I recently concluded a three-month internship with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, an American NGO delivering non-formal education initiatives to members of communities in Nablus, West Bank. For my very first OnDev page, I’d like to share the last of ten blog posts I wrote during my time there. The original post can be viewed here.
As a student of International Development, I was inspired by Nobel Prize-winning economist, Amartya Sen, who regards development as the enlargement of human choices. For him, the exercise of choice allows people to lead lives that are meaningful to them. I came to TYO because I perceived it as a provider of resources that inform and empower, diversifying options within and amongst communities for whom numerous life choices can be comprehensively delimited. I came as a resource, but I leave as a beneficiary. I have both seen and experienced the ways in which TYO’s resources activate a powerful, self-sustaining cycle of the exercise of beneficial choices, leading to further resource creation.
Underpinning many of TYO’s programs is the provision of space, a scarce resource in the Palestinian context that confers immense benefits for psychosocial well-being. Children and women participating in the English and Women’s Group fitness classes I administered were visibly uplifted by time spent in large physical spaces, both indoors and outdoors. In tandem with this, TYO embodies a social space – an invaluable resource for many in the Women’s Group in particular. Their time at TYO may be their only social opportunity outside their homes. Children coming to TYO for the Core Program or classes provided by international interns find, in this space, the safety to express themselves, explore their creativity and learn to relate positively to others.
As an international intern, I have been privileged to contribute to TYO’s use and creation of human resources. I have witnessed the development of social capital amongst local volunteers with whom I have worked. Their involvement in children’s classes serves the students themselves, yet at the same time builds an array of personal and professional skills designed to diversify the professional choices available to them. Students in Professional Competency and Conversational English classes at An Najah National University have likewise been encouraged to engage in volunteer work to benefit from these dual-faceted gains for themselves and their communities.
All three classes in which I have been involved have contributed to TYO’s dissemination of information – a highly tangible resource that expands available choices in and of itself. An Najah University students have been equipped with careers information and advice that has the potential to influence major life choices. Women partaking in fitness classes have learned about physical and psychological benefits and risks associated with diet and exercise, and are now equipped to make more informed choices about their own health and fitness, and that of their families. The pilot English classes provided to youth from grades 4 to 9 provide solid educational foundations for significantly enhanced future life choices, which children will have the confidence to make because they have been nurtured in a supportive environment.
The common thread connecting these resources is that in addition to expanding choices per se, they enhance people’s ability to exercise the power to choose, through the sort of psychosocial support that builds confidence and self-awareness. The exercise of choice gives beneficiaries the potential to transform themselves into present and future resources for their own communities. In doing so, TYO stimulates a potentially exponential trickle-down effect of wider community development.
I leave TYO as a beneficiary myself, having entered the self-sustaining cycle of resources that expand choices, which can then be exercised to create further resources and wider benefits. This experience has equipped me with a new set of resources – information and skills that enrich my own available life choices. I hope to exercise these choices in ways that secure my role as a beneficial resource for a career in the development sector. For this, I am grateful beyond words.