Student Spotlight: Aya

Student Spotlight Aya

Aya joined the Change program a shy but independent and hard-working individual with the ambition to go to university and become a successful Arabic-English translator. However, with school being over and exams still a few months away, her lack of confidence in English made this dream feel out of reach. The program’s joint focus on English language and Bacc II English preparation re-kindled her determination to chase her dream. Aya took the program as an opportunity to discuss both her academic difficulties and her reservations about her future with Change teachers. She was never afraid to ask teachers for help and to cover specific topics she was struggling with.

So strong was her ambition that she took extra Change sessions and completed over 110 hours of the program, more than any other student. Her confidence grew as did her resolve, and with the support provided by Change, she is once again motivated to pursue her dream of becoming a translator.

“I was studying all the days of the week and always tired, but the days I was going to ULYP I felt comfortable. The program gave me a new energy, and I was benefiting at the same time: studying for the Bacc II and acquiring a new language. All of this really helped me! Change is the best program I have ever seen, it gave me a lot of self-confidence and experiences with new people and new friends.”

Learning Through Code


“It’s inspiring, motivating, and fun!” One of the girls commented when asked about her experience with TLC, the Together Let’s Code program, in collaboration with TheirWorld’s Code Clubs. Throughout a series of coding sessions, middle-school girls had the chance to become more familiar with computers, including learning all about hardware and software. They were able to write their own programs; coding a piece of art, and even a piece of music! The girls also learned how to integrate the basic concepts of coding into their daily lives, such as how keeping it simple and following exact instructions allows us to organize parts of our lives.

TLC Code Club not only provides computer programming knowledge, but it also inspires the girls, improving their self-confidence, team building and creativity. Expert sessions fortify and strengthen these skills and draw attention to ideas like the celebration of diversity, nourishing and taking care of our bodies, nutrition and mental health. The girls really enjoyed the activities and supported each other throughout.

TLC Code Club is funded by TheirWorld

Volunteer Spotlight – Mira Rahm

Volunteer Spotlight Mira

Mira has been a very active and enthusiastic volunteer with ULYP, dedicating her time to the Together Let’s Code (TLC) program. She has shared with us her experiences as a volunteer, particularly when looking at how online images can affect body image and self-confidence:

“When I first joined the program, I was asking myself about the importance of these sessions in helping young girls entering the digital world. Whether the girls would be interested in discussing “body image” and “self-confidence” at this young age, and how to convince them that being healthy is more important than being perfect.


Shortly after starting my first session, I was amazed by all the energy and interaction present in the classroom. We started our activities and discussions with the sole objective of turning the negative thoughts about ourselves into positive ones, turning flaws into unique traits. We concluded that being healthy by exercising and eating well is far more important than being perfect and looking like the girls in the magazines.


The best part was sharing our dreams and respecting those dreams regardless of all the barriers imposed by the society, especially on girls. Girls are here to lift each other and boost their confidence. Sparkling eyes and heart-warming smiles when talking about dreams and giving each other positive comments were my biggest reward!”

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

ULYP’s founder, Melek, was honored in Istanbul on the 10th of March for her work with underprivileged youth and for being a committed social activist. She was celebrated as an exemplary Turkish woman who ‘broke the glass ceiling’ at the Cam Tavani Delen Kadinlar Platform conference meeting. We are proud of our founder!

The Power of Storytelling

Powerful, compelling and beautiful stories: this is what our beneficiaries managed to curate and share during the first delivery of the Rawiyat Project.

 Rawiyat is a series of storytelling workshops for young marginalized women to explore their own personal story while learning creative methods to curate and share these stories. The program specifically targets those who often find it hard to make their voices heard and advocate for themselves.

The interactive and emotive activities pushed the beneficiaries creatively, and we were left blown away by the power and beauty of the final stories. The young women left buoyed by the collective input and  full of confidence to make their voices and stories heard!

Winter Wrap-Up

Children Clothing Distribution (7)

In the quarter September – December, ULYP had more programs running simultaneously than ever before. With over 1000 participants in programs every week, including Sundays, it was our busiest ever period. In December most of our programs came to a close for the winter break. Children, youth and women on Skills4Life, ACT, SAWA, United by Environment, and three sub-components of CIRCLE – Young Learners, Mothers, and Team Sports Camps, all participated in closing ceremonies, receiving certificates and program souvenirs and celebrating their achievements over the term. Participants on RARE will attend their closing ceremony in early 2015, when Skills4Life, ACT and United by Environment will begin again. ULYP is very thankful to all our donors, partner organizations, teachers, facilitators and volunteers, who helped make 2014 so successful.


The ‘United by Environment’ kids are building their own water heaters.

SAWA (1)

Our Circle kids.

SAMSUNG CSCClosing ceremony for the MOM’s participants


Skills4life activities

“One of the Most Important Weeks of My Life”


The Clinton International Summer School is held at the Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It brings together ambitious students from underserved communities in post-conflict societies from all over the world. The youth gather to learn about entrepreneurship and to be inspired to work for change in their communities.

This year, ULYP was asked to nominate two students.

Mona Hassan, now in her fourth year of studying Medicine at Beirut Arab University (BAU), was one of the lucky two. About her summer experience, she says:

It was one of the most important and productive weeks of my life and I would like to thank you a million times Mrs. Melek for this week, none of this would have ever happened without you and your faith in us.

The Clinton International Summer School offers classes in management, decision making, finance, social enterprise and marketing. Mona explains how the group engaged in discussions with more than 10 panels, which included “people with very high positions in the world of social enterprise and business, and people who reached the top although they started from nothing. It was really inspiring to see such stories”.


Mona Hassan and four other participants in the Clinton International Summer School, receiving an award.

New Programs

The palette of programs offered by ULYP keeps growing. This fall, two new activities of CIRCLE and two new programs are starting:


CIRCLE’s Young Learners

Young Learners gives underprivileged four to five year olds a head start in life by offering a safe space for exploration, as a compliment to regular pre-school classes. The program is part of CIRCLE and is carried out in partnership with UNICEF.

CIRCLE’s Mothers

In the third week of September, 30 women arrived on ULYP’s campus to build on their knowledge through a second round of English classes, IT lessons and interactive workshops. The women will attend classes three mornings per week, from September to December. They are taking part in CIRCLE’s Mothers, a program designed to offer women with non-formal learning opportunities.

CIRCLE’s Mothers also has a broader aim. As the pillars of their families and the wider society, the program seeks to strengthen women’s ability to be active agents of change –improving life for their children, for themselves and for their families. To this end, dynamic awareness sessions are offered on topics such as child protection and child and human rights, First Aid, health and hygiene, and conflict resolution.

Action for Children of Today (A.C.T.)

Action for Children of Today is a year-long program for the most marginalized youth—Syrians, and twice displaced Syrian Palestinians—in the ages 7-15. The aim of the program is to strengthen the participants’ psycho-social well-being. To meet this goal, the program has three components: English and IT training, conflict resolution and arts and drama. Action for Children of Today is carried out in partnership with HSBC.

United by Environment

Whatever damage is brought to the environment today, the next generation will be the one to suffer. Put in another way, the environment surrounds and sustains us all, and unites us across political and social borders.

Funded by the US Embassy’s Small Grants Program, United by Environment is a program directed towards youth in the ages 14-18, coming from underserved Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese communities. Through a series of workshops, the participants will learn about the environment while improving their public presentation, campaigning and conflict resolution skills.

Everyone who completes the program will be encouraged to act as an agent of change in his or her home community, spreading the values of respect for the ‘other’ and for our shared environment.

United by Environment logo

Wonderful Women!


The MOMs program targets women from underprivileged communities. This year the MOMS program has been funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, and the women have been a mixture of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian. Despite the name of the program, the women are not all mothers; what they all have in common is the fact that they all come from marginalized communities and that none of them are currently in education.

The 35 women also share a strong desire to improve their skills in English and IT. Every Tuesday and Thursday the women received one lesson of English and one of IT, during which they covered a number of topics.  In addition, on Wednesdays they received interactive lectures from experts on how to take care of themselves and their family. The lectures had varied themes ranging from healthy eating to child development and mental health.

My involvement in the program began when I was asked to substitute for one of the usual teachers at relatively short notice. I had heard about the program, but I didn’t know all the details. I was told that I would teach English, and having done that for 6 years in my home country I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had no idea.

I have worked as a teacher for 8 more than years, mostly with teenagers. I am used to explaining “why we have to learn this” or “why we have to do that”. I am used to having eyes in the back of my head and strict control in the classroom. I know how to be “that” teacher.

The moment my MOMs entered I could give “that” teacher a well-deserved break.  She was no longer needed. I was met with “Good morning teacher, how are you”- smiles and a desire to learn from the first second. They are the sweetest group of women I have ever met.

“But what does sweet have to do with learning” you might say. Well, sweet was not all they were. If you are a teacher or just know a teacher you probably know that all teachers wish for students who work hard, ask questions, behave respectfully and show interest in learning. That is when teachers can be at our best, and I was lucky enough to have students like that! Furthermore, I was touched by how they helped and supported each other. Thanks to the most wonderful MOMs participants, for 4 short weeks I was living the teacher’s dream.

Luckily I was not the only one who felt positive about the program. As Sara, one of my students wrote “I like the place it’s amazing. The group was kind and smart, teachers have a good way of explaining and time was just running away”. Or as Hiba another student explained “I learned English at school before…..but I need to know more information about this life. And this program helped me learn more English, computer skills and the Wednesday lectures were wonderful”. As an organization you know you have hit the mark when almost all students mention in their evaluation that the only bad thing about the program is that it is too short.

There is only one word to describe a program where both the teachers and the students benefit and enjoy themselves; success!

From my students and from myself; thank you ULYP.

MOMs: Rekindling a love for education

20131024_114106-croppedULYP is very grateful to the Royal Norwegian Embassy for its funding of three modules of our MOMs program.

Although the prospect of being ‘back in education’ was daunting at first, the women who completed MOMs in December said they really enjoyed the experience and were very grateful for the opportunities given to them. As many of the women had studied English for only one year at school they were especially keen to work on their language skills, which they showed with their growing enthusiasm and desire to participate and speak up in class.

In general the women showed a marked increase in confidence, an improvement in their English skills by one level, and many were for the first time able to use internet sites such as facebook and Skype to contact relatives abroad and back in Syria. The women also benefited from lectures given by visiting experts on a variety of topics such as nutrition, First Aid, and how to effectively organize their homes now that they are refugees and living under very reduced circumstances.

We have already started the next module of MOMs, and are enjoying getting to know another group of women.