When an Opportunity Presents Itself: The Success Story of Haneen Zitawi


Haneen Zitawi is from Jamma’in, a village outside of Nablus. She attended Al-Quds Open University and graduated in 2014 with a degree in English Teaching Methods. She learned of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization when she saw an ad on Facebook published by Al Quds Open University advertising volunteer opportunities working with children. Haneen plans to be a teacher in the future and wanted to know how to deal with students and children and learn how to solve problems in the classroom. Volunteering at TYO was a good opportunity to gain experience with children, so she went to the university and filled out an application. She has been a volunteer with TYO for 2 sessions as a volunteer with the Core AM Program and Core PM Program before becoming a local intern with the Volunteer Coordinator.  Haneen chose to become a local intern to help her gain more experience with office work, which are new skills, and to increase opportunities to practice speaking English.

What has your professional experience been like outside of TYO?

Before coming to TYO, I had limited professional experience. I participated in a program through my university for 1.5 months to teach children at their school as part of the university curriculum. I also took a translation program from culture and science center in Nablus. I applied for many jobs and was offered a job in Ramallah, but I couldn’t take it due to the distance I would have to travel.  I even tried working at a day care, but I didn’t like the work and the job didn’t match my career plans.

It is hard to find work. Most of the students who graduate with plans to be teachers struggle to find work because there are not many teaching jobs. Private schools and private day cares are full. You need personal and professional connections, or wasta, to get work in Palestine. Without wasta, there may be no jobs opportunities available in your specific career path. There are many graduates working in quarries and knitting factories. Many women end up getting married, staying home, or tutoring to fill time. Some women also create their own businesses or volunteer.

What is your career plan?

I love translation, but there are many types of jobs I would like to do in my mind. Maybe I will teach English, but I also think about finding opportunities to go somewhere else for both travel and work. I would love to work outdoors. After my internship with TYO is complete, I will look for work in private schools and a hope to create website to provide translation services. Working online will be better than having to travel long distances for work in other cities.

What do you look for in a work environment?

I would like to work in a place that is comfortable and has nature. Working independently is good, but I prefer to work on a team. I hope to work with respectful people. I would like to teach children because they are cute and take you back to your childhood with their view of the world. Kids are easy to talk to and adults can do whatever they want without the children judging you. A teacher can do silly things and the students like it. I hope to find work in Nablus because the roads are open and it is close to home.

What skills have you gained from your time with TYO so far?

In addition to my offfice skills improving, I have gained more trust in myself when talking to people. When I was a teenager, I didn’t go out much because I was shy and didn’t like to talk to people. Now I trust myself and can start to talk with strangers easier than before. I am more comfortable working with children. I want to work with children and am no longer afraid that if I start talking to a child, they will start crying. I have also been able to practice my English skills. I was comfortable speaking English with foreigners. However, if I speak English with local people, they might not understand and think I am being snobby and showing off my English skills. I speak English in my mind and things are perfect. When I try to speak out loud, there are mistakes and this was a problem for me. Now I don’t care about the mistakes and I speak in English, even if it isn’t perfect. I can get my ideas across and be understood in conversation.

How has TYO impacted your professional life?

I would love working with kids, but I need more practice. I am not sure I can manage a whole class by myself. I also enjoy office work more than teaching children and learned this about myself at TYO. Volunteering and interning with TYO gave me professional experience.  When I apply for a job, TYO’s certificate will be part of the application and prove my experience with children and office work. Coming to volunteer and intern gave me an understanding of what daily life is like for a working person. You must wake up in the morning, get ready, go to work, and leave time. I have more responsibilities and this has made me a more responsible person.

If I am not able to get a job when the internship is over, I will continue volunteering with TYO. I love the programs and the atmosphere of the Center, I get to meet new people, and the staff is good. I love my time at TYO.

Haneen is a local intern through the TYO Youth Internship program, part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Interview conducted by Lindsey, the International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator.