Rawan Musameh: An International Inspiration
TYO took the time to sit with and interview Rawan Musameh, a STEP! II Intern. How did you initially hear about TYO?
I first heard about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) from their Facebook page. I had long-admired TYO’s work but was never able to intern or volunteer with the organization given my busy schedule at an-Najah University. I have always been very interested in community-based work and have had a particular interest in working with women and girls to help facilitate their empowerment. A few months ago, I applied for an internship position and soon after that, I was interviewed. I concluded very quickly that if TYO was to choose me to join their team, I was going to have an unforgettable experience.
Prior to joining TYO, what has been your professional experience and what do you look for in a work environment?
Before coming to TYO, I had two short-term summer jobs. The first position was in the United States working at a family-run perfume depot and the second position was at a driving school in Canada. I was mainly responsible for customer service and administrative duties at both places of business. This was the first time I had ever made my own money and I absolutely loved the feeling of receiving my very own paycheck. It helped me feel independent and less reliant on my parents. Professionally, I began to learn how to understand customers’ needs and perspectives and how to work well with a diverse group of customers and colleagues. Overall, I had a very positive experience but both positions were short-term—only two months long. However, after these experiences, I became incredibly eager to enter the workforce, decrease my financial reliance on my family, and take the first step toward giving back to my family and community.
I hope to find a work environment with a supportive supervisor who challenges me, develops me professionally, and also respects the energy and innovation I bring. Many of my friends have had negative experiences at their places of employment due to their supervisors and, if at all possible, I hope to avoid that.
What skills have you gained so far as a STEP! II Intern?
I have been able to transfer many of my customer service skills to my new position as both my old jobs and my current internship require that I keep people satisfied, happy, and committed to returning. When I first came to TYO I thought it was appropriate to joke with everyone but through my experience here I am learning that it is important to develop professional boundaries with TYO staff, interns, and volunteers. When I first started at TYO, I would joke with my supervisor in front of volunteers and upon personal reflection, I realized that such behavior was not appropriate as there is a certain decorum one must maintain in the workplace and in front of the people we serve. In my previous positions, my colleagues were also my family members, but that is no longer the case. As such, I am learning how to have professional boundaries with my colleagues.
Regarding hard skills I have honed or learned, I am becoming more organized, I have learned how to work with and meet deadlines, and how to prioritize assignments depending on when they are due. I have also learned more advanced functions on Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel and I have learned how to use Flickr.
What do you see for your career trajectory?
My long-term goal is to open a family-run tourism business that offers guided tours throughout Palestine to foreigners. This is a long-term goal that my cousins and I have had and I am determined that it will come to fruition one day. I used to always think that I had to open my own business as I assumed I could not work for anyone because of my assertive personality. However, after coming to TYO I have realized that is not the only path I will walk down as I have a very positive and healthy relationship with my supervisor. While I still want to open my own business with my family, interning with TYO’s STEP! II program has shown me that I am very capable of working for and with others and, in fact, thrive on the positive feedback and constructive criticism offered by my superiors. In the meantime, I would like to continue to work at non-governmental organizations like TYO that create lasting positive change in people’s lives.
Who do you look up to at TYO?
I look up to Suhad Jabi-Masri, TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager. After my first day at TYO, I went home and told my mom that I wanted to be just like Suhad when I grew up. Suhad always amazes me; she is successful and has an amazing personality. I realized I looked up to her during our first volunteer training. She trained us in the psychological and social dynamics that might come up in the work that we do. I looked around the room and watched everyone laugh and have fun while they also learned a tremendous amount of valuable skills from Suhad such as active listening, problem solving, and developing emotional intelligence as a way to best serve TYO’s beneficiaries. I feel very comfortable around Suhad but also respect her tremendously. She knows how to talk to and engage with people, all the while exuding the biggest smile and most positive attitude. TYO and the STEP! II program have helped me gain exposure to assertive, successful women whom I hope to be like one day.
As a change maker in your community and here at TYO, what positive change do you see yourself making in people’s lives?
I enjoy trying to move people beyond the boxes they are living inside of. Palestinians have goals, aspirations, and dreams just like everyone else but sometimes they are harder to actualize here. Oftentimes, people also don’t believe in themselves and need someone to motivate them. I love to motivate people and oftentimes motivate my friends and family to realize their goals. I want to continue to motivate people in the professional arena and, ultimately, want our family business to employ people in the community as many people here endure terrible economic circumstances.
The TYO Youth Internship program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
Interview conducted by Vanessa, Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator