TYO Success Stories
Abdulhamdan is 10 years old. He is in 5th grade and lives in Khallet El Amoud, the immediate neighborhood of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Many of the neighborhood’s families suffer from very difficult socio-economic conditions and few community resources, but the neighborhood also boasts a very friendly and welcoming community.
Abdulhamdan, along with his older brother Rayeq, were both in dire need of academic support to stay in school. Last year, both enrolled in Tomorrow’s Youth Organization’s Academic Support Program for children from refugee campus and other highly vulnerable neighborhoods of Nablus, and both remained committed throughout the year. Below, Abdulhamdan shares how the academic support program changed his outlook towards school and his future.
Tell us about your first session in the Academic Support Program.
Yes, I was enrolled in the program for the first time last Spring and I loved it! I liked it because every day was fun, no matter what. Of course I knew that class was not only about having fun but learning in the process, and I knew that while I was playing games and enjoying my time at TYO I was also learning so much that would help me in school. In the first session last Spring, I improved in math, Arabic, and English. I think I improved the most in English. I had never been comfortable in school in English class, and I would get so nervous with reading, writing, and speaking in English. Now I feel comfortable in English class, which is great!
Why do you think you improved the most in English? Tell us more about your previous experiences learning English.
For me, I feel like I improved the most in English because the Academic Support Program teachers and volunteers were always so willing to help us and they gave us each attention as individuals, which is often missing in school.
In school, there are so many students in class that it’s impossible for the teacher to really give individual attention and answer our questions. But at TYO, I feel like I can ask anything and get help – and so now I do! I’m so happy now that I’m improving in English.
What is your favorite part of the Academic Support Program?
Last summer, I was in Ms. Mahfuza’s class and it was so much fun! My favorite part of the day is the ice-breaker activity. One student goes out of the classroom, and when they do the rest of us in class stand in a circle and choose someone to be the “leader.” The leader then leads the class in some kind of movement like clapping or snapping and all of us do it in unison.The student outside comes in and has to guess who the leader is. We laugh so much when we play this game and I think we all get better at it every day, so we just keep playing! I feel like after that we’re in such a good mood and I feel good to start working on my homework, even if it’s difficult.
I have made a lot of new friends at TYO doing fun activities like this. Most of all, I’ve become a lot closer with other students in my class who go to my public school. Before joining TYO, I’d see them in the hallways but I didn’t know them well and didn’t know how to ask them to be my friends. But last fall, I saw them all the time at school and we always said hi and spent time together! Having friends makes me feel a lot better about being in school.
The volunteers who help Ms. Mahfuza are great too. Most of all I love Waed who always tutors me. She is so kind and patient, and she never gets angry no matter how many times she has to explain and re-explain new lessons to us. Even if we ask her a hundred questions, she answers them with a smile and never gets frustrated like others do. She is the best!
What do you hope to work on in upcoming sessions of the Academic Support Program?
Right now, I hope to improve my math skills the most next session. Most of all, I want to understand division better and work on a lot of division problems with the tutors. In the program, our teacher and the tutors give us so much time and freedom to practice what we want to work on, so I know with time I will get better at division and become stronger at math. This session I’m also excited to work on my soccer skills in TYO’s after-school sports program! Doing both, I know by the summer I’ll be better at math, English, Arabic, and soccer! I love coming to TYO and learning through the games here. I know if I keep coming I’ll become a great student. I am still having trouble in some subjects at school now, but I know if I keep coming to the program I’ll become much better. I can’t wait to get started again this Spring!
"Many businesspeople say they started from zero, but I really started from zero. As a Palestinian woman without a college degree, who comes from a village in the north where resources for start-ups are so few, all stakes were against me. I fit all the criteria that our society says make me doomed to fail, and that is what drives me to succeed." – Manar Shab’an of Jalameh, Jenin
In 2010, Manar and her family found themselves in dire financial need. With practically zero starting capital, Manar took the bold move to invest her energy in starting up her own vegetable-growing business. All along, the political climate meant she faced the continuing confiscation of her village’s land and quickly learned innovative growing techniques. Manar continuously experiments and discovers new ways to create “vertical” gardens, growing taller vine vegetables over others that require shade to make the best use of a small area of land. Manar’s greenhouses weave together vertical and horizontal growing patterns, maximizing the quantity of vegetables grown on the least amount of land. Given the village’s limited and irregular access to water, Manar also continues to experiment with water-recycling techniques to ensure that the excess water of one plant is used to hydrate neighboring plants.
Not having had the opportunity to attend university herself, Manar used the profits of her business to save for her children’s higher education. Currently, Manar funds her eldest daughter’s education entirely on the profit she gains from her business.
Through her micro-enterprise, Manar has also stepped up to give back to her community. After receiving a rain barrel from a local aid organization, Manar offered to share it with neighboring farmers who needed access to one. Manar firmly believes that her business’s success should benefit the collective, not just herself and her family.
Since she started her business, Manar has furthermore become very active in her community and is one of the co-founders of Al-Jalameh Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of village women and children. Manar leads councils in the municipalities of both Al-Jalameh and Jenin in order to ensure that women’s issues are at the forefront of local decision-making. Although Manar has always been a veritable force, as her business grows, she is becoming a stronger and more confident leader who tackles the core issues that her family and community face.
Manar receives increasing recognition for her business and leadership, most recently being named one of Jenin’s leading entrepreneurs by the Chamber of Commerce.
Currently, Manar grows pumpkins, mint, and parsley, renting the land on which she works. Her long-term goal is to grow more expensive produce such as strawberries and tomatoes so that she can generate enough profit to buy her land. Until then, she proudly uses the profits of her business to fund her daughter’s undergraduate education and vows to do so until graduation day. Manar is a testament to the fact that there is no mind more innovative than that of a woman who must support her family, and no spirit more determined than that of a Palestinian.
Malak & Sonia
Sonia, can you tell me about any changes you have seen in your daughter Malak since she joined TYO’s Core early childhood program? How was she before, during, and after?
Malak has had the pleasure of participating in two Core Early Childhood Program sessions and this summer will be entering her third. Before joining TYO, she was very shy, would run away from strangers, and refused to talk to anyone who was not in our immediate family. She was afraid of most people and if someone came to our door, she would run and hide. She was also very sensitive—simple questions would make her run away and cry. Now she loves to sing and dance in front of anyone and is just a ball of energy and enthusiasm! We didn’t see much of a difference after her first session with TYO, but following her second session, we began to see incredible changes in her behavior and personality.
She began to make friends in class, talk about those friends at home, and still asks me if she can invite them to our house to play. She also speaks in a loud voice, she explains and defends herself more, and has more overall confidence. As her mother, it is important that my daughter have the confidence to make friends in school and engage with people in our community with confidence and without fear. The ways in which Malak has developed at TYO will carry her throughout the rest of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and I could not be more grateful. Malak has begun to find her voice.
What do you think Malak enjoys most about her classes at TYO? What does she talk to you about at home?
I am incredibly proud of the progress my daughter has made. Malak loves sports and art classes. She was never able to properly hold a crayon to draw and color until coming to TYO. When TYO was in session, she would come home and tell her siblings what she had learned that day.
She likes to announce when she is going to wash her hands before mealtime, she proudly puts her toys away, and she makes sure the entire family knows she learned these habits from her TYO teacher Fawz. Right now, she constantly asks me when she is going to come back for a third session and says that she misses the TYO community, her friends, and the delicious meal she is always fed.
Are there other centers in Nablus that offer similar Early Childhood programming? What do you find unique about this program?
Personally, I love the energy here. I love the beautiful building and the sunshine that streams through the windows. My family has a long-standing and positive relationship with TYO—my older children attended TYO and now Malak and I are both actively involved. I have not sent my children to any other organization as my family is seeing countless positive outcomes.
When my older son Moath started with the organization, he had similar problems as Malak— he was very shy and unable to speak up and defend himself. Moath used to only walk close to our house and wouldn’t confidently walk in the street like the rest of the boys his age. The longer he stayed at TYO, the more confident he became. As I saw positive outcomes in my children, I decided not only to keep them at the organization but to also join TYO myself. We live in Balata refugee camp, which is not a safe place for our children. TYO offers them a safe space to play, to breathe and to be who they are: children.
Have you noticed a change in your children's academic performance? Have you noticed a change in their attitude towards school or behavior in their school environment?
Malak has not yet started school but I undoubtedly saw an improvement in my son Moath’s academic performance. Moath is more confident, earns better grades, and looks forward to school. Before starting at TYO, he hardly had any friends. Soon after, he developed relationships with his school classmates at TYO.
TYO allowed him to develop relationships with his classmates he had known for years but never befriended. TYO teaches the importance of friendship, relationship-building, and respect; my children have greatly benefited from these lessons. I always speak positively about TYO and encourage all of my friends, neighbors, and family members to register themselves and their children. I tell them about the TYO approach of “learning through play” and the positive impact it has had on my family. I also encourage young mothers to join the Women’s Group and tell them all about the amazing seminars and educational classes I participate in and how beneficial they are for me.
What have you learned in TYO's Women's Group that has impacted the way you engage with you children? How has it impacted your relationship with your children?
I really enjoyed the educational parenting seminars with Suhad Jabi-Masri, TYO’s family therapist. By attending her sessions, I learned that I got very angry, very quickly and that my anger outbursts were negatively impacting my family in a serious way. Suhad taught me and the other participants that the first step to addressing negative family dynamics was to take responsibility for our role in perpetuating them. One time, my youngest daughter was imitating me and she acted like she was angry and resentful. Seeing myself reflected in my daughter’s imitation was such an important wake up call. Suhad’s sessions provided me with the tools to help me begin to change my behavior as a mother.
I also learned that I must take time for myself in order to be a better mother and better person overall. Now, I take my children to my parents’ house occasionally and either go out alone or relax at home alone. I am now more social, have strengthened my relationships with my friends, and am a more patient and loving mother.
Adham Badran is from a village near Nablus called Asira Al Qibliya. He recently finished high school in village and is now in his first year of studying English language and literature at Al Quds Open University. heard about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from his older brother, who has been a volunteer and local intern at the Center. Adham was waiting to finish high school and start university to join TYO as either a volunteer or as a student in the STEP! II EFL program to study English. English is a priority at university and in his life, so he chose to study English instead of volunteer at this time.
What has been your experience learning English in school and in university before taking classes at TYO?
English education is not that good in public school. The program to study English is very weak. Everything in the school English classroom is taught in Arabic, including the curriculum and grammar. It was a big challenge for me to learn English because I had no support system in the language to help me. I tried to study as much as I could and used programs on the internet to help me understand what is going on inside my classes. Because of my hard work and determination to learn English, I got a high score on the big final exam called tawjihi. At the university, general subjects are required for everyone the first year. I have taken only one course in English and am signed up to take a second English course. It seems better than public school, but I still haven’t started any specialized English language and literature classes yet.
What motivated you to sign up for TYO’s EFL classes?
I wanted to develop my language skills and personality by improving my networking and communication skills. If the EFL class is finished successfully, students receive a certificate of participation. A certificate is good to show I took extra courses outside of the required classes at university. These courses will help me in the future to find a job.
How would you describe your experience learning English in the STEP! II program? How is it different than what you experienced before?
Students in the STEP! II EFL program are learning English from a native speaker without an opportunity to hear Arabic in the class. This forces them to use only English language to communicate with the teacher. Thinking and speaking in English will help develop the language better.
The style of teaching at TYO uses activities and games to help students learn. It is not formal like what is done at university or at school where they only put information in your head with a lot of homework. The activities and games let the information get stuck in students’ heads. For example, we do an activity where all students stand in a circle. One person stays a sentence. The next person must say a sentence that starts with the same letter the last sentence ended with. This helps us to learn new vocabulary and sentence structure. Although we stay in class every day for 4 hours, we don’t feel time because we are enjoying ourselves and benefitting from the class itself.
What has been the greatest impact of the first few weeks of EFL classes for you?
I have learned so much new vocabulary. Every day I learn new words and my language skills grow. Having a native speaker as a teacher has helped develop my conversation skills and I’ve gained more confidence in speaking English. I also have gotten to know more people from other areas of Nablus. I met them in my class and now they are my friends and this encourages me to come to TYO.
What advice would you give to youth English language learners like you?
English is important in life and for a future career, so joining this course will be beneficial. The international teachers and the way they are teaching make a great class. One important thing is that these courses are free because most of the students, especially students in the villages, and their families cannot afford extra English courses in addition to studies at a university. Having free English classes with native speakers is an opportunity that people should take advantage of as much as possible.
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.
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 classroom. 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.