A TYO Core Success Story: Mais and Suleiman

Reem is the mother of 4-year-old Mais and 8-year old Suleiman in TYO’s Core early childhood education program. She is from Qalqiliya and lives in Old Askar refugee camp with her husband, Mais, Suleiman, and their youngest daughter Maissam. Mais

What do Mais and Suleiman enjoy most about TYO? What do they talk about at home when they talk about TYO?

Suleiman loves Arabic class with his teacher Mahmoud. He used to sing his class songs all evening after coming home from the center. His sisters picked up the same songs, so then Mais knew the class songs even before starting at TYO. Now the same is happening with Maissam, my youngest.

For Mais, she loves talking about the puzzles and Legos at TYO. She has always enjoyed building and designing things, even at such a young age, and I think TYO’s program gives her a great outlet for that. Honestly, the way she talked about Legos when she came home from TYO encouraged me to save up and buy her a Lego set at home to continue her development.



Can you tell me about any changes you have seen in Mais and Suleiman since they joined TYO’s Core Program? How were they before, during, and after?

When we registered Suleiman, my oldest, at TYO, he was extremely aggressive. He was only 5 yet always got into street fights. I never understood him, and to be honest I had damaged our relationship. Every time he came home beaten up, I saw him as the aggressor. I started locking him at home because I was worried about his safety as well as others’.

When Suleiman joined TYO, his teacher Ahmad scheduled many school and home visits. Ahmad grew close with all of us, so I felt like I could open up about my concerns.

One day I finally brought up Suleiman’s violent behavior. Ahmad told me he had observed the same, and it was such a relief. Ahmad invited me to observe Suleiman in his class, and that changed everything. I remember the second visit was on mother’s day, and I felt like I was watching a different child – the way Suleiman talked openly with other children and adults, the way he respected boundaries. Ahmad really has a way with kids. Not everyone who has an education degree can understand children the way he does.

Ahmad later explained his techniques and encouraged me to use those at home. The way he talked about Suleiman made me feel comfortable and empowered as a mom. I learned how to talk to Suleiman, how to validate his anger without feeding it. I learned to be more engaged in his education in positive ways; for example, I display in our house anything he brings home – whether school work or flowers or a drawing – to show him how important he is.

TYO really changed our relationship.  It goes two ways – I trust him more and he trusts me. Even more, it changed my relationship as a mother with Mais and Maissam.

Are there other centers in Nablus like TYO? What do you find unique about us?

I do not know any programs as strong as TYO. Honestly, I wish I had registered Mais and Suleiman earlier. Before TYO, I tried registering Suleiman in a preschool in Balata, but financially I could not afford it, so I had to remove him. I felt extremely guilty that Suleiman wasn’t in a school setting, and it was a relief to find TYO. Even now that my financial situation has improved, I am not considering preschool for Mais or Maissam.

After seeing the impact that TYO had on Suleiman and his performance in 1st grade, I know that sending Mais and Maissam to TYO is my only option. TYO is the one place where I feel that they will be safe, enjoy learning, and meet friends in a supportive environment. They cannot be in the streets in Askar, so if it were not for TYO, they would have to stay at home until first grade.

Have you noticed a change in Mais or Suleiman’s academic performance? Have you noticed a change in their attitude towards school?

Before entering first grade, Suleiman had only attended TYO and spent just a few weeks in a formal preschool. His performance in first grade surprised everyone. Our neighbors, who knew the old Suleiman, were extremely impressed. Until now, they see him coming home from school writing, working on homework, talking about activities, and engaging with his friends. Our neighbors’ children grew up with Suleiman in the same conditions, but they do not show the same level of engagement towards school. When I see how well he is doing in school, I attribute it to the confidence he built at TYO. That confidence is doing more for him in academics than anything else.

- Interivewed by Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager