PPI Blog Feed
This week’s blog is written by Andriana Kasapi, one of our LDP PeacePlayers. Andriana competes in many of Cyprus’ local 3v3 basketball tournaments. Last weekend, she decided to register a team with some fellow PeacePlayers and made it all the way to the Championship final.
Hey everyone! My name is Andriana Kasapi. I am 15 years old and I am a PeacePlayer from Larnaca, Cyprus. I’ve been involved with this organization for the last three years and I am really excited this is my first opportunity to be part of the PeacePlayers blog!
Last weekend we had the pleasure to participate in the Larnaca 3on3 Tournament.
The aim of it was to bring basketball players together from all over the island and have a fun and friendly basketball competition. The weekend was also particularly special because I decided to gather together a PeacePlayers team. TuneSquad, our team, included me, Styliana Velinova, Maria Kalianou and Jessica Walton, one of our fellows here in Cyprus.
The first day we played three games and won all three of them, qualifying to the semi-finals. The second day was even more exciting as we were closer to our goal. The semi-final was not easy. Our opponents were tough competition as they were skillful and determined. So in the end we made it to the final, we gave our best and came second. Reaching the final was not only about playing a strong basketball, but it was about communication, leadership, determination and teamwork (all things we practice each day as PeacePlayers). So, we did come out victorious; maybe not with a gold medal but a challenging experience!
My name is Aya Deeb, and I’m 15 years old. I live in a beautiful village in Jerusalem called Bait Safafa. I’ve been with PeacePlayers-Middle East since 2009 and am also a part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP). I joined PeacePlayers because my dad and older brother encouraged me. My older brother is also part of PeacePlayers (PPI) and he really enjoyed the program.
Because of my brother’s previous participation, I, of course, did not have any family objections to joining, but I did have some fears of my own. I feared all of the differences we, Palestinians, had with them, the Jews. We have different mentalities, different languages, and come from two different sides. I didn’t know how it was going to be playing with them. At first, my brother was at my side during the Twinnings and he helped me with communication and just to understand what was going on. But after some time, I was able to communicate and became familiar with the program. Over time, I became accustomed to the idea of PeacePlayers and have come to the realization that PPI isn’t just basketball, it’s about respect for all people.
After some time in PPI, I began playing on an All Stars team, which is a mixed team consisting of Palestinians and Jews. This time around I did have some fears of course, but they were not the same fears I faced when I joined. After a short time being together on the team we got to know each other better, spoke to each other more, and got used to playing together. I remember one day, one of the Jewish players, Toot, invited the whole team over to her house. Initially I was against the idea and did not want to go. I had never been in a Jewish person’s home and the idea seamed foreign and scary to me. In the end, my family persuaded me to go. It was a sleepover, so when I arrived I had just told the girls I was staying for a bit and not sleeping over. I sat with her family and I was a little bit nervous of their opinions and mentality. But I quickly saw that her parents wanted us to be as comfortable and happy as possible in their home and I began to feel very at ease in their home — something that I didn’t think possible. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to sleepover! It was such an amazing day and we bonded as a team. We all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones and benefited in the end.
Last summer was an extremely difficult time in Jerusalem because of the violence and then the outbreak of the war. It even got to a point where I feared getting on buses. It was a period when none of us felt any safety or security. It was during this time that PeacePlayers made things much easier for us. PeacePlayers helped us to keep the racism, discrimination, and violence from impacting us in every aspect of life. We had a getaway from all of the nasty reality into our own PeacePlayer reality. During this time, we didn’t all grow apart from each other, but instead we became closer and cared for each other more.
PeacePlayers has changed me for the better. I no longer differentiate people based on their religion and now love to learn about people who come from different cultures than mine.
In the end, it’s true that we have different religions and different languages but what I’ve learned with PeacePlayers is that we are all humans. It’s important that we respect and try to understand each other in spite of the conflict.
Last week PPI-SA were joined by two grade 11’s from Durban High School for their “work experience” week. Meet Sicelo and Thobani.
Tell us a little about yourselves, where did you grow up, what are you passionate about and what are you doing with your lives right now?
Sicelo: My name is Sicelo Dzingwa a 16 year old boy from Johannesburg South Africa currently on a basketball scholarship at Durban High School (DHS). DHS is the top basketball programme in South Africa winning back to back national championships. I am the captain of the U/16 national team who are currently zone 6 champions and are currently eighth in Africa.
Thobani: My name is Thobani Xulu and I am a 17 year old who, like Sicelo, is also doing his grade 11 year at DHS. I spent most of my life living in Centurion before moving back to Mthunzini with my family. I am very passionate about music and theatre as I am pursuing a dream of making one or both of them my profession.
Why did you choose PeacePlayers to do your work experience?
Thobani: I’ve spent four years at DHS which is one of South Africa’s most successful basketball institutions. I grew a deep love for the sport here and PPI gave me an opportunity to use what I love to make a change in the community.
Sicelo: I for one really didn’t know what I wanted to do besides basketball, so when I found PeacePlayers it was the perfect match. It enabled me to use tools which I have from business to marketing, which is what I plan on studying in university, to help basketball grow in my country.
What, if anything, did you learn during your week here?
Sicelo: Through basketball PPI aims to bridge divisions and this week I learnt how powerful the game is. When we get kids from different communities, of different beliefs to play together they eventually like one another it creates peace amongst them. I learnt to use basketball as a tool to better communities.
Thobani: PPI aims to bridge divisions through basketball, I believe that divisions are caused by people not accepting or settling their differences. This week I learnt to see people as my equals regardless of our differences. I also discovered how basketball, which is something I’ve always just done for fun, could change the world. This has inspired me to attempt to do the same with my other talents.
What is the benefit of PPI to the community?
Thobani: PPI is very beneficial to our community as they bridge division and unite different people from different parts of our community. PPI also develops leaders who could make a huge positive impact to our communities and inspire people.
Sicelo: PPI unites kids from different background which is great for our community because kids are treated equally and are taught life skills which in future will enable to contribute to the success and development of the community.
Did your experience change your perspective on life?
Sicelo: Before this experience I didn’t really realise how big divisions between people were this week I learned to appreciate what I have and to work hard. I also plan to use my talent, basketball, to make a difference in the community.
Thobani: I have always been an optimistic person so I usually have a positive attitude towards life. This week my time at PPI was limited as I had a commitment as a lead role in Durban Girls High School’s production, “Sweet Charity”. The little time I spent here was an eye opening experience for me as it taught me that even small contributions could ironically make a huge difference. In a nutshell being here has inspired me to stop being a dreamer and become a doer.
PPI-NI Office Administrator Laura Agnew shares her first time experience of co-facilitating an Open College Network (OCN) with young people from Lorne YMCA.
Stephen Covey hit the nail on the head when he said, “strength lies in differences, not similarities.” We don’t always realise it, but everyday we are all immersed in cultural diversity no matter where we go or what we do. Last week, Nasiphi and myself traveled to Larne to deliver PPI-NI’s new Exploring Cultural Diversity OCN course. It was our aim to show the young people that this, almost cliché quote is actually their reality, even in their small town.
It was the first time that the course had ever been delivered since it’s recent development, and the thought of that meant the pressure certainly started to creep up on us as we passed the “Welcome to Larne” road signs. One missed turn and a few minutes of panic later, we arrived at the YMCA building. The friendly faces and cups of coffee instantly put our nerves aside, and set us up for our two-day journey with the group.
It was going to take a lot of coffee, as the next two days were jam-packed! The group of young people all knew each other so we had no trouble easing them into the course with a PeacePlayers icebreaker. And the fun didn’t stop when the work began – the participants were up for all the activities and group discussions that we threw at them over the course of the two days, no doubt fueled by the coffee and giant Oreo cookies they had for lunch each day! Even the most challenging and controversial sections about diversity saw them air their thoughts, and have heated conversations on the issues that they are faced with every day but either don’t have the confidence or the opportunity to discuss.
And that is what PPI-NI does best. We develop the courses and deliver them where we a safe and comfortable environment is created for our participants to talk about the things that really matter to them. In Northern Ireland the norm is to shy away from actually having these conversations in fear that someone might get upset or angry, or would even spark violence. But we are all faced with these realities every day, and so it is only right that these conversations have a chance of happening.
The group from Larne YMCA showed great maturity and respect for other cultures and displayed a growing understanding of diversity during their two-day journey through the course. They are a credit to themselves and to the centre. I had a lot of fun helping to facilitate their conversations, debates and learning. No doubt a few of their names will come up in the near future as the movers and shakers of the next generation with the new-found skills, knowledge and confidence that they gained during this course. This is exactly what PPI-NI is trying to achieve, because it is exactly what Northern Ireland needs.
PeacePlayers Middle East hosted two amazing groups from the United States for two weeks back-to-back. Our first visitors were PeacePlayers board members, friends and supporters, including Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute Ron Shapiro, PPI Board Member and Adidas General Manager for South East Europe Lawrence Norman, PPI Board Member and ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford. In addition, we were visited by Jay Wright, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Villanova University, and NBA Coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers. Some of the visitors also brought their family members along to share the PeacePlayers experience and story with them. We had quite an unforgettable crew!
During the board trip, we were always on the move trying to fit in as many experiences, stories, and sites this region has to offer as possible. There was plenty of action on the court, historical and geo-political tours to offer some context to help understand our work and a feast at the Program Director’s house that felt more like a big family dinner. Another highlight was a special Twinning we held together with friends from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, The U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem and USAID. Our youth and board got that chance to meet our U.S. Government partners, who are among the biggest supports of our work. Visitors included Bill Grant, Charge d’Affairs, U.S Embassy Tel Aviv; Dave Harden, Mission Director, USAID West Bank/Gaza; Donald Blome, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem; and Robin Solomon, Cultural Attaché, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem.
Another high point of the trip was when Ron Shapiro sat and had a talk with the older participants. It was amazing to watch because he did not deliver a speech but rather just asked them what was on their minds and how they felt about life. They shared their thoughts and he shared his life experience. It was casual, impactful, and rewarding. It goes without saying that there was a lot of basketball involved too. Coaches Brown and Wright were kind enough to run clinics in the north, West Bank, and Jerusalem. It definitely reiterated that basketball is a universal language.
For me as a Fellow, I fell in love with the program once again. It reconfirmed my belief in PeacePlayers’ mission to hear Toot and Duha, two members of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), share stories about their transformations since they’ve entered the program. PPI has impacted so many young people, and especially young women. It was an honor sharing PeacePlayers Middle East with our guests and their families.
The second group of visitors arrived immediately following the board trip. Through a program called Junior Sports Envoy for Social Change – supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – 16 student-athletes ages 15-16 from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were able to visit the region and learn about the history and conflict as well as PeacePlayers’ work in the area. The trip was part of the DC youth’s participation in a year-round Leadership Development Program launched in partnership with adidas.
Much like the board trip, each day was jam packed with activities and tours so that the group could see as much as possible during their time here. On the first day the group arrived, they were treated to a nice welcome lunch as well as a talk and clinic run by Coach Wright. The group got to meet and hang out with many of the local LDP participants as well as participate in a twinning activity. The participants also got to raft on the Jordan River and visit many historical sites. One unique part of the trip was that the U.S. participants were split into groups and got to plan and run different stations for the local participants in the north. They saw firsthand the importance of relying on other ways of communication when there is a language barrier.
It was great to hear some of the feedback and comments made by the group that came from the U.S. One of the girls said the trip was “better than visiting the White House.” Many of the participants took time each night to write down what they did each day and the conversations they had with the local participants. We also took time to reflect during the last day.
It was so much fun hosting both groups and a great way to end the summer break. We look forward to having more visitors and are now gearing up for the start of the new programming year!
Photos: Joel Dzodin
Today’s blog is written by PPI-SA Coach Gabriela Gokova who, last month, took part in the Cyprus Interregional Peace Camp last month.
Knowing that I was going to Cyprus was one of the most exciting things in my life. Getting to travel to this beautiful island was an amazing opportunity. I learned a lot that I would like to share with you all.
I am originally from Zimbabwe and have now been living in South Africa for 8 years. Here in Africa, we have a tendency of thinking that we have the most problems. We believe that overseas everything is okay, or they don’t have as many problems as we do, of which, this is absolutely not true. During my week in Cyprus I learned about the issues facing other PPI Sites. Cyprus remains divided in two (Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus) but I also learned about the feuds in Northern Island and the Middle East.
Cyprus is an island in Europe divided between Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots occupy Southern Cyprus and the Turkish occupy Northern Cyprus. The reason for this being that both Turkey and Greece wanted to rule Cyprus, therefore there was a war 1974 in Cyprus. As a result of the two communities and the guarantor countries committing themselves to finding a peaceful solution to the dispute, the United Nations maintain a buffer zone (the “Green Line”) to avoid any further inter-communal tensions and hostilities. This zone separates the free, southern areas of the Republic of Cyprus (predominately inhabited by Greek Cypriots), from the northern areas (where Turkish Cypriots along with Turkish settlers are now a majority).
This conflict was primarily a political one, but it also had an ethnic or sectarian dimension, although it was not a religious conflict. A key issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists/loyalists, who are mostly Protestants and consider themselves British, generally wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists/republicans, who are mostly Roman Catholics and view themselves as Irish, generally wanted to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland. Another key issue was the relationship between these two communities. The conflict began amid a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist-dominated government and police force.
Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that
hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled. They tried having peace negotiations but the peace negotiations fell apart, and earlier this year, the conflict escalated to a full-on war between Israel and Hamas. The primary approach to solving the conflict today is a so-called “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel. Though the two-state plan is clear in theory, the two sides are still deeply divided over how to make it work in practice.
Learning about all these conflicts, I came back motivated to inspire change. I feel empowered by the strength of others to survive, maintain humanity and stay humble. It’s the same strength I see demonstrated at PPI-SA day in and day out. I’ve already began applying the knowledge I gained over the camp at my weekly practices at Carrington Primary School and with my fellow coaches.
I want to end by thanking PeacePlayers International and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. We share the mission of empowering youth through sport. If we install the idea of peace into our youth now, they will grow up wanting to make peace in their communities, making the world a better place. The little good we do for others contribute not only to those we impact but to their loved ones as well. We believe that “children who play together can learn to live together.” This is true as I see it every day through my kids that I coach and experienced it when I went to Cyprus.
From July 27 – 31, Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach, Brett Brown, and Villanova University’s Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Jay Wright, visited PPI – Middle East to coach Palestinian and Israeli basketball players from PPI’s teams in East and West Jerusalem, the northern town of Tamra and central town of Kfar Saba.
During the trip, Wright told reporter Mary Knight of the Catholic News Service, “The goal was to use the sport to enable Arabs and Jews to concentrate on the game of basketball — their skills and the needs of each other as teammates — and to look past the conflict and see each other as human beings, with the ultimate goal being to transform the relationships of Jews and Arabs in the younger generation.” (Read the Full Article).
The coaches were joined by Charge d’Affairs, U.S Embassy Tel Aviv, Bill Grant, Mission Director, USAID West Bank/Gaza, Dave Harden, and representatives of the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem including Consul General, Donald Blome, and Cultural Attache, Robin Solomon. Brown and Wright also participated in leadership and conflict resolution workshops led by PPI Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, Ron Shapiro, PPI Board Member and adidas General Manager for South East Europe, Lawrence Norman, and PPI Board Member and ESPN NBA Insider, Chad Ford.
Coach Brown said, “It was incredible to see firsthand just how impactful basketball can be in bringing together young people from both sides of one of the world’s toughest conflicts. In coaching them, I saw how dedicated they are to both becoming better players and people; if peace between Israelis and Palestinians is achieved, these will be the kids behind it.”
Thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and PPI Board Member Arn Tellem for their support.
PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland strives to make Northern Ireland a better place by bridging divides, developing leaders and changing perceptions both on and off the court. PPI-NI is excited to have been selected as one of 13 organisations to deliver an exciting pilot initiative called United Youth. The infographic below displays all the information you need to know about the pilot including how to register and ways in which you can help us reach out to the youth of Belfast.
In July, PPI-SA Senior Life Skills Coordinator Ntobeko Ngcamu and two PPI participants traveled to Cyprus for the Interregional Peace Camp. Ntobeko talks about his experience here.
Here in South Africa we describe it as “Ubuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu.” The literal translation to English is “I am because you are.” In short, it means humanity. We all have that humanity inside our heart. Nelson Mandela once said, “sports have the power to change the world.”
Last week, thanks to the Larueus Sport for Good Foundation and PeacePlayers International – Cyprus, I came together with people from different parts of the world with my same drive to bring change in our communities and the world using the power of sport. During the Camp there were a few things that triggered or touched my heart. We often get caught up in our own problems, thinking they’re bigger than others. That changed for me when I heard PPI leaders from across the globe and coaches share their stories.
One of the activities we did with the participants was storytelling about the positive change people have seen during their time at PPI.
The first story was Toot’s, an LDP Participant in the Middle East.
As you all know, there continues to be conflict in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Israelis. PPI-ME has had to shut down for short periods because of the constant bombing attacks. When there is a bombing, a siren or alarm is played, which signals that we need to get to the shelters immediately. Up until I joined PPI, like many people in my community, I only thought about my family and friends when bombings happened – until I met Coach Osnati. After one bombing Coach Osnati called me to see if I was okay. PPI mission/values statement says children who plays together will learn how to live together. The day coach called me was the day I understood what was the meaning of that statement. Even though we’re from different sides of communities we still have people who love, care and think about us. That call from coach was only 30 seconds long, but it made a big change in my life in how I see other people and life as whole.
Another story I heard was PPI-SA participant Silas:
I’m from Zimbabwe,which is currently known as one of the poorest countries in Africa. I am one of the few people who was fortunate to leave and study in South Africa. I grew up in a place where everyone stays and studies in their community; no one is traveling outside of the community. Since I joined, not only have I been able to travel and meet people from different communities, but my confidence in who I am has also grown. Being chosen as a team captain showed me that I have leadership qualities and people believe and trust in me even outside basketball, but also pushes me to keep growing. I have seen people who are older than me come to me for help on and off the court. However, being part of PPI was never more important to me than during the Xenophobic violence in South Africa recently. Immigrants across Durban were worried about their safety. Many of my classmates and teammates stayed home from school; some of them even left the country. Being involved with PPI-SA, I had made friends with South Africans from across Durban. I received calls from friends and coaches wanting to know how I was doing and that they were there if I needed anything. PPI is family.
Cyprus was such an eye opening and wonderful learning experience for me. If we want to see a change in our communities and in our world, we need to change ourselves first. The stories of Coach Osnati, and all the others I heard throughout my time have inspired me to become a person that people can look back and say “I’m a better person because of you, Ntobeko.”
Thank you to the European Union’s Cypriot Civil Society in Action’s ‘Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus’ project with co-funding and support from the United States Embassy in Cyprus, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation,adidas and Jotun for funding this amazing opportunity.
From July 21 – July 26, PeacePlayers International – Cyprus hosted their annual Summer Camp, bringing together young leaders from other PeacePlayers projects around the world, including Northern Ireland, the Middle East and South Africa, to showcase how sport can be used in promoting peace. Former New Orleans Jazz star, Aaron James, former member of the Turkish Women’s National Basketball Team, Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu, adidas General Manager of South East Europe, Lawrence Norman, Head of Programmes at the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, Derek Bardowell, and Founder of Reach Sports, Mthokozisi Madonda, also joined to help empower young people to become leaders, teaching valuable life lessons through the use of sport.
Aaron James, a member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, said: “It’s a wonderful initiative and I am delighted to do what I can to help. Basketball is a great sport for bringing kids together in a team setting. I was very impressed meeting some of the young leaders and I know they are going to become real role models in their communities.”
Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu added: “Witnessing the power of this program, which brings together youth from communities that under normal circumstances do not interact has been incredible. One of the goals of PeacePlayers is for the participants to apply their acquired leadership and peace-building skills to their communities. With the progress I have seen at this camp alone, I am excited and hopeful for the future.”
PeacePlayers International (PPI) was founded in 2001 on the premise that “children who play together can learn to live together.” Through a groundbreaking peacebuilding-and-leadership development curriculum, PeacePlayers International uses basketball to bring children together and teach them proven tactics for improving their communities, impacting youth in 15 countries across the globe.
— John M. Koenig (@AmbJohnKoenig) July 22, 2015
Founded in 2006, PPI – Cyprus brings together 8-18 year old Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play together, learn together and build positive relationships that overcome generations of mistrust and formidable physical barriers to interaction. PPI-CY is currently the only year-round bi-communal youth sports organization on the island.
— Laureus (@LaureusSport) July 27, 2015
The camp was funded through the European Union’s Cypriot Civil Society in Action IV financial assistance package within the framework of the ‘Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus’ project with co-funding and support from the United States Embassy in Cyprus, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, adidas and Jotun.
— ReachSports (@Reach_Sports) July 21, 2015
We’ve partnered with Thunderclap to help spread the word about our Summer Camp and the work we do all year round! If 100 people support our Thunderclap by tomorrow (Monday, July 27), we can make waves by showing the Internet the powerful effects sport can have! All you have to do is pledge your support below!
Join us — we’re so close to meeting our goal!
Today’s blog post was written by Rebecca Ross, a professional American-born basketball player who as a child moved with her family to Israel. For the past year, she has coached a PeacePlayers All-Star team, which competed in the Israel Basketball Association’s elite league.
In the summer of 1997, when I was 8, my family moved from Miami to Givat Ze’ev, a large West Bank settlement northwest of Jerusalem. Part of my acculturation process involved learning to hate Arabs and to hate Arabic. This past year, as coach of Jerusalem’s all-star 9th-10th grade girl’s basketball team (a team in the Peace Players project), I have learned to love Arabs and to love Arabic.
My six secondary school years in Jerusalem largely coincided with the Second Intifada. That is, the period in my life when I spent the most time on buses (as many as 6 a day because of my own basketball practice) and was also the period when many of those buses were attacked. I woke up every day fearing that a suicide bomber would decide to explode himself on my bus on my way to school. I used to see every Arab on the street as a terrorist; I was suspicious of all Arabs — men, women, and even children. When the mother of one of my high school classmates was killed in a suicide bomb attack, I was traumatized. I grew up convinced that Arabs were our enemy and that they were malicious, horrible people who just wanted to kill all the Jews.
Late last August, I moved back to Jerusalem to play on the city’s professional women’s team. My basketball career has always included coaching as well as playing, and so I accepted a position to coach the 9th-10th grade girl’s team that is part of the same club as my professional team. I had heard that the girls team had Arabs on it, but that fact didn’t really register with me until my first practices with the team when I heard the Arab girls speaking Arabic with each other. I was filled with a visceral revulsion. The sound of Arabic just drove me crazy and brought me back to the trauma of my youth. But from practice to practice and without even noticing it, I found myself thinking a lot about my Arab players. Because they are simply great girls. Girls who just want to play ball and have a fair shot at success in life, and yet who were born in a very complicated place that doesn’t see them as human beings and that doesn’t give them a real chance to succeed.
The integrity of our team was tested on November 18, when early in the morning four people were killed in a terror attack at a synagogue about an 8-minute drive from the gym where we practice. As a religious Jew, I was shocked and hurt when I first heard about the attack, but when I showed up to practice later that day, everything was normal. By then, everyone knew all of the details of what had happened, but I didn’t mention the attack — I decided to leave all of the politics off the court. The girls practiced normally; they smiled and enjoyed as usual. After that practice I understood that even though we live in “war,” we can still make a difference through the small things.
Peace is a very big word, but I believe that until we have Peace, we need to learn how to live together and get along. When I see my young Arab players get along so well with my Jewish players, it gives me hope and fills my heart with happiness. Almost every kid loves sports, and sports are an amazing way to bring all the different peoples, cultures, and religions together.
If someone had asked me a decade ago on my bus to school if I could ever imagine myself studying Arabic, I would have looked upon that person as if they were insane. And yet, that is what I am now doing. The author of my Arabic textbook (an 89-year-old French monk named Yohanan Elihai who has lived in Israel since 1956), writes that “language is the key to the heart.” My heart was opened by my Arab players and so it feels natural for me to want to learn how to communicate with them in Arabic. I guess when you come from love, and basketball is my love, anything is possible.
Play ball. Ela’ab eltaba.
Today, PeacePlayers International participants from each of our sites are coming together for PPI’s annual Summer Camp in Agros, Cyprus! For the next six days, these campers will enjoy intensive basketball and classroom training, while getting to know what it’s like to be a PeacePlayer in another part of the world. On the court, they’ll be perfecting their skills with the help of former New Orleans Jazz star Aaron James and Turkish basketball star Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu. Off the court, they’ll learn from experts in leadership development, conflict resolution, and nutrition.
Thank you to adidas, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, the European Union, the United States Embassy in Cyprus, Jotun, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association for helping make this camp possible!Check back to get updates about what’s happening at the camp and make sure to like us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to follow the fun!
Two nights ago, Danielle Green, a combat veteran, won the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2015 ESPYS. Her story has inspired all of us here at PeacePlayers and we wanted to share her story and her acceptance speech with you. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth a few minutes of your time.
Danielle said it best: “We can all find a purpose on this earth larger than ourselves.”
Thank you to Danielle and all the other people in this world fighting for something larger than themselves.
PeacePlayer International — South Africa Fellow Bryan Franklin, a graduate of Stevens Insititute of Technology, was featured in their alumni magazine the Stevens Indicator!
This article has been reprinted below with permission. You can find the original here.
Bryan Franklin ’12 admits that as the child of an African-American father and Caucasian mother, he knew he was different from his classmates growing up in Colorado in the 1990s. “I just didn’t look like everyone else,’’ he says. “For a long time I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.’’
Always interested in race relations and multiculturalism, Franklin was appalled when he learned about apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. He also realized that, as a child in America, he was lucky to have positive role models.
And Franklin is committed to being a positive role model. In a big way.
Today, Franklin is a Fellow with PeacePlayers International (PPI), a sport for development non-profit that uses the game of basketball to educate, unite and inspire young people in culturally and politically divided communities to become leaders. Founded in 2001, PPI has reached more than 65,000 participants and trained more than 1,100 youth leaders. PPI has locations in Northern Ireland, Israel and the West Bank, Cyprus and South Africa. Stationed in Durban, South Africa, Franklin began his two-year commitment in April 2014, living in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Franklin, a stand-out on the Stevens men’s basketball team for four years (and captain during his senior year), was attracted to the combination of service and basketball that PPI offers and, since he serves as a basketball coach and teacher, he feels the program is tailor-made for his talents.
“The nice thing about being a fellow with PPI is that I get to have a hand in lots of different pieces of the organization. I assist in the fundraising and marketing of the organization, oversee the operations in one of our communities, and am also co-leader of our Leadership Development Programme, which includes everything from setting program goals to overseeing coaches to writing and updating our life skills curriculum and organizing events,’’ he says.
KwaZulu-Natal is an area burdened by the impact of AIDS and HIV, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and strong cultural divides. PPI works with youth between 6th and 12th grades, and then employs former participants as coaches. Franklin works face-to-face with the children, both boys and girls.
He acknowledges that some days it’s hard to see so much pain. “I realize that I can’t change everything, but if only one life is changed for the better during my time down here, then to me it’s worth it. That’s my goal, one person at a time,’’ he says. His commitment to service was heightened during his college days, calling Stevens “the place where I grew up.’’
“It was during my time at Stevens that I discovered my passion for giving back to the community. I joined Alpha Phi Omega (a service fraternity on campus) and then continued as I got involved with Hoboken Grace Community Church. What better feeling than helping bringing a smile to someone’s face?’’ he says, adding that the service work continued when he worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit in Jersey City, New Jersey, that helps people in low-income communities start and grow their own businesses. “With my passion specifically for basketball and for travel, PeacePlayers is a dream job,’’ he says.
He firmly believes that all college students should get out and see the world.
“Travel has a way of providing incredible perspective that can’t be gained in a classroom and for me, it changed my life.’’
Franklin is still undecided about what’s next for him when his journey with PPI ends in 2016. He’s considering graduate school and has dreams of starting his own non-profit or ministry one day. ❖ — Lisa Torbic
Tonight are the 23rd annual ESPY Awards. The ESPYs are an awards show presented by ESPN which celebrates athletic achievements in individuals and teams, as well as other sports-related performance. Back in 2007, PPI was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (an award that’s been given to Nelson Mandela, Jim Valvano, Muhammad Ali and other sports legends) for our work in Northern Ireland. You can watch the clip from the show below:
The ESPYs will air tonight at 8 p.m. (EDT) on ABC.
Here at PeacePlayers, our belief that “children who play together can learn to live together” is something that we integrate into everything we do. Sport for peace and development is still a relatively new field, and so finding evidence to support what we do is always exciting. The infographic below displays a few of the many benefits. Sports are becoming increasingly important as a tool for peace, and we are very proud to be a part of an industry that strives for change!
Infographic by: bestshowticketslasvegas.com
This week we are featuring a young PeacePlayer, Alexa. Through our Mitzvah Program, this 6th grader planned a charity basketball tournament for her Bat Mitzvah, which she celebrated on May 30th. To learn more about PPI’s Mitzvah Program, CLICK HERE.
Hi, my name is Alexa. I live in Washington, D.C. and go to Maret School. While preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I didn’t know what my service project would be, so I did what any person would do — I turned to Google for help.
PeacePlayers International was the first project I learned about that I really felt a connection to. I love playing basketball and I loved the idea of kids creating change. I also felt connected to Israel and Ireland (some of the places where PPI works) because I have ancestors from those countries.
I was also happy to see that girls participate in PPI programs, and women are PPI coaches, because creating more opportunities for girls in sports is so important to me.
I looked at the toolkits PeacePlayers provides for kids who want to do a project and I even got to call Adam, PPI’s Deputy Director of Development and Communications, for advice, which was very helpful.
I jumped into the many things that needed to be done. At first I was very overwhelmed, but I was able to break the project down into the key steps: making a flyer, reserving the gym, getting the word out, getting sponsors and referees, lining up the equipment, and registering players.
Through the whole process, my friends and family were there to support me and some kids even did some of their own community service by helping me prepare. It was great to see people getting into helping out and contributing to the tournament.
I learned a lot about myself while planning the tournament and pushed myself to overcome some of my fears. To sign kids up from outside of school, I had to go to basketball games and go around my synagogue to promote it to complete strangers. At first it was stressful, but I got more confident and better at it the more I did it.
Finally after the preparation was done, the tournament day came. I had a lot of initial concerns that people would sign up but not come, or that people would forget, but when I got there and kids were already warming up I felt so relieved. Some of my basketball coaches even came to help ref. I was excited to show them and everyone else that my love for basketball was more than just about playing the game.
The tournament flashed by and I couldn’t stop smiling because everyone was there to support PeacePlayers and me, and they could see how proud I was to be doing my Mitzvah project for a cause that I feel so strongly about. When the day was over and I met my fundraising goal, I couldn’t have been more relieved for how smoothly it all went. After that, I felt I really deserved to be a Bat Mitzvah.
Thinking back on it now, the experience taught me skills that I continue to use in other parts of my life. I definitely feel more confident in my abilities to plan and arrange my own things.
I will never forget how amazing it felt that because of my tournament, kids around the world were learning to resolve conflict. Now, whenever I play basketball I feel a connection to the PeacePlayers around the world because I know that basketball can bring kids together and create lasting change.