Youth in Focus: An Interview with Walaa M.

Walaa is from Huwara village south of Nablus. She graduated from An Najah University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. Walaa

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

I first heard about TYO through friends in university who had volunteered in TYO’s education programs. From what they described, it sounded like an incredible experience particularly in building strong personality traits and skills to pursue their careers. I decided to apply and was accepted. Volunteering at TYO is my first experience volunteering – looking back, I wish I had started earlier!

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

I am interested in working in translation for an international organization or company. Unfortunately, most of those opportunities are located in Ramallah and other cities, rather than in the north; most translation and English opportunities in Nablus are limited to schools. I do find that work interesting, and that is part of the reason I decided to join TYO as a volunteer in their early childhood education program for 4-5 year olds.

I have learned so much about how to work with children, particularly about respectful, fun, and effective methods to engage and teach children. Personally, my experience with school growing up was very negative; TYO has been a great opportunity to see a different side of education which gives children the space and our patience as adults to learn, be creative, and be themselves. I have also developed stronger teamwork and networking skills through working with TYO’s Core teachers and the other volunteers. We are given a specific role and responsibility in implementing the curriculum activities, which to me has been very challenging and empowering.

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

I remember reading a post on TYO’s blog about how there is a large drop-off between the high percentage of women in Palestine enrolled in university and the small percentage who then enter the workforce. To me that is the greatest problem our generation faces. Part of the problem is the lack of opportunities and diversity of opportunities in the north, butwe as youth are also at fault. I see many young women place marriage before their education and career. They adopt that idea from our society, but really I see marriage as a choice among many other options.

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

As young women, we need to believe in ourselves more and see marriage as a choice, and a choice among many other options, after graduation. We need to value the role of work in our lives to develop our professional skills and also to develop ourselves personally. As a whole, we as youth – both men and women – need to put more effort towards growing ourselves professionally and proving that we can contribute to and benefit our communities.

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

Although I majored in it, English. My English language skills, particularly in conversation, are still very weak.