Suzan Afaneh: A Palestinian Success Story

Suzan Afaneh is a 26 year old graduate from An-Najah University with a Marketing degree. Originally from Azmout Village outside Nablus, Susan has been a volunteer with TYO in the Core Early Childhood Program for one session. Suzan helps the children who attend the Core Early Childhood afternoon session create Mother's Day presents.

After graduation, she worked several jobs as a salesperson, but did not enjoy this type of work. She says she felt something missing from her life and from her personality that kept her from being a success in her career. It was a miserable experience for her and she felt disappointed with herself. She began to search for opportunities that would good for her personal development.

How did you learn about TYO and the STEP! II Program?

I heard about TYO and the Youth Program from my cousin. It was an experience I had not tried before. I was eager to discover my strengths, develop my personality, and fill the gap between my education and future career, so I joined the Core Early Childhood Program for the Spring 2016 session.

What has been the greatest impact of STEP! II on your life?

Before volunteering at TYO, I worked in marketing because it was the focus of my studies and I thought it was my only choice. Marketing work matched my abilities and qualifications, but I was not happy. I could not identify the reason I was unhappy with these jobs until I started volunteering at TYO. I discovered I am a different person than who I knew myself to be before. Now, I am less anxious, more patient, and more creative. I am someone who loves children and can communicate with them. The children helped me appreciate what I currently have in my life and helped to increase my self-worth at a time I felt I couldn’t do anything. After a couple of weeks of observing the teachers and learning from them, I felt like a leader in the classroom. I now realize my potential and recognize the strengths and weaknesses I possess that will guide me in my future career and personal life.

How did TYO help you bridge the gap between your education and employment?

Education at the university is theoretical and very rigid. Classes are taught only through lectures and we graduate without having the opportunity to practice what we studied. Students believe that graduation and a certificate are the only things needed to get a job. In reality, much more effort is needed by the student to find a good job.

STEP! II created an opportunity for us as youth to volunteer at TYO in several programs. Volunteering in Core classrooms helped me to develop my personality and put myself on the right track toward a positive future. Working in a team environment helped me learn through observation, manage my nerves, and be mindful of my behavior because now I am a role model for the children. Volunteering with Core through STEP! II also helped me plan better for my day and manage my time instead of wasting it. Time is very valuable and my actions can change someone’s life, so I should be mindful of how I spend the time I am given during the day.

How is your experience at TYO different from your previous career experience?

Employers can take advantage of the female employees by having them work more hours and paying them less. In addition to the negative work environment, I realized I did not have the personality needed to work in marketing successfully. I was an anxious person with little patience who needed to speak a lot to reach my point.

The volunteer experience at TYO helped me discover skills I didn’t know I could develop. With more creativity, I can develop tools and activities to help children in the class room. I have grown in my ability to use good time management. Before volunteering, I used to sleep late into the day. Now I wake up early because I have a class in the morning and my whole day is planned accordingly. I have learned of the importance of patience. When I help a 4 year old child, I must be patient, meet him on his level, and be his friend.

In short, TYO helped me greatly by opening more career options in my life by helping me to realize that in addition to following the career path set by my education into the marketing world as a salesperson, I can also be a teacher or an assistant.

The Core Early Childhood program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. 

Interview conducted by Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator