YES Programs



Write it Out: the Teenage Experience in Gaza

Group Pic

By Abdulqader Alshattali (YES 2011-2012, Gaza, hosted by American Councils in Homedale, ID)

YES alumnus, Yahya Ashour (YES ’15) believes that the YES alumni in Gaza should provide students with resources to encourage reading and develop creative writing skills. With this conviction, alongside his training assistant and photographer volunteer, Abdulmoez Shurrab, Yahya started an ambitious project called "Write it Out." This two-phase project allows young people to express their own feelings and the experiences they have lived through poetry. 

Yahya has been publishing poems for ten years and felt compelled to share his passion with Gazan youth: “What inspired me to do this project is my passion for writing. I always wanted to share something I'm good at with my community, and when I felt that this is the right time to do it, I found all the support from the YES program.” 

During Poetry Training

The first phase was a poetry writing training and the second phase was a social media campaign to a raise awareness about the program for AMIDEAST students. Applications opened in February to students aged 14 to 19 who were interested in writing poems. A total of 63 students submitted applications where they answered personal information questions and one short essay question, and attached two samples of their own writings. In the end, ten participants from North Gaza and Gaza City were selected to be a part of the poetry project. Seven of these students were alumni or current students of the English Access Microscholarship (Access) program. The poetry project met three days a week from February 23-March 18.

The project’s main goal was to have each of the ten participants produce one short poem (7 to 12 lines) to use in the second phase of the project. Participants worked with Yahya to learn and discuss key elements of poetry. Yahya shares, “It was interesting for me to see how participants' skills were developing over the course of three weeks, and see that they were making the mistakes that I used to make in writing, and how my advice drove them to improve.” 

Participants were introduced to several online useful websites and magazines related to poetry to check out along with printed training material that they discussed in one of the project sessions. The students were also able to discuss the important features of what constitutes a good poem with examples from Yahya’s own writing. 

In addition, each participant read two collections of poems. Afterwards, the students critiqued the poems during class. Participants were introduced to a list of songs and movies in order to help them find inspiration for their own poems. They started to write a poems from three to five lines with feedback from Yahya and their peers. The students then developed and edited their best poems and selected an accompanying photo from a collection taken by Abdulmoez and another volunteer photographer that capture nature scenes and daily life in Gaza. The project concluded with feedback from each participant where they discussed what they loved most about the project and what they learned.

Yahya And Students

Participants wrote about their own memories, wishes, thoughts, fears, and feelings using their imagination. The shorts poems reflect the realities of life as a teenager in Gaza.

The ten poems produced in the first phase of Write it Out will be translated to English by YES alumni volunteers and then printed in a small magazine. These magazines will be distributed to Access students in order to introduce them to the project idea and encourage them to apply for the next edition of the poetry project. 

One Write it Out participant shared, "My writing got much better, I became more precise with the words I use, now that I realize the power of simplicity, my writings now make more sense." Another added, "The one thing I enjoyed the most is discussing our writings and the book we read together. Everyone had the needed space to express herself or himself. The variation of ideas was really helpful." 

See for yourself the impact of Write it Out by reading two of the resulting poems below!

A Swing

"Inside my head 

There is a swing 

That is pushing me

Or maybe I'm the one who is pushing it

I'm not sure if it will stop at some point."

- by Lama Abu Khatro


"We were only thieves stealing the sun 

Which makes the moon get angry at us 

Then the moon forgives us to stop our tears from falling."

- by Mohammed Alshaer

Participants and the Titles of their Poems:

  • Ahmad Jaber, 17, A Sand Clock
  • Ahmed Ismail, 18, Roots
  • Plestia Alaqad, 18, A Spider Net
  • Mohammad Alshaer, 15, Children
  • Heba Almaqadma, 18, Turning Off
  • Niven Lubbad, 19, Darkness
  • Hala Salah, 17, A Soul
  • Amira Al-Ashi, 15, A House
  • Rania Alkilani, 17, My Sister
  • Lama Abu Khatro, 17, A Swing.