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This week we continue our Introducing our Coaches Series. Over the last few years PeacePlayers International – South Africa has consistently had a shortage in coaches in Umlazi. Given it is Durban’s largest township and is home to four PPI Primary Schools recruiting new coaches was a heavy focus for PPI Office staff entering this year. Today’s blog is written by one of our first year coaches in Umlazi, Mbali (Slie) Gcabashe.
What school do you coach?
Emthethweni Primary School (Umlazi)
How long have you been playing basketball?
Since grade 6 (2008) at Austerville Primary School, until now (2015)
How did you hear about the coaching job?
My primary school coach was from PPI, and I was really inspired with how they coach and how they treat youth. They were friendly in such a way that I also hungered to become a coach one day and working for the same organisation. Thobani (PPI’s area coordinator) called me and asked me if I’m still interested in coaching.
How has your experience as a coach been so far?
GREAT!!! What makes it more awesome is that I love working with kids and they love working with me. Everyday after school I just can’t wait to go out and coach them. And what I have realized now is that when playing basketball, it’s not about winning, but its about having fun and uniting the people, more especially treating each other like family.
What is your favourite moment as a coach thus far?
My favourite moment as coach is when I see my kids playing a match against other schools. So far they make me feel proud as a coach, I can see that I am going somewhere with them. Even though it is my duty to teach them, but also, I have learnt to have confidence in myself and that I am capable in doing anything and make it successful.
Name three things that you have learned?
To have confidence in myself.
How to love one another and stick together as a team despite of losing and winning.
I have learned to socialize with people and get learnt how to share my skills with them.
I really hope that my kids simply improve at basketball. Most importantly I just want them to succeed in whatever they do and to treat life just like basketball, train themselves in order to reach victory. And my dreams for the future is to just have my own businesses one day, becoming a very successful woman and to be someone’s roles model, not forgetting to change the world and make a difference.
This past weekend, players from the North, including the Tamra-Nahariya All-Stars, and Nahariya and Tamra younger girls’ teams came together for a retreat in the Northern Galilee. With the backdrop of beautiful natural scenery, the young players came to strengthen their bonds and improve their basketball skills.
Tamra and Nahariya began their Twinning partnership almost two years ago. While they have made great progress at building relationships through the Twinnings and league play, they still needed some more concentrated time together to solidify those bonds. This goes to say that by the end of the trip the girls left the retreat knowing each other better.
Leading by example is a great mantra of PeacePlayers-Middle East. Constituting the first-ever Palestinian-Israeli league team in Jeursalem, the Jerusalem All-Stars have been playing together competitively for over four years, and most of them are part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP). Over the years, the Jerusalem participants have built mutual respect and true, genuine friendships. And because they have been through the process of PeacePlayers, who knows better than them on how to guide the younger PeacePlayers generations?
During the retreat, the Jerusalem All-Stars led team-building activities that focused on challenging the participants to work as a team and to cooperate towards a greater goal. Whether it was trying to fit through a rope course or balance a hula-hoop, the players rose to the challenges. Toot, an Israeli player on the Jerusalem All-Stars and a facilitator of the peace education activities, said, “Leading the activity for the girls reminded me of my first years in PPI. Like the younger All-Stars players, I struggled and I’m still struggling, with the same difficulties: language, cultural differences, and outside criticism. The most important message I wanted to pass on to these girls was to help them acknowledge their major power as a team and as individuals inside PeacePlayers.”
The social, group-building activities are important to the team because it helps them be better players on the court. Yet, having high level basketball skills is equally important, and this is where PPI – ME Basketball Operations Manger Vito Gilic came in. Throughout the retreat he led basketball trainings for each team, helping the players continue focusing and improving their form and abilities to play better together. In the end, the coaches, players, and staff felt that the retreat accomplished the goals set. Ben, one of the co-coaches of the Tamra-Nahariya All Stars team, said, “The retreat was very fun and contributed to the purpose of the team.”
This week’s blog is written by PPI – Northern Ireland Fast Track Coach, Cynthia Watters, about her experiences facing social divides and how things have changed since she joined PeacePlayers.
Like many seasonal coaches, I joined PeacePlayers when I was in Queen’s University. It was an extremely flexible part-time job that was more fun than work! Three years later, and I still love working for PeacePlayers. It has helped me in more ways than I realised it would when I began here.
Originally from County Monaghan, I had never heard of PeacePlayers until I moved to Belfast. I had never experienced a religious divide in society before, not knowing or caring the religion of my peers growing up. However, when I moved to Belfast it was clear that this lack of knowledge was something that my new peers couldn’t understand.
I met two boys in particular with very strong views, always arguing about their history. One of them was from Lurgan and the other from South Armagh, two towns that according to them, don’t get along. I found it very funny that I would be corrected if I said my friend was from Armagh, because he was from South Armagh. It made me wonder if I was wrong about my own hometown. Rather than Monaghan, was I really from North Monaghan?
I first found it amusing, how they would fight about everything and somehow relate it back to their political views. But eventually it got annoying. It was non-stop arguing, refusing to find a way to live in harmony. How could something that happened so many years ago affect them so much today that they automatically didn’t see eye to eye?
The longer I lived in Belfast, the more I began to notice how common this divide really was. But it was when I started working at PeacePlayers that I noticed the divide amongst primary school children, kids who didn’t even know the difference between religion and nationality. It was such a shame that children, who typically can easily make friends with other children, were encouraged to stick to their own and stay away from ‘the others’ when it was clear they had no idea why.
I have worked in PPI-NI’s East Belfast Interface League for three years now. We started with 4 players, but now we have over 40 that attend each week, with a 53 seater bus bringing us to training. The change in attitudes and behaviours that I have noticed in such a small period of time is incredible. Not only do they play basketball together, but they meet up outside of trainings and attend each other’s birthday parties. By continuing to challenge the unwritten rules of society, I truly believe that in the years to come, students new to Belfast will not have to be taught how to tell a Protestant from a Catholic, as it will no longer matter. The troubles in the past will be just that, the past.
In today’s blog, PPI-SA fellow Bryan Franklin reflects on a recent visit from a group of students from The University of Texas, McCombs School of Business.
The date was March 10th. March, but the madness hadn’t quite arrived, at least not in the United States. In a small Coloured township just south of Durban called Wentworth however madness was at full strength. But in a community known for violence and for anger often spiraling out of control, this was a positive type of Madness.
A group from the University Of Texas McCombs School Of Business had come to visit PeacePlayers International – South Africa, and with them brought a little March Madness of their own. For the kids of Excelsior Primary School of Lamontville and Assegai Primary School of Wentworth, it was as if they were playing in the NCAA Championship game.
This was the McCombs School’s second annual visit to Durban. Each year, a group of thirty MBA’s partner up with a number of different nonprofits across South Africa, PPI being one of them, to help with capacity building projects. For the group of six who volunteered to help out PPI, this meant providing assistance with our marketing strategy and how we communicate about our programme with different stakeholders.
While that work is helpful, the greatest benefit on PPI’s side comes from the interaction and attention given to our participants. The event kicked off with the three schools—Assegai Primary, Excelsior Primary, and Texas McCombs—participating in an ice breaker to get to know one another, bridging divides to the core. The energy surrounding the games that followed (Assegai vs. Excelsior Boys; Assegai vs. Excelsior Girls; and PPI Coaches/Staff vs. Texas McCombs) was palpable. Kids from both sides had not only their teammates but all of PPI’s 14 coaches and 30 MBA students from America cheering for them.
It was another reminder of the power of sport, and at such a exciting time of the year for basketball with the NCAA tournament just around the corner. Sure there were no fancy hardwood floors, no TV’s, no stadiums with thousands of screaming fans, but the core of the sport: hard-work, passion, and most importantly fun were all there. Combine that with a group of 40 or so primary schoolers many of whom have never been out of their community spending time with 30 or so Americans who had just traveled across the world and you have yourself one powerful afternoon.
At PPI-SA we’re not letting the madness stop there however, and are currently running a March Madness Bracket Fundraiser. Each bracket costs $20 to enter, half of which will go straight back to helping PPI-SA create more events like the one you just read about. If you’re interested in joining, you can find more information here. We need your support so that we can continue to bridge divides, develop leaders and change perceptions through basketball.
On February 15, PeacePlayers-Cyprus International Fellow Ryan Hage was honored at Former Player’s Day at Fordham University. The former Division I Captain was shown on the Jumbotron thanking everyone for their support and a special donation table was set up for PeacePlayers where fans donated over 300 dollars to the organization. Below is the article written on FordhamAthletics.com about Ryan and his work.
On an island that has been has been divided for over 40 years, young Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot children play the game of basketball together and, at the same time, break barriers that have been up for decades. Coach Ryan Hage, GSB’12, is encouraging the kids on the sideline with his usual eccentric demeanor.
Hage is in the middle of a fellowship with PeacePlayers International, a nonprofit organization that brings children together from communities in conflict to play basketball. The organization was founded on the belief that children who can play together can live together. The country of Cyprus broke out in a civil war in 1974 that divided the island and over the years the tension of meeting the “other side” has grown. PeacePlayers gives the kids an opportunity to finally interact with that other side of the island.
After making the team as a walk his freshman year at Fordham, Hage was given a full scholarship and named team captain his senior year. He graduated in 2012 with a degree in Finance and worked for Citibank for 18 months before realizing that something was missing. He heard about PPI and decided to make a big change. “I was 22 and making great money and living in the greatest city in the world but still felt like something was missing. I learned about PeacePlayers and how I could help others through the sport of basketball and knew this is what I have to do.”
As an American fellow, Hage serves as a mentor and role model while sharing his basketball expertise. His father, Charlie, was a basketball coach for over 40 years so coaching is in the bloodline. He has two teams and also helps organize and implement major events that bring both communities together like tournaments, leadership retreats, and a summer camp. Also, he uses that Finance degree as the Head of Finance for the organization.
“I have the greatest job in the world.” says Hage. “I have seen firsthand how basketball can change perceptions and create friendships. The work that PeacePlayers accomplishes in Cyprus and around the world is amazing. Two kids may not speak the same language, but basketball is the only thing they need to start the process of becoming lifelong friends.”
Hage credits Fordham for instilling a sense of giving back after seeing how much the basketball team gave back to the Bronx in his four years there. From clinics for disadvantaged youth to giving presents to sick children at St. Barnabas Hospital, it was a top priority of the coaches and university to always make time to help others.
At PPI – Middle East, every day is Women’s Day, with 70% of our participants and 80% of our staff made of of girls and women. So, it makes sense that we take a minute to mark International Women’s Day, which was on March 8. This post explains a little bit of the history behind Women’s Day and how PPI-ME is making Women’s Day happen year round.
The first Women’s Day was held in the early 1900’s to “celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.” Today, events are held all over the world to recognize the achievements of women socially, politically, and economically. Purple is the color scheme often associated with this day due to its representation of justice and dignity which are very important in equality to women. This year’s theme is “Make it Happen” to encourage recognition of the progress made.
By looking at pictures and meeting former participants who currently work for PeacePlayers, it is easy to see how PPI – ME invests in its female participants both on and off the court. Duha, who has been a part of PPI-ME for many years and is now a program manager and coach, has been able to travel to the U.S. and other countries through her work with PeacePlayers. She once spoke about how in her community it is not common for girls to play basketball, and it is not considered a good way to spend time. Girls see the opportunities she has been afforded through basketball and PeacePlayers and now they are becoming interested in the sport. This sport, which was once just a hobby, has allowed Duha to play on PPI – ME’s Palestinian-Israeli women’s league team in Jerusalem, meet U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, tour famous sports arenas, and work for PeacePlayers amongst other things.
Heni, an Israeli program manager and coach in the Jerusalem area, is currently in the U.S. for the Clinton Global Initiative University, where she spoke on a panel about peace and the Middle East. Aysha, another participant turned coach, is getting ready to join a UN leadership camp in Germany in April.
Duha, Heni and other female players in her community are definitely changing perceptions and “making it happen.” PPI – ME salutes these and all the women that believe and are working toward change, justice, and equality. With hard work, lots of passion, and great support, we can all “Make it Happen”.
This week we continue our Introducing our Coaches Series. Over the last few years PeacePlayers International – South Africa has consistently had a shortage in coaches in Umlazi. Given it is Durban’s largest township and is home to four PPI Primary Schools recruiting new coaches was a heavy focus for PPI Office staff entering this year. Today’s blog is written by one of our first year coaches in Umlazi, Lindokuhle (Lindo) Tenza.
What school did you coach: Sekelani Primary School
How long have you been playing basketball?
I have been playing for seven years. I started playing as a PeacePlayers Participant at St. Leo Primary School in Molweni. I then went on to play in the LDP (Leadership Development Programme) throughout Secondary school before moving to Umlazi to go to college.
How did you hear about the coaching job?
I am here because PeacePlayers is like my second home, I grew up with PeacePlayers and being a coach here is like a dream come true. I love coaching and hanging out with kids and helping were I can because it shows that I can be a good role model to my kids and fellow coaches. I like to help anybody if I can especially the kids I am coaching. I really focus on building relationships with my players so they look at me as more than just a coach but a friend, so they can ask or talk about anything with me, even something that does not include basketball.
How has your experience as a coach been so far?
It has been very good! My experience made me gain confidence about myself both as a coach and even in personal life. I am loving it so far because of PeacePlayers not only gave me the chance, but is teaching me how to become a better coach, player and person. They have made it easy for me, and I’ve you must be persistent when dealing with kids but also in life.
What is your favourite moment as a coach thus far?
My favourite moments have been with every single child I coach. I believe I have connected with each of my kids. Many of them stay in my neighbourhood so the walks back home are my favourite. The kids really open up and we get to laugh and joke outside the court. I believe they see me more than just their coach but rather their role model.
Name three things that you have learned?
1 As a coach you must be a good role model for the kids.
2 Never be afraid to be yourself with the kids; for me this means opening up to the kids after practice when we walk home about choosing the right friends or having dreams using my life as an example.
3 To treat kids with respect, no matter who they are and where they come from
Today’s guest blog is written by Bianca Beck, a professional basketball player in St. Louis Missouri who found PeacePlayers while looking for a way to use basketball to inspire and develop children.
I was born in Okinawa, Japan and spent most of my childhood in Lakenheath England and St. Louis Missouri in the United States. I was first introduced to the sport of basketball around the age of 5, and have been playing ever since. In high school I won a State Championship at Incarnate Word Academy, and later graduated college from Southeast Missouri State University on a full athletics scholarship. I was the first true freshman to be in the starting line up for a home opening game and I was recorded as the third most durable player in the women’s program, playing in every game from my freshman to senior year.
In 2012 after graduating from college, I was looking to be more religious. My faith is Messianic Jew and one of the mitzvahs (commandments) is Tzedakah (charity). I wanted one of my donations to go to an organization where basketball was used as a tool to inspire and develop children, teaching them life lesson through the game I love, as well as be used as a safe haven from worldly conflicts. Initially I thought an organization like this probably didn’t exist, but after typing a search in Google, PeacePlayer International popped up on the result list. I reviewed the website, mission statement and saw the testimonials on the impact PPI had on the communities they were located in. I immediately reached out to PPI to start giving monthly donations. I am confident knowing that my donations aren’t just to help some kids learn how to play basketball, but to inspire and teach life lessons and promote peace and unity.
I currently play professional basketball for the St. Louis Surge in St. Louis Missouri and have been playing here for 3 years. We recently won the 2014 National WBCBL Championship and looking to repeat in 2015. As a point guard and team captain, I find myself striving for the values of PeacePlayers such as teamwork and communication in both practices and games. But the values of PeacePlayers are visible in my everyday life too, including my job, friends and family. I have had unforeseen issues and disagreements with my coaches, supervisors, siblings, friends and my family, but because we respectfully communicate our feelings, we are able able to compromise and resolve conflict in a way that leaves both parties happy.
I hope and pray that the children in PPI’s program are able to use the same lessons, values and experiences learned and apply them in a way that not only positively impacts their own lives, but also their communities and the world.
Proud PeacePlayers International Donor
Today’s blog is brought to you by Elena Troullidou, a Greek-Cypriot Dietitian, who is joining PeacePlayers-Cyprus for the next couple of years to help educate our participants in the importance of a good diet for an athlete and in every day life.
Hello everyone, my name is Elena Troullidou and I am a Clinical Dietitian – Nutritionist in Nicosia. I am a new member of the PeacePlayers International-Cyprus team and my role is to highlight the importance of a healthy nutrition among the children involved in the ‘’Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus” program.
This is a three year bi-communal project in order to complete the ongoing program of basketball trainings-games-sports camps of PeacePlayers International-Cyprus, aiming to allow 8-to-17 year old Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play together, learn together and build positive relationships and interaction.
I am very excited to be part of this project not only because child obesity and excess weight are epidemic problems that need to be taken very seriously and addressed, but also because from my scientific position I can put a small stone to build the bi-communal solidarity.
Along with the team, Emine Ulucay, the Turkish Cypriot Dietitian, the coaches and the PeacePlayers directors, we organise lectures, workshops and nutrition games to promote a healthy leaving, correct eating habits, maintain a healthy weight and improve sports performance. I am working with the Greek Cypriots teams in Aglanjia, Faneromeni, Engomi, Dali, Larnaca and Kiti and so far I completed the team’ s measurements of height and weight and the first lecture about the food groups, the food pyramid, my plate examples and the importance of a healthy nutrition for development.
Most of the teams had the fundamental knowledge of a healthy nutrition and the food pyramid but despite that their eating habits need improvement. For this reason we are planning to organise lectures for their families also, so the parents will be educated and helped in order to replace certain snacks or “unhealthy” meals with healthier ones without any extra cost or time.
By the end of the year we will prepare a curriculum with all the information, nutrition games and lectures we have taught, so it will be used as a guide for the children and their families.
I am very optimistic and confident that the ’Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus” project will help in educating the children about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, promote a new model of attitude towards food options, improve self-confident and the body image of the children and maintain a healthy and correct body weight throughout their life.
Because if you change your diet, you change your life…
PeacePlayers-Middle East would like to highlight a successful first Twinning between Meiser and Kfar Saba! Meiser, an Arab community in the Menashe region of Israel, has been partnered with PeacePlayers for over three years. Kfar Saba, a city located north of Tel Aviv, recently began its partnership with PeacePlayers. The two teams, both a boys and girls team grades 4th through 6th, are thrilled to have a new Twinning partner.
The first Twinning functions to break the ice and give chance for the participants to have good positive associations with the other teams. So naturally there were some jitters from both sides during the warm-ups. PPI-ME’s coaches praised the participants and helped to lighten the mood, and as the things progressed everyone relaxed and it was pure excitement and fun after that. The players worked hard on getting to know each others names and wanted nothing more than to win together during the relay races. The participants’ energy was electric and the coaches were just as excited and eager to win each relay race as the kids.
Several of the parents and staff of the gymnasium in Kfar Saba came up to our PeacePlayers staff and praised them for good work they are doing and the mission of PeacePlayers. They loved seeing the youth enjoy themselves and focus on the positive. PPI-ME looks forward to more successful Twinnings with these two communities!
In this week’s blog, PPI-Northern Ireland Assistant Project Coordinator, Laura Agnew, shares how a journey on her local school bus inspired her to give children a chance for peace.
A false perception in Northern Ireland is that the conflict between Catholics and Protestants happened only in bigger towns and cities. In actual fact, the rural areas were sometimes worse, but the conflicts didn’t get enough media interest to grab any attention. Minimal press coverage through the years, means there has been very little intervention or progress towards peace in these rural areas since, and the religious divide is still extremely prominent today.
I can speak from personal experience when I say rural areas faced these religious tensions. Growing up on a farm in the countryside is wonderful, except when you have to be anywhere other than on that farm! So this meant taking “the country bus” to school. But little did I know on my first day of Kilkeel High School, that I would face these religious tensions head on before 8am!
In 2004, I boarded my school bus for the first time and sat in the first 4 rows. I immediately got called to sit at the back with the older students from my school. I still remember exactly what I was told – “we sit at the back and they sit at the front, that’s the way it’s always been”. It wasn’t directly said, but even as an 11 year old I knew exactly what that statement meant – Protestants from Kilkeel High School sat at the back, and Catholics from St Louis’ sat at the front. Unfortunately, growing up at that point in time meant I wasn’t shocked at all by this statement. In fact, I was relieved that I was told about this tradition so I didn’t have to learn the hard way. All of the school buses in the area were shared by the two schools, but people would shout abuse or throw objects at anyone sitting in the wrong seat.
Looking back I realize that throughout my school life I was in the middle of the kind of situation that I would later be trying to resolve through my work at PeacePlayers. Amazingly, I now work with a former St Louis’ pupil – PPI-NI Project Coordinator Joanne Fitzpatrick! We went to school at the same time but never came into contact with each other because of the religious divide in our area. However, I now consider her to be not only a colleague, but one of my closest friends.
It is heart-warming for Joanne and I to see PeacePlayers participants becoming friends and even sharing seats on the buses to programmes because it is a total contrast from our very real experience of the same tensions. Subtle changes in the childrens’ attitudes to the other community fuels my passion and drive to work to give every child the chance of a peaceful childhood. After all, your school days are meant to be some of the best days of your life, and that should include the bus journey!
Over the last few weeks we introduced you to PPI-SA’s newest employee, Sbahle Mkhize, and given you a sneak peek into the lives of two of our coaches. This week we are highlighting a group of individuals who if it were not for, our programme would not exist: School Reps. Each of PPI’s partners schools has a school rep who acts as liaison between the school and players and PPI.
These school reps recruit participants, help monitor learners attendance and grades and act as de facto mentors to PPI’s coaches. Each and every one of them volunteers for this position and does it beyond their normal responsibilities of teaching.
This past Friday, PPI-SA kicked off its programme with a Primary School Extravaganza and School Rep briefing. School reps across each of PPI’s communities came together to meet one another, hear testimonials from two current PPI coaches and learn about programme goals entering 2015 and learn about the challenges and successes facing each of their schools and communities. Afterwards, they were treated to some good ole fashioned basketball with a PSP Extravaganza. Meet PPI-SA’s School Reps:
How long have you been working at your school?
27 years – Mr. Giles, Collingwood Primary School, Wentworth
18 years – Ms. Nokuthula, Sukuma Primary School, Umlazi
15 years – Ms. Singh, Waterloo Primary School, Waterloo
13 years – Ms. Zama, Excelsior Primary School, Lamontville
11 years – Mrs. LeRoux-Wbster, Assegai Primary School, Wentworth
9 years – Ms. Vilakazi, Carrington Primary School, Durban City
7 Years – Ms. Ngidi, Durban Primary School, Durban City
Why did you decide to volunteer as a school representative for PeacePlayers International – South Africa?
I like sports because it helps children develop unique skills. For some learners who have difficultly in the classroom, it allows them to express themselves other places, and often times leads to improvements in learning. – Ms. Nokuthula, Sukuma Primary School
I have a huge interest in basketball. I was so happy to help get the pupils involved in sport. It provides a great outlet for them and keeps them away from harmful activities such as drugs. – Ms. Singh – Waterloo Primary School
I love sports and the benefit it has on children. I have been a school rep for 12 years and see the impact it has on the learners. – Ms. Zama, Excelsior Primary
What is your favorite memory from your time as a PPI School Rep?
The day the construction of our basketball court completed. I still remember the excitement on the pupils faces.
– Ms. Nokuthula, Sukuma Primary
I love all the fun activities and life skills development lessons. I also love interacting with the different communities. – Mr. Giles, Collingwood Primary
My favourite times are the City Wide Tournament (which is held twice a year by PPI). Kids get to intermingle with leaners from different communities. – Mrs. LeRoux Webster, Assegai Primary
The excitement when basketball was first introduced to the school and the community as a whole – Ms. Singh, Waterloo Primary
Have you seen any noticeable change in the classroom from kids who participate in the PPI Programme?
Yes, the confidence and leadership skills of basketball kids are evident and translate directly to the classroom. – Ms. LeRoux-Webster, Assegai Primary
Kids who participate in basketball are more disciplined in terms of their school work, but are also more respectful to their teachers and other learners. – Ms. Vilakazi, Carrington Primary
Definitely! The positive change is evident especially in the increased confidence of the participants. – Mr. Giles, Collingwood Primary
Describe your relationship with your PPI Coach? How are they with the kids?
I have a good relationship with my coach. She is very good at what she does and loves the kid. She is incredibly dedicated and is doing a great job at Carrington. – Ms. Vilakazi, Carrington Primary
I love my coach. She is involved with the kids and is great at relating with them to help them open up about the issues they face as teenagers – Ms. Ngidi, Durban Primary
A three hour drive from Durban, South Africa, down the Eastern Cape is a small town called Mount Ayliff. On the outskirts of the town, in the village of Cabazana, Nasiphi Khafu was raised by her grandparents Ntsikelelo and Nontsikelelo. At the age of 16, Nasiphi moved to Durban KwaZulu Natal to live with her mother, Zingisa, who was working away from home. Just two years later her mother passed away, leaving Nasiphi to watch over her 15-year-old brother, Yongama, and her 5-year-old sister, Nqobile. “Losing the important people in my life at an early age forced me to be independent. This was the beginning of real life for us, we were scattered around between different relatives who took care of us.”
That same year, one of Nasiphi’s friends in high school told her about a program he had joined called PeacePlayers International – South Africa. “I remember my first practice – I was wearing my school uniform, playing bare foot. I could not believe how heavy the orange ball was compared to netball or volleyball that I had been playing my whole life. My coach was Thabang Khumalo who was really patient and kind with me as I was struggling to learn the simplest things like dribbling.”
Despite being new to the sport, Nasiphi’s coaches recognized her natural leadership skills, and hired her as a coach at Durban Primary School. At the end of her first year, Nasiphi was named the coach of the year and she was one of nine PPI-SA coaches invited to attend the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Retreat in Johannesburg. “I will never forget that experience as it was my first time on a airplane and staying in a hotel.”
“I believe sharing my experiences of being discriminated against in South Africa is helping young people in Northern Ireland better understand the importance of seeing each other as people.”
In her third year with PPI-SA, Nasiphi was offered an 18-month International Fellowship in Belfast with PPI – Northern Ireland. A post traditionally offered to American post-collegiate scholar athletes, Nasiphi was the first former participant to become a Fellow. As a Fellow, Nasiphi is working hand in hand with a group of 25 local coaches to run year-round peace building through sport programs for over 2,000 Catholic and Protestant children in eight of the ten most disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland. “I believe sharing my experiences of being discriminated against in South Africa is helping young people in Northern Ireland better understand the importance of seeing each other as people. And at the same time I am learning about their conflict. When I first arrived I remember asking myself, how do they even know if you are Catholic or Protestant?”
Since beginning last June, Nasiphi has been helping facilitate PPI-NI’s Twinning Program, which brings entire classes of children ages 8 to 11 from neighboring Controlled (predominantly Protestant) and Maintained (predominantly Catholic) schools together for joint basketball and community relations sessions where youth play together on mixed teams instead of against each other. Through this process, young people are learning to be tolerant of other people’s background and views regardless of whether or not they were different to their own.
Nasiphi has found the experience to be incredibly beneficial, and after completing her Fellowship next year, she plans to return to South Africa and get a graduate degree in business and hopes to one day return to PPI-SA and use her new skills and knowledge to grow the program that helped launch her career. “I call PeacePlayers family, they gave me basketball, they give me life, hope and courage to always strive to be better for myself and the other youth that I inspire every day.”
PPI Board member and General Manager of Southeastern Europe for the adidas group, Lawrence Norman, visited PeacePlayers-Cyprus this week to meet our young leaders and play some basketball. Lawrence was joined by a group from the adidas Corporate office in Cyprus. For many of the adidas Cyprus team, this was the first time they have interacted with Turkish-Cypriot basketball players, and many stated repeatedly how much fun they had and how much they learned.
A small island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has been physically divided by a UN Buffer Zone since an inter-ethnic war in 1974 split the island into two separate Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Today, many youth grow up without ever meeting anyone from the “other side”. PeacePlayers-Cyprus uses the game of basketball to allow Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play together, learn together and build positive relationships that overcome generations of mistrust. PeacePlayers is currently the only year-round bi-communal youth sports organization on the island.
“When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.” – Lawrence Norman
When the group from adidas arrived, they were greeted by PeacePlayers coaches and participants. International Fellow Ryan Hage and Program Coordinator Stephanie Nicolas gave a presentation on the history of PeacePlayers and how we use sport to promote bi-communal interaction. United States Ambassador John Koenig, also spoke to the group, saying: “It’s been a pleasure since I have become an Ambassador here to be associated with a program like PeacePlayers-Cyprus and to support them in any way possible.”
Finally, PeacePlayers participants were given a chance to share their own experiences and explain how the program has helped them overcome stereotypes and build lifelong friendships. Many from the adidas group were amazed at what the youth had to say, and had many questions including how they could get their own children involved in the program!
After the meeting, the adidas group played basketball with the PeacePlayers participants at Ledra Palace. Lots of smiles and laughs were had during the contest, and the adidas workers were impressed at the skill of some of the participants. Lawrence Norman participated in the action on the court, and spent time speaking with many of our participants, hearing stories of how PeacePlayers has changed their life. Later, Lawrence told our staff, “When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.”
We would like to thank adidas for their ongoing support, and the group for spending a whole day with PeacePlayers, getting to know the coaches and participants on a personal level. On behalf of all our coaches and participants around globe, THANK YOU ADIDAS!
PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland intern Shawna Walsh shares her experience of the #BelfastHour networking event she attended last Sunday at the Odyssey arena.
Twitter is no longer just for following celebrities and daily musings of each others’ lives. It has proven itself to be a very effective tool bringing small businesses, charities and organizations together on a platform to share ideas, events and successes with one another. Every Thursday night from 21:00-22:00, #BelfastHour is a host to over 350 businesses in Northern Ireland looking to network, learn and share and of course, practice our social media skills! Almost every week #BelfastHour trends in the top four in the United Kingdom.
This past Sunday, PPI-NI social media queen Nasiphi Khafu was lucky enough to be invited to #BelfastHour’s first in-person networking event hosted by the Belfast Giants – Northern Ireland’s local ice hockey team. Mingling with some of Belfast’s most connected organisations was a great way to promote the work we do with others who value our vision. Since we spend most of our time on the basketball court and in schools, #BelfastHour is a great opportunity to take a step back, or shall I say into, technology to learn about what other like-minded organisations are doing and share how people can get involved with our programs. As Edward Norton said, “Instead of telling the world what you’re eating for breakfast, you can use social networking to do something that’s meaningful.” Don’t be social media shy, it’s the wave of the future!
If you wish to explore more about this online platform, all you have to do is use the hashtag #belfastour which will lead you to all our discussions taking place in the twitter universe. According to NI Business Now, over four and a half million timelines have been hit to date! Talk about reaching thousands of people through simple word-of-mouth. Imagine how many people we could get excited about basketball, bridging divides developing leaders and changing perceptions.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @peaceplayers, tagging #PPI_NI, on Instagram @peaceplayersintl, and of course Facebook PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland!
Today’s blog is written by PPI-SA’s newest member: Sbahle Mkhize. Sbahle joins the team as the Fundraising and Marketing Manager. She previously coached for PPI-SA from 2012-2013 and even during her brief stint away was very involved as a volunteer. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Sbahle to the team.
From a very young age basketball has been a part of my life. One can say my career started in Pelham Senior Primary School, in city called Pietermaritzburg (just 1 hr West of Durban). I was always an active child and always tried to participate in different sports. But it was in grade 5, when the Under-11 basketball coach invited me to try out for the basketball team that I realised my love for the game of basketball. I made the A-team, and from there basketball became a part of me. Throughout Primary school I represented KwaZulu Natal which exposed me to a number of different parts of South Africa and showed me just how big basketball was. From Pelham, I made my way to Pietermaritzburg Girls High School, which had and still does have one of the top ladies basketball teams in South Africa. It didn’t take long for me to flourish. I started playing for the 1st team from grade 10 and eventually became the 1st team captain. My time as a player and captain at PMB Girls High taught me valuable lessons like discipline, leadership and commitment, the same lessons we impart on kids today at PPI.
When it came to deciding what I would study in University, a Bachelor Degree in Sport Science was an obvious choice. I was excited when I got accepted to further my studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, Westville, however, very nervous about moving to a city where I only knew a few people. Shortly after the move, I was introduced to Mtu Zulu at a National Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament. He spoke to me about Peace Players International and encouraged me to apply for a coaching job there. I had never been exposed to an organization of this nature in Pietermaritzburg. So, when the opportunity presented itself it didn’t take a long time for me to apply for the job. What I loved about PPI was that it merged the two things I was and still am passionate about –basketball and developing the youth of South Africa.
I joined PPI in 2012 as a coach for Durban Primary School. Coaching, for me, was an amazing platform to apply the conditioning and coaching principles I had learnt while studying and pass on the skills and techniques I had learnt from my coaches and mentors over the years. But most importantly, it was an opportunity to learn! Within a year with PPI I was afforded the opportunity to be a part of the Laureus Youth Empowerment Through Sports Programme and the Coaching for Hope Programme, where I met people from across the planet doing similar work and at the same time gained valuable skills such as project management and an introduction to entrepreneurship.
In 2013, I decided to take a step back from coaching and focus all my attention on completing my Honours Degree in Sport Science and Leisure Sciences. Upon my completion of my Honours, an opportunity to re-join the PPI team revealed itself. I applied for the position for the Marketing and Fundraising Manager and it was successful. I am over ecstatic to join PPI-SA full time!
One can say this is a success story, but, I believe that my story is what PPI is all about. All the coaches training and mentorship I received, and the programmes I was a part of, because of PPI, played a major role in equipping me for me this position. No University textbook or lecture could teach me what the team at PPI did during my time with them. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Hello PeacePlayers! My is David Korang and I am the new Technical Assistant Intern here from Liberty University. I will be graduating in May with a bachelors in Sports Management and hope to begin a career in basketball operations after spending the summer overseas as a sports missionary.
This is a pivotal moment in the civil relations of the United States. The deaths and legal proceedings to end the year have led to protest, riots, and encouraged mistrust between the black community and law enforcement. From Ferguson, Missouri, to New York City, to Berkeley, California, a number of demonstrations have taken place in solidarity of those who have lost their lives and to evoke legal, social, and cultural reform.
America has unmistakably taken great strides to end racism and is often considered a beacon of equality around the world. In comparison to the social climate of 1860s, and 1960s, peace has been achieved but the reality is there is still work to be done. There are still racial differences and prejudices that shape our lives that need to openly be addressed if this country is to move forward. There are still instances where the color of my skin is a hazard to my health or at least influences my credibility regardless of my knowledge, experience, or merit pertaining to the situation.
It is important for us as a nation to open the lines of communication and listen to the experiences of both sides. Too often it seems we are quick to speak but slow to hear from those who may oppose our views and opinions. This is a time when America can begin to bridge racial divides again. Only after listening can we begin to understand and empathize with one another, then develop ways to resolve these issues and move forward as a nation.
Seeing people come together to end conflict is the reason why I enjoy working for PeacePlayers. I know the work we do will help others see past prejudices and other preconceived notions to reconcile relations for peace. We have the privilege to help youth around the world look past racial, ethnical, and religious differences to accomplish a goal on the court, which in return creates off the court trust, respect, and camaraderie. I am honored to be working with PeacePlayers International, and I hope to use the knowledge and approaches we use around the world to help my community grow closer right here in the states.
PeacePlayers newest addition to the Middle East team, LaToya Fisher, shares some insight on her first month as a Fellow.
I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I first arrived in Israel! There have been some very memorable moments and lots of basketball. The day after my arrival I was fortunate enough to participate in a twinning and it was so amazing to see girls from two different communities coming together to learn about one another and play basketball. I was also very relieved and grateful at how welcoming they were towards me and interested in learning more about me and speaking with me. My favorite event so far was the WinterFest where children from all of the different schools we work with came together and got to do activities such as Kung Fu, juggling, coloring a mural, and a basketball obstacle course. The event allowed me to interact a lot with the kids and hang out and work with some of the coaches and PPI-ME participants that I see less often.
One thing that has been very interesting to me is the weather here versus Maryland. When I landed, it was after a snow storm and my roommate Heni told me that the snowfall was a big deal and people were driving to Jerusalem just to see it and the city had shut down for a while. What made this so interesting was that the snow was a light dusting (little accumulation) and something that would not disrupt things back home. Due to the snow that fell before I arrived, I also experienced some power issues, one of which was not having water…The day before I went to the main office to meet my other co-workers and boss. Luckily I hadn’t done any exercising the day before so I didn’t smell too badly! Thank goodness for bottled water and body spray. Overall I prefer this winter, where there have been days I could wear shorts, to winter in Maryland.
I am adjusting fairly well and the language barrier has not been a huge issue. Although, I will say that I have become even more aware of my surroundings and pay close attention to detail since I got lost when I first got here. About a week or so after I arrived, I was introduced to a shawarma place (amazing!) close to where I was staying and decided to get some food by myself to take back to the house. When I tried to find my way home I got terribly disoriented and wandered around for an hour. I finally found my way home with the help of a really nice stranger and ate my wonderful cold shawarma and chips (fries). It turns out I was literally around the corner from where I was staying. That was my first and last time getting lost and now I’m basically an expert!
So far Jerusalem has proved to be full of charm, diversity, and adventure. I feel like I’ve experienced a lot in just one month and can only imagine how this rest of this journey will go. There is so much history, opportunity, and beauty around me in this country and I can’t wait to take it all in and see what the future holds. Hopefully less shower-less nights and getting lost and more great food and basketball.
PeacePlayers International-Norther Ireland Intern Will Massey shares his experience of working Castlereigh Borough Council Project.
I recently discovered a difficult truth. Belvoir is inexplicably pronounced “beaver,” and nobody has been able to give account for why that would be. I have been in Belvoir twice now to lead community relations session for a program with the Castlereigh Borough Council. The three-week program gives a group of 30 children aged 8-11 an opportunity to play rugby, football, Gaelic, and basketball together and to experience PeacePlayers’ magnificent community relations seminars. You would be familiar with this idea of bringing deferent sports from the Game Of Three Halves (GO3H), where we invite our partners from Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby to assist us with coaching.
Most PPI – Northern Ireland programs deal explicitly with the divide between Protestant and Catholic communities, and for most groups of children this is a sensible approach. However, not all the kids we worked with in Belvoir match the binary that characterizes most of Northern Ireland. For instance, children born in China and Sudan are participating, who cannot easily identify with the particulars of Catholic and Protestant relations. But the mission of PeacePlayers is not restricted to just one cultural division, and it is not hard to adjust session plans so that our activities and conversations are relatable for children who do not identify as Catholic or Protestant. PeacePlayers is about constructing a peaceful society, and all children need to feel that they belong in that conversation. Whether they be Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Buddhist, it is so important that we can be intentionally inclusive.
The work of changing perceptions can address historical conflicts but can also anticipate future conflicts. I cannot report any statistics, but the demographic landscape of Northern Ireland seems to be changing. The Castlereigh project demonstrates that. If Northern Ireland is anything like my country of origin, the United States, then children from minority backgrounds will occasionally be the victims of hurtful stereotypes and unfriendly words. As Northern Ireland becomes more diverse, the task of promoting diversity through sport becomes even more exciting and important.
It was really great to also get an opportunity to work with PPI – NI coach and Senior Champion4Peace, Michaela Thompson. Because I am mostly based in Ballymena, I hardly get time to work and interact with other coaches that are based in Belfast. It is always great to get these opportunities to work in these projects as it helps us to get more access to children that might not be in our programming already. Thank you to Castlereigh Borough Council Project for asking PPI-NI to assist in delivering this project.
Last week we heard from Thando Msweli, one of the most experienced coaches at PPI-SA. But we thought you should have the opportunity to meet ALL our coaches, so we are starting the series PPI-SA – Introducing Our Coaches. Every week you will hear from another of our 20 coaches making noise hear in Durban. Today, we hear from one of the newest additions to PPI-SA’s coaching staff – Samkelo Linda. Samkelo coached his first practice less than a week ago, and it’s very clear that he has a natural ability to relate to and teach youth. He’s quite a guy. Here’s his thoughts and reflections from his 2 weeks at PPI-SA.
My name is Samkelo Linda and I am an 18 year old male from Kwadabeka, South Africa. I matriculated from Sthokozile Sececondary School in 2014. I have been playing basketball since 2010 when I was in grade 8. It has been an amazing experience and I have gained a lot of knowledge and made a number of friends from different walks of life thanks to basketball.
I first got introduced to PeacePlayers by coach Bryan Franklin. He came into my township to check my old team, and when I saw him I just went straight to him. We talked about my team and he told me about PeacePlayers and that I will have an opportunity to coach young kids – I gladly accepted!
Last week I conducted my first try out session at Glenmore Primary School – a school where PeacePlayers has been working for several years. For the first time I was afraid of little kids, I was so nervous I did not know what to expect. But with help coming from coach Ben, coach Mdu, and the school and especially Ms Pillay, I managed to get my nerves away.
We played a lot of games and we taught fundamentals of basketball like passing, dribbling, shooting and the jump stop. The kids were learning fast and there was progression. The experience was really fun because the kids had energy and they were excited for basketball.
After the practice, kids came to me asking if they have made the team or not, which showed me that they really have love for basketball and they really want to be on the team. The selecting was very challenging because coach Mdu and I had to look for good character, teamwork, skills and the love of the game in the kids. It did not matter if a kid is black or white, because the main idea is to unite them and become one family. It was exciting to select the final team and it was sad at the same time because it is hard to decline a little kid but those that made the team were very excited and happy. Even though there were kids that did not get in the team, we ensured them that if they keep on working hard they will definitely make the team in the future.
Being a coach at Glenmore Primary School is a big step for me. I know PeacePlayers has a lot to teach us as young coaches and I am looking forward for it. This will completely change my behavior, I will have to learn to be a leader and one thing I like is I can apply my knowledge of being a leader somewhere else in life.
I have realized that as PPI-SA coaches we are really putting discipline in the kids while we on practice. They might have fun but at the same time there are rules like listening, no bullying, etc. These rules bring change in the kids mindset because in regular life the same rules apply. That is where I see the power of sport on someone’s life.
I am really looking forward for the future with PPI. I have a good feeling we will make history and change lives.