Our Story

PeacePlayers International (PPI) was founded in 2001 by Brendan and Sean Tuohey, two brothers from Washington, D.C. Today, PPI’s annual operating budget is over $3 million, and it has a year-round presence on four different continents, but at its founding, it was little more than the Tuoheys, their friends and family, and an idea – that children who play together can learn to live together.

Shortly after graduating college in 1998 and 1999, respectively, Brendan and Sean both spent time coaching youth basketball in Northern Ireland, only a short while after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement formally ended the period of intense sectarian violence known as “The Troubles.” There, they saw that in a region where nearly everything else was segregated by religion, Protestant and Catholic young people regularly came together to play basketball, able to share the game in a way they shared almost nothing else due to its perceived American heritage.

A South African police officer, in Northern Ireland at the time to help with the region’s restructuring of its police force, suggested to Sean that what worked in Northern Ireland could work on an even greater scale in post-apartheid South Africa, where resources could stretch farther and new initiatives were welcomed with open arms. Sean recruited Brendan to help him test the idea, and, with $7,000 raised from friends and family, the two launched what was then known as “Playing for Peace,” with Sean leading on-the-ground implementation in South Africa and Brendan helming fundraising and institutional growth in Washington, D.C.

Watch this PSA to see PPI in its earliest days, after just getting off the ground in South Africa.

Working hand-in-hand with a committed group of local coaches and a handful of friends who made the journey to South Africa to volunteer, Sean found that the program grew rapidly. Children who before would have almost never had the opportunity to meet were coming together as friends and equals on the basketball court. By 2003, “Playing for Peace” had not only returned to start a program in Northern Ireland, but it also earned its first institutional grant from the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

In 2005, “Playing for Peace” launched a program in Israel and the West Bank, initially led by a Yale graduate named Matt Minoff, and in 2006, it began operations in Cyprus with a grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). After changing its name to PeacePlayers International (PPI) in 2007 to reflect its new, worldwide scope, PPI launched its first domestic program, helping New Orleans re-engage its youth after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This program has since spun off from PeacePlayers International, and now operates independently as Elevate: New Orleans.

PeacePlayers International wins the 2007 ESPYs Arthur Ashe Courage Award for its work in Northern Ireland.

The most recent years at PPI have been marked primarily by two trends: constant innovation to formalize, test and enhance our sport-based peace education curriculum, and a dramatic increase in scale through the expansion of our Sports and Peace Innovation Network (PPI - SPIN). Launched in partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, PPI - SPIN shares PPI's institutional knowledge with others seeking to harness the power of sport for youth civic engagement, leadership development and conflict transformation. Through this new program, PPI has been able to impact thousands of youth and coaches in 15 different countries around the world, from inner-city Chicago, to Sana’a, Yemen.

Learn more about PPI's efforts to spur innovation in monitoring and evaluation with this video from a "brown bag" hosted by the United States Agency for International Development.


“The love the coaches have for basketball inspires us to continually improve our game and they taught us how to be a better person on the court as well in our everyday life” 
Christiana Miltiadous, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
"We work in an education system that is divided…PeacePlayers program is pointed towards the integration of those children. You’re getting children to mix in an environment where there’s not the...
Derrick Harkness, Principal, Carrs Glen Primary School, Northern Ireland
"When you get to know your teammates, it doesn’t really matter what their religion is."
Aoife Doherty, Participant, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland
“PeacePlayers has taught me lots of important things, like how to be a good person, a good friend, and a good leader. One of the most important things it has taught me is how to educate the younger...
Nursu Tilki, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
"Programmes like this that work at the grass roots level with the young people in our society are vital to achieving sustainable peace within our communities. We are committed to supporting and...
Denis Rooney, CBE, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, Chairman, International Fund for Ireland
"At the start [playing together] wasn't weird, but it was different because we would never have gotten the opportunity to go out and meet Protestants and be friends with them."
Ann Murphy, Participant, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland
"I was on the train one day with my Jewish friends and they started making fun of an Arab woman…I told them to stop and that she was embarrassed and that she just wanted to go to work. I then told...
Adiel, Participant, PeacePlayers International – Middle East
"I was scared to death at first. But by the end of the match, I realized we were all the same."
Geina Mdungo, Participant, PeacePlayers Interational – South Africa
"We typically use activities such as art and drama to bridge divides between the youth. We always knew that sport had the potential to do the same, but PPI - ME's sport day went way above and beyond...
Yael Gur, Project Manager, A New Way, Israel
"A lot of kids believe that one kid on the other side is a good person, but every other one is a bad person, and they then carve out these narrow exceptions. What [PPI’s] curriculum is doing is...
Chad Ford, Director, David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding, Brigham Young University
"I met new players I didn't know before, and learned how to play with new people. The best part was learning things from new players and different areas coming together. I learned you don't have to...
Amir, Participant, PeacePlayers International – Middle East
"If she takes one thing away, it’s to know that there’s no differences from the other community, that everybody’s equal, and that she has great enjoyment with PeacePlayers."
Nula Doherty, Parent, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland
"It’s hard to live without my parents, but my PPI coach is always there for me. He’s really more like a brother."
Sihle Cele, Participant, PeacePlayers International – South Africa
"Basketball has added a new dimension to our sporting activities. Of course, it improves coordination and also improves communication between the kids themselves. It’s wonderful that PPI has become...
Jennifer Sonasundrum, Principal, Merry Hill Primary School, South Africa
"Through PeacePlayers I have learnt how to share, trust, cooperate, and respect everyone, creating friendship and peace. PeacePlayers taught us whatever your religion or language you are talking, it...
Cetin Pirlanta, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
"We find that the PeacePlayers program brings in life-skills in a non-threatening way, and is helping to educate children on the big issues of HIV…We also find that in the PeacePlayers program, we...
Pamilla Mudhray, CSI Manager, Sasol, South Africa
"In the beginning I participated for the basketball, but then I made friends with the Turkish-Cypriots. Now we play and we all have fun together."
Evripidis Kardamilas, Participant, PeacePlayers International – Cyprus
"I’m glad that Ronnie’s taking part in PeacePlayers…hopefully Ronny doesn’t have to go through what I went through at Ronnie’s age.”
Manny Macauley, Parent, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland
“I love this organization because it unites Greek-Cypriots with Turkish-Cypriots by doing what we all love, playing basketball!” 
Dimitris Charalambous, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
"By focusing on the game of basketball and the values of sportsmanship, the youth learn to break down stereotypes to contribute to an environment whereby children who play together can learn to live...
Bicommunal Support Program, U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus
 “Through basketball I got over my fears and the stereotypes that we were taught in school. Basketball helped me to become friends with those guys without even speaking!”
Alexis Georgiou, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
“Why did I join? Simple, it gave me purpose and it made me happy. It gave me the feeling of belonging somewhere. It was a place where your goals and hobbies harmonize with the goals of an...
Eleni Partakki, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus
“The reason that I participate in this program and love it so much is because it helps me learn new things while playing my favorite sport. I have made so many new friends, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish...
Victor Petrov, Participant, PeacePlayers International - Cyprus