Economic Empowerment Through Laughter
During my time at TYO, I had the unique opportunity to work with the Youth Rehabilitation Through Entrepreneurship Program (YREP). This program plays a pivotal role in combating unemployment in Palestine. Last year, Palestine’s unemployment rose 5.4%, from 24.5% in 2017 to 29.1% by the end of 2018. In a society where job opportunities are scarce, TYO has sought to bring agency back into the hands of those directly affected by helping young people to set up their own businesses.
In the world of business, English is very important because of its omnipresence. For this reason, I taught TYO’s young entrepreneurs a four-week Business English course, which allowed them to apply their English knowledge in unique and effective ways. One of my favorite memories from the program was watching students' confidence increase each week. I distinctly remember seeing this change during my favorite activity, called Silly Business Ideas. In this activity, students paired up and created a business idea that wouldn't work in Palestine: they came up with ideas such as popcorn hats and dog meat sandwiches. Students then swapped ideas and develop marketing pitches for the idea they received, which required some serious persuasion skills!
This activity was the turning point of the class. In the beginning of the course, students were fairly shy and hesitant to speak. But during this activity, students came alive as they cracked themselves up listening to their colleagues selling silly products. This activity allowed entrepreneurs to learn in a more relaxed atmosphere, which boosted confidence, made them feel more comfortable practicing English, and helped develop analytical thinking skills. I believe these non-traditional learning methods were the reason entrepreneurs improved their English capabilities by 21%, according to the assessments conducted at the beginning and at the end of the course.
I have had the opportunity to witness the dedication and passion TYO's employees have for community development. This passion is exemplified in TYO's YREP Program Manager Hend Jarrar. Hend poured everything she had into the program - especially when it wasn't easy or fun. She attended every class, called students when they were absent, and worked overtime to ensure students were prepared for their final pitching event. Hend and others like her are the reason why the TYO community, including the entrepreneurs, will continue to flourish.
As I am gearing up to return back home to the States, I’ve begun reflecting on my time in Palestine with TYO. From the very beginning of my internship, I have been astonished at the way TYO tirelessly promotes positive and sustainable change in Nabulsi society. I have found the mission of TYO to be at the forefront of everything they do. The passion to help TYO’s community is evident in the way that staff work tirelessly for their programs. When I think of the YREP entrepreneurs, I will remember their enthusiasm, their ingenuity, and laughter. I will cherish the memories and friendships here in Nablus for a lifetime.