New Experiences, New Skills, and New Opportunities

Participation in extracurricular activities for children and youth can be hard to come by in underserved communities. TYO’s center provides local youth with an open space to learn, play, and take part in activities that they otherwise would not have access to. The academic program offers students educational support in Arabic, English and Math. There is a free day each week where students have the option to attend different recreational centers, such as swimming pools, bowling lanes, and martial arts schools. These events are the only opportunities some students have to learn from new experiences outside of school and the home. In this week’s interview with two siblings in the academic support program, Shaima and Muhaned, they share how they have gained confidence in both academic and social capacities from their time at TYO.


Welcome Shaima and Muhaned! Can you tell me about your family and how you are involved with TYO?

Shaima: I am twelve years old and in the sixth grade. I attend the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) mixed boys and girls school in Nablus. I have nine siblings, six sisters and three brothers. I am the seventh oldest in my family. I started at TYO in the Core Child Program when I was in the second grade and now I am in the academic support program. My dad also works fulltime at TYO, so I really feel like we are part of a family here.

Muhaned: I am ten years old and in the fifth grade. I attend the UNRWA school for boys in Nablus. I started at TYO in the Core Child Program when I was in the first grade and now I am in the academic support program with my older sister.

How are your experiences at TYO different than school?

Shaima: They teach very differently here than at school because we learn by playing games and having fun. I have the hardest time in math and the weaker students do not get enough attention at school. Before I started the academic program, I would try to get my older sister to help me, but it is very hard because she is busy with her own homework. At TYO, the teachers take the time to explain new ideas in a way that we all can understand and there are many volunteers that are happy to help if I have any problems. I can already see my grades getting better. I have more trust in myself and I participate more in class.

Muhaned: I like coming here because we get to play games and we have space to run around.  At school, there are too many students and sometimes we get angry and hit each other. There is also a lot of yelling and I always feel lost inside the classroom. Only the strong students get attention and sometimes I feel left behind. Discipline is also done differently at TYO than at school because we talk about problems and try to find solutions. I realize now that violence does not solve problems. Hitting each other at the boys’ school is common, and even if a boy hits me, I will not hit him back anymore. Instead, I will tell an adult.

Have you noticed any changes in your academic performance since starting the program?

Shaima: We play a lot of grammar games that teach us new vocabulary and sentence structures in a fun way. Last week we played a game where we had to talk about our dreams for the future and I felt really comfortable presenting to the class. I will do these activities at home for extra practice or just for fun. At TYO, they build our confidence and encourage all students in the class to participate. It turns out that most of the time at school I had the correct answers to questions the teacher would ask us, but I used to be scared to say it in case I am wrong. Now I do not have this fear. If I am right, great, if I am wrong, that is how I learn. It is okay to learn from mistakes, that is how you grow.

Muhaned: The hardest subject for me is Arabic, I cannot even write! Math and English are easier for me, even though I speak Arabic at home! I do not even know the basics, and I am not getting better just yet. In Math, I am doing well and the extra help that I get from the academic program is making my grades even better.

What has been your most memorable experience at TYO?

Shaima: I love the karate class the most! I never had the chance to do martial arts before coming to TYO. It teaches structure, discipline, and I get to improve my physical strength.  Also, I do not get to dress up often and at school there are uniforms. Here I get to wear all my favorite outfits!

Muhaned: I love counting games with balloons and going to the pool on Thursdays, which is our free day!  We do not have many public swimming pools in Palestine, so this is always a lot of fun!

Shaima and Muhaned are participants in the After-School Academic Support for Kids program sponsored by Relief International. 

Interview conducted by Marina, Fall 2016 Teaching and M&E Fellow, and translated by Futoon, TYO Outreach Coordinator.