering at TYO will help you achieve those?

I am so happy to be asked that question. I am used to my extremely conservative home community, where people do not see a future for me because I am a woman and also because I dropped out of school so early.

I know that I enjoy studying management and would love to work at an organization like TYO where there is a diverse staff to learn from, as well as an environment where there are daily opportunities and challenges to grow my management skills and also grow personally. Already, in my experience as a TYO volunteer, working with children has made me more energetic and more confident moving forward in my own life. I am more comfortable in pursuing my goals and less anxious about what society thinks.

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

In university, everyone has high expectations for their future careers; when students graduate and cannot find work in their field – or any work that they are excited about – it kills their motivation. I have seen many youth my age who would rather be unemployed than work in a less-than-ideal job after university. I am not like that. I will gladly take any job or work experience – whether paid or volunteer – because I know that part of getting the job I want is the learning process and growing my professional skills before that. At TYO, I appreciate the high level of responsibility volunteers have in the classroom. It makes me feel like a valuable and important part of my community.

What can your generation do to overcome the challenges of entering the labor force?

Our generation needs to accept the reality and magnitude of unemployment issues in Palestine, and we need to look to those ahead of us and make sure that we do not make the same mistake in assuming that university education is enough. Youth my age need to accept that to reach the top of the ladder, you cannot go straight to the top; you need to move up step by step – some of those steps will be easy and enjoyable, and some will be hard. That means accepting any work or volunteer opportunity that you are offered.

If there was one skill you wish you had, what would it be and why?

Public speech. Again, I spent so much of my youth isolated from the outside community and being surrounded only by my family, that my self-confidence is low when speaking in public. I need to take courses to overcome that.

Also, my English is very poor, and I would love to join a course to practice English conversation. For now, I am practicing English through an online program and internet resources until I can join a more formal English course.