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Last Friday morning, PPI-NI Business Development Officer Keith Mitchel along with PPI-NI assistant project coordinators Laura Agnew, and Ryan Stewart, hot-tailed it to Dublin to facilitate a break out session at the One Young World Summit. The annual event held at Emerald Isle, attracted over 1,400 people from ages 18-30 from 190 countries. At this event delegates heard from a wide range of leaders from around the world. PPI-NI helped to deliver a breakout session entitled “The Sporting Life – Breaking Down Barriers”, which took place at Na Fianna GAA Club in North Dublin. The team showcased PPI-NI’s community relations through sport curricula to a large group of summit delegates. A “fourth half” session facilitated by PPI-NI was complimented by sports instruction (hurling and soccer) provided by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Keith, Ryan and Laura did a great job in encouraging delegates to explore stereotypes and prejudice through a sporting lens by engaging them in our “Not On My Team” exercise.
In the evening, PPI-NI Chairman Trevor Ringland and Managing Director Gareth Harper got suited and booted to attend the Study USA 20th Anniversary Dinner. The Study USA alumni team has chosen PPI-NI as its partner charity for 2014/15. The event held at Titanic Belfast, was attended by over 200 guests including Dr. Stephen Farry (MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning) and representatives from the US Consulate, British Council, stakeholders from US and NI colleges, programme alumni and this year’s Study USA graduating class. PPI-NI coaches were on hand to support fundraising efforts as they ran the “Hoops in the Hall” basketball challenge. Tuxedos, evening gowns and heels didn’t interfere too much with the competitors’ jump shots..! The prizes all had an American theme and the main raffle prize on the night was a pair of round trip tickets to London to see the NFL at Wembley, which was sponsored by Oasis Travel in Lisburn. Prizes for the basketball competition run by PPI-NI were donated by PRM Group Lisburn, Belfast Harley Davidson and local restaurants, Tony Romas, Spurs, Nandos and Boojum. PPI-NI would like to thank all contributors for their kind donations.
As a result of fundraising on the night the Study USA alumni were able to present PPI-NI with a cheque for £1050. PPI-NI would like to thank the Study USA Alumni Association, in the first instance for selecting PPI-NI as the Association’s charity of choice for 2014/15, for their fundraising efforts to date, and for inviting us to be a part of the 20th Anniversary Dinner celebrations.
Congratulations to the Study USA alumni on an excellent event.
In today’s blog, International Fellow Bryan Franklin reflects on a visit from his girlfriend, Candace. Candace got to experience how PeacePlayers work first hand by attending a LDP practice in Wentworth and an LDP All girls Extravaganza over the weekend.
“You two can’t date!”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because you’re different colors!”
Those words hit me like a fire truck. Candace and I met in New Jersey, where she still currently lives, but she is originally from a small little Island in the Caribbean called St. Christopher or St. Kitts. Throughout her visit she was consistently asked if she was or assumed to be Zulu.
Like any good girlfriend, Candace was adamant on not only vacationing while down here, but also getting a better idea of what I do on a daily basis. Thus, she attended a practice with myself and Coach Yamkela (Yam) last week in the township of Wentworth. Wentworth is one of two colored townships in the Durban area, and is known for its high crime rates and violence.
Yam coaches both the Assegai Primary School team and the Wentworth Community high school teams. So while this was officially a high school practice, many of the primary school kids stayed after school to watch the high school kids in action. It was a primary student that just recently entered our programme, who Candace found herself having a conversation with during practice.
It wasn’t until afterwards, when practice was over and we were getting ready to leave, that our primary student noticed that Candace was my girlfriend. She wasted no time in addressing the situation.
You two can’t date!”
Why is that?” I asked.
“Because you’re different colors!”
And then before I could even say anything, a response that had more meaning than anything I could have ever said.
“You don’t date someone based on their color. You date someone based on their personality”
A second primary student entered the picture and came to my rescue. Unlike her friend, who she had actually invited to join the programme, she had been with PeacePlayers for a few months. She traveled to play games against primary schools from the communities of Umlazi, Lamontville, Durban City and Waterloo. She had memorized the PeacePlayers Pledge, and performed it multiple times with those who were different colors.
I will play hard;
I will play fair;
I will trust in my teammates and coaches and;
I will respect my opponents;
Because we are PeacePlayers;
And for the Love of the Game we play!
South Africa is still an incredibly young democracy. It’s a country where for many years, those who were “different colors” were taught to despise one another. That’s an attitude that still hangs over the country, but there is still hope. Organizations like PeacePlayers who are working tirelessly to bridge divides, change perceptions and develop leaders, creates hope in this country. There is also hope in our coaches who aren’t using the past as an excuse and who are on the front lines working to break down racial barriers. Most importantly, there’s hope in our primary school participants who are learning on a weekly basis that we are all people first, and anything and everything else second.
I hear a lot of people say that peace is a great idea, but an impossible one. I believe that world peace is extremely feasible. However, to achieve this, it will take hard work, flexibility, and a great deal of open-mindedness. I personally see peace as a celebration of our co-existence, a necessity in our collective struggle to survive and flourish, and an acknowledgement of our inter-connections and mutual needs. The Peace Players International mission is to unite, educate, and inspire young people in divided communities through basketball, and is doing just that all over the world. The organization has more than 65,000 participants and has trained more than 1,100 youth leaders. Today, however, we want to congratulate two individuals who are doing their part to promote peace in the world. They are Nobel Peace Prize 2014 awardees Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzay of Pakistan.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she
returned from school. She had been campaigning for girls education in Pakistan’s Swat valley. Two years later, Ms. Yousafzai became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described her as “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”
The life and work of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is synonymous to the never-ending crusade against child slavery. While teaching as a professor in a college in Bhopal, Mr. Satyarthi decided to work more actively for social change. Along with a set of friends, he founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in 1980. BBA (Save the Childhood Movement in English) symbolizes the struggle against child labor and child servitude. The organization is also the initiator of the first regional South Asian people’s movement, and the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), a conglomeration of more than 750 civil society organizations. It was nearly 30 years ago that he left a promising career as an electrical engineer to set up Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) and since then, by his own count, he has rescued more than 80,000 children.
Napoleon Boneparte once noted that “those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people.” Peace Players International is currently inspiring youths to live in peace through their many programs worldwide.
PPI’s Development and Communications Intern, Desiree Snyder shares her remarkable experience of meeting with some of PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program participants.
Have you ever really taken a step back and thought about what really drives you? Is it your family, the sport you play, or maybe even a small thing like fashion? Whatever it is, we all have that little thing that makes us feel like we’re living.
For me, traveling the world has always made me feel complete. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a new place. Now I am not talking about the lost where you are in a scary place and don’t know what direction to turn, but the misplaced feeling where you can really soak up everything around you. I have always felt the people you meet in those far away places are the true memories you keep close to your heart. Venturing so far away will not only teach you so much about yourself, but it can give you a glance into other people’s lives.
When I was on my way to meet with PeacePlayers International- Middle East Leadership Development Program
members for the first time, I was so excited. I didn’t know what to expect and was gifted one of the best opportunities that I have experienced in a long time. These young leaders were some of the most amazing people I have ever come in contact with. They traveled from a place half way across the world that deals with conflict on a day-to-day basis and you wouldn’t even know it. They approach everyone with so much joy and get so excited about basketball; it is truly amazing to see them interact with so many different people.
When you see how driven these participants have become, you really understand why a program like PeacePlayers is so important in this world today. Everyone who has a hand in the program is so driven by impacting lives and is very passionate about what they do. I am sure PPI-ME’s cultural exchange will have a large impact on the participants lives, but it will most definitely have a larger impact on all the lives they will come in contact with.
Hello to everybody who is reading this post. Before I start, I just want to introduce myself as PPI-CY Lead4Peace member Nursu, I am a Turkish-Cypriot who’s dream is to play professional basketball. My friends always call me fox because they think I am skinny and crafty. I’m 15 years old and have been playing basketball for about 10 years. I joined PeacePlayers-Cyprus when I was 13 and I am still participating in the program.
PeacePlayers is a very important part of my life because it makes me happy when I play basketball. I also enjoy meeting new friends from both communities. I first wanted to join when coaches from PeacePlayers came to our school and presented a taster-session of basketball to us. I was really excited to be a part of this event because I felt it could be very beneficial for me and I was right.
At first, I didn’t know that it was a bi-communal organization. When I
attended the first event I was surprised that there were a lot of people from both communities. We were all aiming to be professional basketball players. All of the participants were really nice and friendly.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 generations. The best thing about PeacePlayers is taking part in basketball activities with my Greek-Cypriot friends. Today, I am really happy to be a PeacePlayer International-Cyprus participant and just as Thomas Jefferson said, “Difference of opinion was never, with me, a motive of separation from a friend.”
For the second time in three months PPI-NI is welcoming a new International Fellow to the team. Joe Smith, who originally hails from College Park, MD, replaces Megan Lynch who returned back to the States in July. Joe brings a wealth of coaching experience as well as a passion for working with young people. In this week’s blog we get to know Joe!
Name: Joe Smith
From: College Park, Maryland
College: St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Co-Captain of back-to-back Capital Athletic Champions St. Mary’s Seahawks
Overall coaching record of 35-6 in 2 years coaching freshman and JV basketball teams at DeMatha Catholic High School
Favorite Basketball memory/experience?
My favorite experience as a player was winning our conference championship my freshman year and gaining a bid into the NCAA Tournament. We were one of the last teams to make it in and were able to knock off Guilford College in the competition.
As a coach, my favorite experience came during one of my practice sessions at DeMatha High School. Before practice began, I usually gave my team a quote to think about. At the end, I would ask one of the guys if they remembered that quote, with the possibility of there being less running should they get it correct. During a practice session, a group of my players turned the screws on me and had given me a quote at the beginning of practice. After practice ended they asked me to repeat it, or I would have to run an extra separator. Even though it was small, this interaction gave me great joy and reminded me of what I loved about coaching.
Favorite Basketball player:
Who is one of your role models and why?
I have been very fortunate to grow up in a loving household that taught me how to lead a good life and be myself.
I am the oldest of six children, with two sets of twins, and an eight year old. My mom and dad have dedicated their lives to the service of others through Catholic Education. My brother Sean (23) is in the process of attaining his Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland. His twin Maria (23) has completed her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland and is currently working for Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. Maria was also an MLK scholar at St. Louis University. Nathan (20) currently attends Elon University and is majoring in Journalism. He has been featured on three websites and is in the process of co-founding another. Matthew (20) attends Holy Cross University and is currently studying abroad in El Salvador where he has continued the Jesuit tradition of “Men for Others.” Daniel (8) is in 3rd grade at St. Bernadette’s in Silver Spring, MD and has just started participating in club soccer.
I feel that the best way to introduce myself is to introduce my family. They are who I look to for inspiration and guidance. Clearly with this crew, I am just trying to keep up.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
What interested you about this position?
Throughout my coaching career I have always felt that you can teach so much with just a game of basketball. PeacePlayers gives you the opportunity to ignite change with a sport that I am passionate about. In Northern Ireland, basketball is not nearly as popular as soccer and rugby. There is the potential to help grow the game of basketball here and that is something I want to be a part of.
What are you most looking forward to over your time in NI?
Getting to work with the young people here and helping to create peace in a society that was impacted significantly by conflict.
Favorite inspirational quote?
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi share stories from some current participants’ about first joining PPI-ME.
As I am writing this, 24 young leaders are in the United States changing perceptions by sharing their narratives and experiences as PPI-ME members. During the next two weeks, the youth will be participating in a cultural exchange funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
As a new member, I’m fascinated by all of the unique experiences each PPI-ME basketball player brings to the table. Learning about all their backgrounds and narratives helps me articulate to others the importance of PPI-ME. People I meet always ask me what brings me to the region. I love being asked this question because it gives me the chance to share the stories of the youth and shed some light on the importance of PPI’s work. Amidst the negativity portrayed by the media and general unknown knowledge, it’s great to inform people of the positive work PeacePlayers does.
I of course, get a plethora of responses after I give the background introduction of PPI-ME. So far, most people want to understand what the reactions are of the surrounding communities when the youth become associated with PPI-ME. The answer to that question varies depending on the different stories and communities of the players. Joining PeacePlayers is not easy for some, but for others it’s nothing out of the norm. There is, of course, a spectrum of reactions from the community when their members join PeacePlayers. Here are some of the responses that resonated with me.
For our first highlight, we have an 18-year-old Israeli Jew from Jerusalem who joined PeacePlayers years ago and had experience being out of her comfort zone. She was nervous to interact with the players coming from the Palestinian-Arab side. Her family, too were worried and apprehensive about her joining and participating. Yet, through her commitment with PeacePlayers, she has both impacted her family and her community. Just a few months ago, she and her family hosted a large get together at her home and invited both Palestinians and Jews from PeacePlayers to the gathering. A collective gathering like this in one’s home is something almost unheard of in this region.
Our next story is of a 20-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem who has been with PeacePlayers for nine years. She had to confront two norms associated with PeacePlayers: playing with Jews and playing sports. In her community, girls’ participation in sports is very uncommon and often received with push back. Now she is one of the front-runners for women playing sports and a certified coach.
Next, we have a participant who joined PeacePlayers four years ago. A 17-year-old Israeli Jew who received a lot of negativity from her classmates. At first, she did not know the best way to respond to the remarks. After being with PeacePlayers for some time, she now feels comfortable addressing the prejudices and questions she receives from her classmates. More of her classmates are now more open to the idea of her being with a coexistence program.
Our last highlight comes from a 19 year old Palestinian from Jerusalem who joined PeacePlayers and also felt the push back from his community and his classmates. His intermediate family supported his decision, but his community made remarks about him playing with Jews. This did not deter him from continuing his participation with PPI. He has been a part of PeacePlayers for nine years now.
This shows all members have their own experiences, yet PeacePlayers embraces all who come from different backgrounds.
“Today’s blog was written by PPI-SA International Fellow Bryan Franklin and was originally posted on the Fast Break Blog website on October 2, 2014.”
Have you ever tried to teach basketball to someone who has never played the game before? A challenge, no matter where you are, to be sure, but it’s one that’s made a little easier if you’re in the States, where even those who completely despise sports are bound to have seen a game on TV at some point. What about a country where there has been no professional basketball up until eight months ago, in a community where most residents wouldn’t have the resources to watch a game on TV anyways?
That’s the challenge I found myself thrown in to as I began my two year fellowship with PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Durban, South Africa. PeacePlayers is a sport for development organization that uses the game of basketball to change perceptions, bridge divides and develop leaders. It was founded in 2001 under the premise that children who play together can learn to live together. We have four different locations around the world including: Northern Ireland, Greece, The Middle East and South Africa.
Now to clarify, it’s not like I was thrown into the jungle with a basketball to work with a bunch of kids who had never played or heard of the game before. The sport is certainly on the rise across South Africa, especially with the recent launch of the professional league (The Basketball National League). Unlike in the States however, where if you get your hands on a ball, chances are it won’t be too hard to find somewhere to play, the resources and facilities aren’t in place here in South Africa. In fact I wrote a blog for PPI earlier in the year about the need for a playground basketball culture for this exact reason. Many of the kids have never played or at the very least have never received coaching in the sport before joining our Primary School Program.
So here I was, a 25 year old, who has been dribbling a basketball for nearly as many years as I’d been alive, feeling completely inadequate to teach others how to do so. It took coming to the realization that I was going to have to throw out nearly every skill I had learned throughout my 20 years of basketball, and re-learn the game all over again.
Whether we realize it or not, the more we do something, the more natural it becomes. So for me, dribbling a basketball is second nature. It has become so natural that I don’t have to consciously think about it (until perhaps you put a good defender on me who is forcing me left in a full court press, but hey, that’s why we have point guards right?). It’s the same thing when shooting a lay up. In fact, my primary school kids are more likely to correctly tell you the sequence of footwork for a right handed lay up (right, left, jump, shoot) than me, because the sequence is so programmed into my brain that zero thought goes into it. I remember back to my high school playing days where I actually had to learn to “just play,” or shut my brain off in a sense, and just let the sub-conscious and my reactions take over. It was this realization and challenge that piqued my interest in how the brain works, especially in the subject of sports.
As the years have gone on, and the sports psychology field has grown, so has the interest in athlete’s brain activity. Players like Lebron James, Peyton Manning and Lionel Messi are lauded not only for their athletic prowess, but for their ability to understand the game and to think one, two or even three plays ahead of other peak performance athletes.
Neymar, the Brazillian soccer star, was the subject in a most recent study. After studying him, and a few of his Barcelona teammates, researchers found that Neymar’s brain activity is less than 10 percent of that of an amateur player.
“Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows (the player) to perform many complex movements at once.”- Eiichi Naito, a neurologist from Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
So most likely, if you were to put Lebron James, myself and one of our primary school participants through a range of basketball drills, our corresponding brain activity would range from nearly zero to off the charts. This is where the idea of practice was founded—to see if a player can train and discipline the body enough, that come game time, he or she won’t have to think about how to dribble that basketball or shoot that lay up. More importantly, you’ll have the confidence and the belief in yourself to do so. These lessons of discipline, self-confidence and hard work are ones that we teach here everyday at PPI, because when it comes down to it, these lessons go way beyond sports. They’re lessons that will help you whether you’re in the boardroom or the classroom, whether you are a banker on Wall Street or a primary school student in Durban, South Africa. These are lessons in the game of life.
Today’s blog is written by PPI’s Director of Finance, Human Resource and Administration, Taylor Brown. Taylor was granted the opportunity to attend a 3 day workshop that focused on setting up a successful future for nonprofit organizations.
Last month, the Forever Young Foundation (NFL’s 2-time MVP and Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young’s Family Foundation), in partnership with the Arbinger Institute and the City of West Jordan, Utah, put on a Nonprofit Institute Training, which focused on implementing the Arbinger Institute’s philosophies and methodologies in a nonprofit setting.
Michael Merchant, an Arbinger Consultant and the Executive Director of the Anasazi Foundation (the organization for which Arbinger’s novel “Anatomy of Peace” was based off of), facilitated the training. Training attendees included Taylor Rippy (the Conflict Consultant for the Arbinger Institute), the head of the police department, fire department and public works department of West Jordan Utah, social venture capitalists, nonprofit consultants, and nonprofit leaders who run programs all over the globe.
The first two days of the workshop focused on three main questions pertaining to the topic of self-deception: 1.) How am I a problem for others? 2.) How can I be more helpful to others? and 3.) How can I help things go right? The latter two days of the workshop focused on Revolutionizing Organizational Performance using the Arbinger’s principles/topics which concentrate on teamwork, collaboration, aligning individual along with team goals, and measuring performances.
PPI looks forward to applying these lessons throughout the organization over the coming months, and would like to thank everyone that attended the workshop for their participation and contributions! The group will have monthly calls moving forward to help hold each other accountable for their implementations while sharing thoughts, ideas, and lessons learned when putting things into effect.
Finally, a huge thank you to Michael for his incredible facilitation skills and sharing information that will be valuable for all of us working in the nonprofit sector, both in our personal and professional lives.
PPI-NI International Fellow Nasiphi Khafu from South Africa interviews Lauren Bracken and asks her what International Peace Day means to her.
Lauren is a graduate of PPI-NI’s Cross Community League and is now an active participant in PPI-NI’s Champions4Peace programme. Lauren has also just started working with PeacePlayers as a coach in training who’s supporting PPI-NI’s work with younger participants.
NK: Lauren, tell me a little bit about yourself.
“My name is Lauren Bracken, I am a student at Workforce Training Centre and I study childcare. I started my
involvement with PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland 8 years ago, when I was 11 years old.
NK: Lauren why did you want to get involved with PeacePlayers?
I chose to be part of PeacePlayers because I looked up to the people who coached me when I was younger and always thought it would be fun to be a PeacePlayers coach one day. PeacePlayers has thought me that everyone is equal regardless of their differences and I’ve become more open minded to those around me.
NK: What does international Peace Day mean to you?
International Peace Day to me means a day for everyone to put aside their differences and get along with one another. To contribute to peace in Northern Ireland, I joined PeacePlayers in order to give back and promote the organization in my community. I would love to see more organizations in Northern Ireland creating more peace by bringing Protestants and Catholics together just like PeacePlayers.
International Day of Peace is annually celebrated around the world on the 21st of September and marked its 30th anniversary this year. The theme of this year’s Day of Peace was the “Right of Peoples to Peace”. In recognition of International Day of Peace this past weekend served as part of PPI-NI’s ongoing coaches training programme, where we played one of our favorite games at PeacePlayers – “Body Shapes”. After having spent some time with our coaches going over our curricula for the year and making sure they are ready for the Twinning and Belfast Interface League (BIL) Programmes, we felt inspired to create some human art. We made a “basketball” and a “peace sign” with our bodies.
We were delighted and privileged to be joined by some Junior Champions4Peace (C4P). The training as well as the
celebration of the International Day of Peace provided us with an opportunity to show them what they can become while allowing them to be inspired by our senior C4P’s and coaches like Lauren. The senior coaches really enjoyed having these future leaders around. They were more than willing to share with them their experiences at PeacePlayers and to show them how things are done.
Hearing everything that Lauren had to say has reminded me of my three heroes; Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of these inspirational leaders contributed and dedicated their lives to peace building. There is so much being done by various organizations to build peace in Northern Ireland, and after my first few short months here, I can already sense that there is definitively hope for a more peaceful future for Northern Ireland. I am convinced the young people that we work with will have an important contribution to making this place even better.
Lauren along with her friends, peers, and colleagues at PeacePlayers are doing what Mahatma Gandhi said; “To be the change you want to see in the world”.
Before the League games and Twinning program begin, PeacePlayers Middle East devotes their time to expanding its community by recruiting new participants. This September, we visited multiple Jewish and Palestinian communities in the Jerusalem area in attempts to recruit youth into the PPI family!
Whether it was the Kiryat Anavim school, Ein Rafa school, or Keshet School, the young kids that were coming out to play were very thrilled and very engaged in the activities. At each school recruitment trip, the PeacePlayers staff started out by introducing themselves, sharing a little bit about what PPI – ME is all about, and invited the youth to come play basketball during their break.
During the break, the staff ran typical practice drills including knock out, touch down, and layup games. Duha, a current coach and a graduate of the Leadership Development Program, said “Most of the students that come out really enjoy the activities. We love and enjoy coaching them.”
This year PeacePlayers began its typical recruiting schedule after the region went through a very difficult time. This made the continuation of the coexistent work done at PeacePlayers even more important. Instead of teaching to fear the unknown, PeacePlayers is granting youth the opportunity to have real face-to-face experiences with members from the “other side” through basketball.
Duha was pleasantly surprised to see all of the kids coming out and playing, especially because of last summer’s events. “ The kids were curious to know what we will be doing during this year,” said Duha. For many of the youth joining PeacePlayers, this will be their first meaningful experience with youth from the other side of the conflict. PeacePlayers-Middle East aims to bridge two divided communities, Palestinian and Israeli, in hopes of changing perceptions, building leaders, and breaking down the walls of fear and hatred.
International Fellow, Ryan Hage, gives us an update on the PeacePlayers-Cyprus team as of October 1st and shares his excitement fort the upcoming 2014-2015 season.
Summer is officially over and there are a lot of mixed emotions among all of our current players and coaches. Of
course, no one wants to see the great summer weather end, but that bad feeling is immediately replaced with a sense of excitement for the upcoming season! Some of the teams have already begun practicing for upcoming games, while others will start training next week.
Coaches have already met to go over last year’s programs. We always want to observe what worked well for us last season and what improvements we can make to the program for the new upcoming season. These amazing coaches are the reason we have such a successful program year in, year out, and we are extremely lucky to have them.
In other news, we had a new intern join us this week, Rebecca Clay! Rebecca comes all the way from Norway and is a part of our Lead4Peace program that started back in March with our friends from the Norwegian Nesodden Basketball Club. She had a break from school and chose to spend her time with her new Cypriot friends. She also has been volunteering her time during the day in the PeacePlayers International- Cyprus office helping out in any way possible. Thanks for your help Rebecca!
Rebecca is a great example of what PeacePlayers is all about, making friendships with people from different cultures that speak different languages. It truly shows that basketball is a language that everyone in the world speaks fluently.
In 2007, a youthful Anele Nyadi joined PPI-South Africa’s programme. Since then she hasn’t looked back. Although she’s traded in the basketball for a stethoscope, and the concrete courts of South Africa for Cuba, she still looks back at the lessons she gained from PPI. Here’s a short memoir from Anele Nyadi describing her time with PPI and the influence it had on her.
I became a part of PeacePlayers International in 2007 when I was in the 6th grade at Tobi. At the time the program was called Playing for Peace (PFP) and I played for the Leadership Development Program until 2010. I remember my first game with the team like it was yesterday. I was in the 7th grade and my sister’s team was short on girls. We ended up playing against the Umlazi team and it wasn’t a walk in the park. At that point, my friends Andile, Mancane, and Sbahle made me fall in love with the game of basketball. Go team Tiger!
This program groomed me into being a responsible, innovative, respectful, and humble girl. It also had a very positive effect on the way I think about myself. It taught me to love and value myself. The life skill lessons we interacted with every week taught me how to be a good person, care for others, become a leader, and share my knowledge with others. The coaches we had dedicated themselves to what they were doing and this wasn’t just a job to them. They weren’t only our coaches, but they were also our friends, uncles, and fathers. They loved us even though we were a lot of trouble sometimes. This alone taught me not to just do things because I have the ability to, but I need to have a love and passion for everything I do.
I am currently in Cuba practicing medicine. I love what I am doing even though it gets tough from time to time (Kuhlehla Ufudu), but the passion I have for my career is what gets me through those tough times. Most of the instructions are in Spanish, which is not a simple language at all, but I manage to pass every time. I’m at a stage where I know Africa needs me and putting on this white lab coat every morning brings me hope that in due time I will be there for Africa. Nothing brings me more joy than that.
Today’s blog is written by Helen Partakki, one of PPI-Cyprus’ Lead 4 Peace participants. Helen, a Greek-Cypriot from Nicosia, has been with PeacePlayers for over 4 years and has become a great mentor and role model for younger participants of the program.
Hello ladies and gents who have just started to read this blog post and let me just say this is my first blog post ever! Isn’t this awesome? Oh well, before I get into why I am part of all this and my story, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Eleni Partakki, but people do tend to call me Helen. I am a 15 year old gal in the island of Cyprus with a love for basketball, reading, and volunteering. I’ve been called social junkie by day and book junkie by night. Throughout my life I genuinely loved learning about people and different cultures. I think life enthusiast describes me best.
I have been attending PPI-CY events since I was 11, but I officially joined last March. I remember sending a Facebook message asking one of the coaches if I could attend. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, considering I heard negative and positive feedback about PPI-CY. I decided what better way to find out than just going to experience it myself? I really do live by the quote, “Don’t believe everything you hear. Real eyes, realize, real lies.”
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 organization. Being a part of that is the most satisfying feeling in the world.
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. I participate in PPI-CY because playing basketball together can be such an incredible experience when you start to understand that you are a human being just like the person on the other side of the border. Also, once you take the time to talk to your teammate about their culture, that is when you really start to become great. In that moment you learn to respect every single individual, and for me, that is the best thing PPI-CY has taught me.
People outside the community of the PeacePlayers often ask me what my favorite experience is. Many expect me to include the word basketball in my answer, but sorry, not this time. What I cherish the most are the smiles that are being exchanged amongst the youngest of our kind, who even don’t speak a common language. They are so innocent and haven’t been bombarded with negative information yet.
At the end of the day, when you are all alone left with your thoughts, it is your decision what you really want to believe. Take a leap of faith. Do not let the ideas given to you by others affect the choices and actions you make. If I would have allowed that, I wouldn’t be a participant today.
The alumni of Study USA have chosen to support the charity PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland for the next twelve months. This support is given due to their shared belief that “children who play together can learn to live together.” The two groups will work together to raise funds and awareness for various PeacePlayers initiatives, including its primary school Twinning programme, the Belfast Interface League, the Game of Three Halves, and Champions4Peace programme.
Study USA Alumni are the beneficiaries of a one year scholarship to study business at a US university or college. PeacePlayers will also provide participants the opportunity to complete Open College Network Qualifications. With this shared commitment to improve the quality of life and education of people living in Northern Ireland, this is a natural partnership. Both groups also focus on leadership development programmes for their participants. Study USA Alumni has received many benefits from numerous opportunities to learn from businesses and government leaders, while PeacePlayers provides young people in Northern Ireland with leadership development via its Champions4Peace programme.
Patrick Black, Product Delivery Manager at Study USA said,“We are very excited to work with PeacePlayers this year. They have an excellent track record in Northern Ireland and have been active here for over 12 years. This is an excellent opportunity for our alumni to give back to the community and help improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland.”
Both organizations look forward to the 17th of October 2014, when over 200 alumni of Study USA will come together for the 20th anniversary of the programme. Representatives of PeacePlayers will also be in attendance to promote their new partnership and increase awareness of their valuable work.
“We look forward to partnering with the Study USA Alumni Association over the next 12 months. There is a significant amount of overlap, as both groups seek to build tomorrow’s leaders,” said Gareth Harper, Managing Director of PeacePlayers. “This kind of leadership development will benefit our wee island tremendously.”
PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi gives us a glimpse on how these young leaders are preparing for the Social Change Program.
PeacePlayers Middle East is gearing up for a trip to the United States! On October 6th, Palestinian and Israeli youth will be crossing the Atlantic for a two week intensive trip covering four States and multiple cities.
The theme of this trip is a cultural exchange for future leaders. During the exchange, youth will have the unique chance to meet with experts in the field of sports management, athletes, and coaches. They will also meet political, conflict resolution, and business leaders in the community to expand their scope on leadership and community involvement. They will also learn to articulate their narratives and experiences within PeacePlayers with discussion panels.
Modeling the exchange theme, Jamie Walsh, our International Fellow from last year, will reunite with PeacePlayers while accompanying the youth on the trip. While Jamie was here, she had the opportunity to experience the society and culture these players come from. This time around, the youth will encounter Jamie’s culture and visit her home.
This past weekend, trip participants had a pre-departure retreat to prepare them on what to expect and how to present one’s self through speech. We conducted mock panels to stimulate the topics and environments the youth may face. Mainly the youth spoke about their leadership roles, basketball, social change, and their experiences with the conflict. The players encouraged and supported each other by giving constructive feedback. As a new addition to the PeacePlayers team I was impressed by how the young Palestinian and Israelis conducted themselves in their responses. Each individual came with a unique perspective and background, and as they were granted the appropriate environment to express themselves openly, many felt respected and became more comfortable in voicing their opinions.
Knowing that most of the interactions in the States will be conducted in English, the participants pushed
themselves to respond in English during mock panels. Some of the youth had near native levels while others had introductory skills. Nonetheless, those with beginner level English challenged themselves to speak in a language they were not fully knowledgeable in. This showed their commitment to improve their language skills. Overall, the youth were impressed and appreciated the opportunity to hear their peers’ narratives and personal experiences with PeacePlayers.
Thank you to the U. S. Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs for supporting the Youth Coaches for Social Change program.
Last week we took a look into the PPI-SA’s Leadership Development Programme (LDP) and an event the males participated in that pertained to basketball and setting goals for the future. This week PPI-SA International Fellow Bryan Franklin gives us a glimpse into what the female LDP teams have been up to over the last two weeks.
The stage was set. After a grueling pre-season where both our female LDP teams spent the month of August and first two weeks of September practicing, the time had arrived to play their first game. For some of the girls, this would be their first formal basketball game ever.
It began Friday afternoon with a combined Lamontville and Umlazi team. Umlazi is the single largest township in South Africa with about 750,000 residents within about 25 kilometers. PPI-SA established a Leadership Development Programme (LDP) in these areas to give students grades 8 through 12 (ages 14-18) more in-depth basketball and life skills training so that they may become positive leaders and role models within their communities.
As the taxi wound through Umlazi, making pick-ups at three different high schools before stopping in Lamontville to grab the remainder of the girls (who themselves had gathered from 4 different schools), a unique energy filled the taxi. It was a energy unseen in the LDP over the last few years. An energy and a bond over all these faces coming together to represent PPI-SA. In fact, the moment I saw these girls step out of the taxi at New Forest High School, interacting as one team and not 14 girls from different parts of two communities, I knew that we had already won.
As for the game itself, it was a hard fought battle. PPI was up early and often taking a 9-6 halftime lead. As the game wore on however, an experienced New Forest team refused to go away. With a little less than one minute left, New Forest went ahead 14-12, and did not relinquish the lead, hanging on to the win by two.
The fun didn’t stop there. The following Tuesday, PPI’s Wentworth female LDP had their first game at Grosvenor Girls High School. Unlike the Lamontvile, and Umlazi teams, this is the first time a female LDP team has been active in Wentworth. In fact for 5 of the 7 participants, this was their first formal game.
The effort and passion was there throughout the game for the PPI team, unfortunately as was the inexperience. PPI lost in what ended up being a less lopsided battle than the score suggested, 20-4. As the team huddled up after the game however,
we were reminded once again that victories come in more forms than one. The questions came out at a rapid fire pace:
“Coach, can we have extra practices?”
“Coach, I need to get into better shape, can you help me with that?”
Coach Yamkella had this to say about the game:
“It was a great start for my basketball players, who never had a chance to play before. Playing against Grosvoner opened up a great opportunity for them and for me. It showed us where improvement is needed and motivated us to keep moving forward.”
Needless to say, the last two weeks have been an exciting time for LDP. The benefits of these games went beyond just the basketball played. It presented an amazing opportunity for all PPI participants to meet and interact with girls from different backgrounds. Check in on our Facebook page this Saturday, as all of our boys and girls LDP teams gather for an Extravaganza.
Today’s blog is written by PPI’s new Development and Communication Intern, Desiree Snyder. Desiree is a graduate student in the Sport Industry Management School at Georgetown University.
There it was, that feeling that everyone talked about, but I never really grasped. No, I’m not talking about the rush you get before the gun goes off and the adrenaline starts pumping through your veins. Nor am I talking about the feeling of butterflies in your tummy when you have to bow in the opening track ceremony and you swear you’re going to mess up. It was the feeling of the sport that I loved connecting me to people from all parts of the world.
As a teenager being raised in Okinawa, Japan, I found myself loving track with not a whole lot of schools to compete with. To be honest, it was either fly to the country located closest to you to compete or compete with the school next door that was half your size and had three people on the team. I remember my school was authorized to compete against schools in Hong Kong, so my junior year I packed my bags and hopped on a four hour flight to a destination that would impact my life forever.
As we approached the field we went to our assigned events to compete against athletes from Korea, Thailand, Northern Japan, China, and Taiwan. We were people from all different ethnicities, languages, and cultures with a common passion for running. This took us on a course leading into each others lives, whether it was Maymi swearing she was better than me at Sudoku, which I promise you she isn’t, me trying to convince Sayaka that Japanese bed mats are way better than Taiwan’s, or Iris laughing at me as I tried a fried beetle from the market place. This was our sport giving us a new family without even speaking the same language.
This track meet supplied me with an experience that sports continue to give people from all over the world. Brendan and Sean Tuohey believed in that feeling when they created PeacePlayers International in 2001. PeacePlayers International is providing individuals with that same impact of unity using basketball while also giving them a sense of family, overcoming conflicts, and helping them find themselves. Nasiphi Khafu, a former PPI-South Africa participant and current International Fellow for PPI-Northern Ireland said, “Sports fed me and I just want to show kids that nothing is impossible.” Alexis Gorgiou, a graduate of PPI’s Leadership Development Program in Cyprus, stated, “Through PPI I got over my fears and the stereotypes that were taught in school.”
Everyday PPI’s players and coaches are showing us how sport has no language. Sport is continuously changing my life and the lives of so many people who speak all types of languages while running the same course in life.
Today’s blog is written by new PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi.
September is a special time for PPI – ME because it is when participants and staff come back together for the start of another season. The 2014-2015 season officially kicked off with the annual Professional Development Retreat, which brought together coaches from Tamra, Nahariya, and Jerusalem. The retreat aimed to help coaches refresh and diversify drills and to boost their capacities in leading activities while simultaneously bonding the players and coaches. With the opportunity to work with Vito Gilic, PPI – ME’s Basketball Operations Manager, coaches refined their drills and left rejuvenated and encouraged to begin this next season. In addition to the coaches, the retreat also included participants from the brand new All Star team from Nahariya and Tamra along with Leadership Development Program (LDP) youth from Jerusalem who helped demonstrate drills on the court.
For the Tamra and Nahariya All Stars, the coaches’ retreat also provided the chance for team members to bond and work on practical skills. Last year, Nahariya and Tamra began twinning together, and because of their cohesion and potential, PPI – ME worked with both communities to create a new All Stars team in the north of Israel that would serve the twinned team. This year, the Nahariya/Tamra All Star team will begin competing against unaffiliated teams in the Israel Basketball Association youth league, and we wish them great success!
On the second day of the retreat, coaches demonstrated their coaching skills by leading a practice on their own using some of the new drills. The coaches themselves were paired up in an attempt to improve lead coach and assistant coach cohesion. Vito gave each coach constructive feedback following the practice sessions so they could finesse their skills.
Some of the coaches, including Aysha, Noi, Khaled and Duha, are actually the products of the LDP, having earned their coaches’ training and certification through PPI – ME. The majority of LDP graduate coaches have been a part of PeacePlayers for numerous years. As a new member of the PeacePlayers family, it was thrilling to see this long-term impact the program is making. I witnessed the support and fluidity of friendship the LDP and LDP graduate coaches had with each other.
A PeacePlayer’s retreat wouldn’t be complete without a basketball game. During the evening, the coaches, LDP, and All Starts split into teams and used their skills on the court. The players ran up and down the court with energy and competitive spirit.
This was my first experience with PPI -ME. It was a full emersion orientation that helped me better understand how PeacePlayers works. I had the opportunity to meet and connect with the Nahariya/Tamra All Stars by helping lead group challenge activities. As with almost any group challenge activity, the girls became frustrated as they tried to solve the given task, but with time and new communication strategies, they were able to complete the task and celebrated their victory together. This year, I’ll primarily be working with teams in the North, so I’m excited I had the chance to meet some of the players in a setting as welcoming as the Professional Development Retreat.
Fellow Ryan Hage recounts some wise advice he received alongside all the PPI-CY participants at this year’s summer camp – PeacePlayers veteran coach Orhun Mevlit gave three very important keys not only to having a successful camp experience, but to leading a successful life.
Respect each other. Respect yourselves. Respect all that you encounter in your daily lives. This is a very important key to being a PeacePlayer. The first step to overcoming prejudice and differences is respecting one another. This can be achieved simply by being polite and representing PeacePlayers honorably. Respect not only pertains to the people around you, but you can respect the court you play on by taking care of it and not littering.
Participation is absolutely necessary to being a PeacePlayer. You have to get out of yourself and into the team. In basketball, and in life, it is imperative to actively participate. Being ‘too cool for school’ or choosing to sit out of an activity does not build team chemistry and create relationships. If one has the choice to sit it out or to play, PeacePlayers should play!
This is by far the most important key to being a PeacePlayer. Being the best basketball player or scoring the most points is not the goal – it is to make friends and enjoy the game with one another. Whether it’s basketball or an ice-breaker activity, having fun is what it’s all about. If everyone is having fun, then what we’re doing at PeacePlayers is working.
Learning about these three keys may seem simple, but following them can help anyone live a better, more fulfilling life. This is the foundation of what PeacePlayers is.