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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.
Who are your champions? Team USA, for winning the FIBA World Cup? Germany, for winning the FIFA World Cup? Maybe even Northern Ireland’s own Carl Frampton, world super-bantamweight champion? At PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) we have our own champions we call Champions4Peace.
A little over two years ago, Joanne and a former International Fellow, Meghan Houlihan, established the “ambassador” programme. The ambassador programme was a steering group, a youth council of sorts, that provided feedback on our current programming. The goal is to develop young leaders that can help bridge divide between Catholics and Protestants in their communities.
Early last year the programme began to evolve and the Champions4Peace (C4P) programme was introduced. We had between 15 and 20 young people, aged 11-18, in the one group. At Summer Jam 2013, Donal Hegarty received the C4P of the Year award for his dedication and participation in meetings.
In the Fall of 2013, we split the group and created Junior C4Ps (11- 14yrs) and Senior C4Ps (15-20yrs). Throughout the ’13-’14 term, we seen the participants from both groups complete leadership training, attend monthly meetings and get away on some fun trips, such as the Clare exchange and watching the Northern Ireland women’s world cup qualifier. At the Summer Jam 2014, Brooklyn O’Hare was crowned C4P of the Year, for her upbeat energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the programme.
This year the Junior C4Ps have grown as a group with 20 members from all sides of Belfast City. Our monthly meetings have been focused on arranging fundraisers, training in our three pillars (community relations, basketball and sport4change), and organizing social gatherings and group discussions on the current issues in Northern Ireland. This group of young people have been working incredibly hard to fundraise for our upcoming Belfast2Brooklyn trip. In just under 3 months, they will have raised a total of £1,100. They have accomplished this by through running a Car Wash4Peace, a Sponsored Onesy Dribble Walk, Shoot Out Sweep, and Pie4Peace Challenge.
This past weekend we had two great sessions with our junior C4Ps, a meeting on Saturday in which we discussed Community Relations, and a social night with the Senior C4Ps on Sunday. On Saturday we had a great conversation about the Peace Walls in Belfast, how they felt about them, what they imagined it would be like without them, and if they wanted them to come down.
On Sunday night, 21 C4Ps both junior and senior gathered in Peace House to watch USA vs Serbia in the FIBA World Cup Final. They shared pizza, conversation, and support for Team USA. The Junior C4Ps continue to form bonds that cannot be replicated in any other programme. These kids have now made friends for life during this programme. Including friends that they would never have had the opportunity to meet if it wasn’t for Junior C4Ps and PeacePlayers. As a group they will continue to fundraise together for the aforementioned Belfast to Brooklyn trip. This trip of a lifetime will see the Junior C4Ps putting what they have learned through the programme into good practice, by running a Game of 3 Halves event for their partner organization and partaking in a cultural exchange.
Joanne says that “I admire these kids, everything they do together, the opinions they have formed, the friendships they’ve been willing to have and the leadership qualities that are beginning to show. This is the next generation of PeacePlayers coaches and community leaders. I feel so privileged to be part of this programme and I know that coaches like Michaela Thompson and Ryan Stewart, who have been helping me with the Junior C4P group, certainly feel the same.”
The Leadership Development Program at PPI-SA has seen a huge boost in 2o14. The community of Umlazi launched a team in April with Lamontville, Wentworth, and Molweni all following suit, and now the LDP is thriving!
The LDP recruits students grades 8 through 12 (ages 14-18) to receive more in-depth basketball and life skills training, as they learn not only to live healthy lives themselves, but also to serve as leaders within their own families and communities.
Over the school holidays, PPI-SA staff laid out a plan to get practices up and running and scheduled games for our LDP teams to play against each other and other local high school teams. In Durban, boys and girls high school basketball seasons run at different times of the year, with girls’ taking place term 3 (August-September) and boys’ term 4 (October-November). So while our female LDP participants remain busy scrimmaging at local high schools this month, this past Saturday PPI brought together its male LDP participants for a “man’s day.” Five teams from the communities of Lamontville, Molweni, Umlazi and Wentworth came together at the University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN) Westville Campus for a fun-filled day of basketball and life skills lessons.
Each team got the rare treat of playing at the beautiful indoor facility at UKZN Westville (one of four indoor facilities in all of Durban). However, the highlight of the day came after the games, as the teens received a campus tour from former PPI Coach Sbahle Mkhize. Each teen left with a glimpse of what it looks like to attend university, being exposed to different majors such as Sports Science, Health Science, Engineering and Education. They also had the opportunity to sit in one of UKZN’s many lecture halls and tour residences and the library. The visit made a positive impact on all of the participants; Justin from Lamontville expressed, “It actually made [going to college] seem possible to achieve.”
After the tour, participants were split up into smaller groups composed of members of all five teams and walked through a “Bridges of Hope” activity. The purpose of this exercise was to encourage setting goals for the future – such as attending university – and thinking through how our present actions contribute to achieving these goals. Another participant, Sigethembe from Molweni, dreams of becoming an engineer; he said the activity was “educating and gave us skills on how to plan ahead and reach our goals.”
As an added bonus, by splitting the teens up into smaller groups across communities, many made new friends along the way, like Sigethembe and Justin. This event was the first of many as PPI-SA continues to further develop and hone its Leadership Development Program in its mission to bridge divides, change perceptions and develop leaders. Check back next week for the results from two of our female LDP scrimmages!
Hello PPI community! My name is Heba El-Hendi, and I will be an International Fellow for the Middle East program. I am absolutely thrilled to join the team and commit myself to the mission of PeacePlayers. You will be hearing a lot from me in the coming months, but to start off, here is some background information about myself.
I was born to Palestinian parents in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where I spent the first eight years of my life. The year 1999 marked extreme change because my family and I immigrated to the United States. Home for me is a topic that is difficult to explain in a quick blurb because I have spent much of my life in different locations. Clinton, Utah, is the place I have lived the longest, and it’s where my immediate family currently lives. However, much of my extended family lives in the Middle East, including in the Acre area of Israel and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which is actually where my parents grew up.
I can easily say the best four years of my life were spent at Emory University in Atlanta where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. While at Emory, I connected with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, which furthered my motivation to travel. I had the opportunity to strike a balance between travel and education by studying abroad in both Morocco and Israel. After I graduated, I continued living abroad, spending a year in Morocco teaching English to university students through a Fulbright fellowship.
During my time studying abroad in Israel, I learned about PeacePlayers International through a past volunteer and fellow, Jack Randolph. At that time, I would have never guessed that two years later I would have an opportunity to work for PeacePlayers. After my study abroad in Israel, I became even more interested and devoted to peace initiatives. For the past two summers, I have worked with Seeds of Peace as a camp counselor for youth coming from the Middle East and South Asia. Seeds of Peace introduced me to the importance of empowering youth with the skill set and experience to listen to the ‘enemies’’ narrative while engaging in activities to build humanistic connections.
I am looking forward to continuing this line of work with PeacePlayers International – Middle East. I am excited to learn more about the organization while witnessing the power it has in bringing youth together. I’ve always thrived in settings involving interactions with youth, especially through mentorship, and I am enthused to have this opportunity with PeacePlayers. The Middle East has always been a place of interest and a place I have felt connected to. During my time in the Middle East, I hope to connect to the region in a new, meaningful way through my work as a PPI International Fellow.
Today’s blog is written by Christiana Miltiadous, one of PPI-Cyprus’ Lead 4 Peace participants. Christiana, a Greek-Cypriot from Nicosia, has been with PeacePlayers for 3 years and has become a great mentor and role model for younger participants of the program.
I’ve been with PeacePlayers for 3 years; I’m really blessed and lucky that I joined this organization. I heard about PeacePlayers 3 years ago, when coach Thanasis and Gunnar visited my teams practice and spoke to us and informed us about PeacePlayers. I liked the idea of playing together in peace and trying to unite. I got really excited when I heard about them and I immediately went home and asked my parents if I could join and they said yes. The first time I attended a PeacePlayers event was at the 2012 summer camp.
It was such an amazing experience watching everybody cooperate with each other and play basketball together and be friends. I also really liked that they invited basketball players and coaches from the USA and Israel, to help us improve our basketball skills.
The love the coaches have for basketball inspires us to continually improve our game and they taught us how to be a better person on the court as well in our everyday life.
At school they teach us that the Turkish-Cypriots are different from the Greek-Cypriots, but we are in fact all the same, we have the same interests and same passion: basketball. Ever since I joined PeacePlayers, I inform people about the amazing program and its mission.
I believe that PeacePlayers is a great organization, with great people that inspire you to follow your dreams no matter how crazy they sound.
I don’t have a favorite thing about PeacePlayers but the things I liked the most are the twinnings we have, the winter and spring tournaments, the summer camps and the Lead 4 Peace project. Also the amazing experience we had travelling to Norway for 9 days this last June, after the Norwegians visited Cyprus in March.
Because of PeacePlayers I have made new friends from both communities and we hang out together on weekends and during holidays.
I just want to thank my new family with PPI-CY, which gave me these amazing opportunities and experiences. They make me a better person and also a better basketball player and they inspire me to follow my dreams.
I hope to remain with PeacePlayers for a long time and hopefully be a coach in the future and inspire the young people to coexist in peace and follow their dreams.
For many children around the world this month marks the end of summer and the start of the school year. For most, the act of getting to school is a relatively simple one: walk, bike or get a ride. Not too much to think about.
Thirteen years ago, for the children of Wheatfield Primary School and Holy Cross Primary School in North Belfast it wasn’t that simple. Students walked to school amid a torrent of abuse that no child should have to experience. The extreme nature of the situation caused headlines around the world. Once again Belfast was in the news – for all the wrong reasons.
While the outside world remembers these events as a scar on the landscape of Northern Ireland’s history, we at PPI-NI remember them for a different reason. These events were the impetus for the very first primary school Twinning. When PPI-NI brought together the Catholic and Protestant students from these two schools for a day of basketball and community relations conversations, we started something that would change this city in a fundamental way.
Through the Twinning program PPI-NI provides schools with an effective way to help bring together children from both sides of the historical political divide. Rather than simply being a diversionary sports programme, schools have access to trained coaches who can also deliver an effective community relations curriculum.
Over the past 13 years PPI-NI has strived to improve the Twinning programme. From ensuring that logistics run smoothly to the selection process for coaches and improving the curriculum, the Twinning programme in NI now runs like a well-oiled machine. From those humble beginnings has come a proven, effective tool to teach children how to manage the conflict that is a part of their lives on a daily basis.
We at PPI-NI are proud to have worked with 32 schools to deliver 16 Twinnings during the past academic year. While 22 of these schools are located in Belfast, we have begun to work with 10 schools located outside of the city in the towns of Ballymena, Bangor and Lurgan. Through all of our programmes PPI-NI worked with around 2400 children last year. Thanks to sound management practices, these 8-week programmes cost on average a mere £100 per participant to deliver.
What about Wheatfield and Holy Cross today? PPI-NI has made a long-term commitment to these schools and has engaged them in Twinnings for each of the past 13 years. In 2007 PPI received an award from ESPN based partially on the work it has done with these two schools. In that same year the schools participated in the Game of Three Halves for the first time, where the children played Gaelic football, rugby and soccer on integrated teams; something unthinkable a decade earlier.
We’d be lying if we said that all of the sectarian problems in Belfast have vanished. Clearly they haven’t. But as we gear up for year 14 its important to note that we have made a difference, our reach is growing and we are determined to help improve life for the people of Northern Ireland.
Both of these superb triple threat stances belong to students of Collingwood Primary – a public school located in the undeserved and predominantly African suburb of Wentworth. PPI-SA is one of the few after school options available to students there. PPI-SA International Fellow Benjamin Constable talks life and basketball with two of Collingwood Primary School’s finest participants: Jade Shanice and Jordan Holtman.
No matter where I’ve coached, I tend to gravitate toward calling kids by one simple term – “clowns.” Sure the first time you lay the term on them, an odd facial expression arises. Probably suggesting something along the lines of:
Did that huge kiwi coach just insult me?
What was so clown-like about jump stops and triple threat?
Did I hear him correctly?
One athlete has even checked her face for face paint the first time she heard it.
However, those confused expressions always turn to smiles when they realize no-one is immune to the nick name. As the expression becomes cliche, eventually absorbed into the athletes identity within the context of the player coach relationship, kids even start calling me the sacred term – “Hi Coach you clown!”
I’d even make the bold suggestion that the term enables the athletes to learn. The learning environment becomes safer as athletes become less afraid to make mistakes. Why? Because, well, everyone’s now a clown, and all clowns do is make mistakes right? If you are going to credit clowns with something, they definitely aren’t afraid to try new things.
I must admit, while preparing to coach at Collingwood Primary School, it had crossed my mind whether this term would be appropriate:
Could clowns exist in circumstances like South African townships?
Would there be anything funny or rapport generating about calling kids who come from such hardships, “clowns”?
Well, like most rhetorical questions posted in this blog, the answer revolves around the same idea – of course, regardless of socioeconomic background, youth both grow and respond to mentor-ship in the same manner. To grow into happy, motivated created human beings it’s imperative that our youth are safely engaged by a diverse range of mentors. Whether it’s a hero like Mark Giles, PPI’s school rep and Collingwood teacher, or just some “clown” from PPI.
So, long story short, there’s a clown in all of us I guess. Here’s a quick conversation with two of my favorite “clowns” from Collingwood Primary School:
How long have you played basketball?
Jade: 8 months.
Jordan: 8 months, but 8 great months!
How long have you been part of PPI?
Jade: 8 months, so PPI is basketball pretty much.
Jordan: 8 months.
What is your favorite part of being a PeacePlayer?
Jade: I get to have fun and compete. It gives me a chance to play again teams that live in places I’ve never been.
Jordan: I get to play basketball. I love learning, especially how to shoot.
What have you learnt about being part of PPI-SA?
Jade: How to respect others, listen and learn, and how to be polite.
Jordan: That you must respect others for them to respect you. Respect your coach, team, everyone.
How has PPI helped you off the court?
Jade: My netball shooting has improved and I’ve learnt you have to listen first before you do something.
Jordan: How rules in basketball are really similar to rules in life.
What are your future goals/what do you want to do when you grow up?
Jade: An air hostess or archeologist.
Jordan: Soccer player or basketball coach.
Who is your favorite basketball player?
Jade: Coach Kyler (ouch Coach Ben)
Jordan: Michael JORDAN (obviously)
International Fellow Ryan Hage recounts some of the Summer’s moments following the annual PPI – Cyprus Summer Camp including attending Managing Director Jale Canlibalik’s wedding party!
The month of August is always a time for rest and relaxation for the PPI-CY staff. After months of planning, and then a week of summer camp, the staff is completely exhausted. Quoting myself, “It was literally the most tiring week of my life, but also one of the best and most fun”.
Just a few days after the camp ended PPI-CY Program Coordinator Stephanie Nicolas and I had the honor of attending our Managing Director’s henna party. A henna party is a tradition that is held before the wedding to celebrate their union. Needless to say, it was a first for me and I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. The food was amazing and there is a traditional dance that takes place. Jale gets very dressed up in a traditional dress and is presented to the crowd. It was a cultural experience that I will always remember! Congrats to Jale and Semsi!
After such a hectic couple of weeks, the staff took a little vacation to enjoy Cyprus. Going to one of the many beautiful beaches was a daily occurrence for all of the staff. Stephanie even made a new friend, Curious George, a donkey that put his head in her car while driving by. And I traveled to Barcelona for a few days to take in the sites and enjoy some Spanish food. Paella and tapas were eaten frequently.
Overall, the staff had an amazing couple of weeks and are now back in the office planning for the upcoming year. We could not be more excited for all of the events and fun we will have!
In addition to American Fellow Jamie Walsh, another great friend of PPI – ME recently finished his post in the Middle East. Brad Bessire served for four hears as the head of the Democracy and Governance Office at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID, which as part of a wide range of services, also supports PPI – ME. Among other areas, the Democracy and Governance Office oversees all USAID-funded conflict mitigation projects using people-to-people methods to bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Brad has been a frequent visitor at PPI – ME activities and even got on the court with our kids from time to time.
Brad has spent 14 years with USAID, including posts in Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and short tours to Iraq Yemen and Bolivia. Before coming to USAID, Brad was a human rights lawyer, first representing Native Americans in Washington, DC, but it was a job in Cambodia that made Brad start to think globally, after which, he “never looked back.”
For the past four years, Brad has led the Democracy and Governance office at the West Bank/Gaza branch of USAID, which supports the development of Palestinian institutions necessary for a future Palestinian state by promoting the rule of law, increasing civic engagement, and enhancing respect for human rights. Brad said that “working in Israel and Palestine has been an amazing experience, and I am in awe at all of the people working so hard to make a difference. I am honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to work on CMM [conflict mitigation and management] programming, and helping grow the portfolio to include people working on issues of common concern has been a highlight of the tour. Expanding it to have more partners has helped strengthen what we do. “
On a personal note, Brad added that “seeing kids come together and break down the learned stereotypes has been a highlight – whether in basketball, soccer or kids’ camps. Getting to know everyone’s personal story has been great.”
Like everyone working to make a difference in the region, the past couple of months have made an impact on Brad as well. “The last few weeks have been pretty depressing, but the work that the CMM partners are doing gives me hope. I have talked to many people after the Gaza conflict and they are more convinced that they are doing the right thing. I wish we could fund more programs of this type.”
We wish Brad lots of luck in his new post at USAID headquarters in DC.
In May, PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland put together a tender to work with Carrick, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Councils (CAN). PPI-NI does not have programmes running in any of these areas so this was a great opportunity. Our tender was successful and the CAN partners agreed to contract us to deliver our project over the summer months when the children are on holidays. The project is supported by PEACE III through the CAN Peace III Partnership. The main idea of the project was to bring children from around the Borough Councils together in a fun and safe environment using sport as the medium.
This was not a smooth sailing ride for PPI-NI as we have not worked in the area before. As such, we needed to build some relationships and trust with various groups and individuals before we even began the programme. In addition, recruiting participants from both sides of the community, over such a vast area, and trying to get them to come out of their comfort zones to meet with participants from other areas was also hard. When we initially tried to bring the children together we had a very low turnout. Gradually it got better, but not without considerable investment in time and energy from our Operations Team Leader Debbie Byrne and Sessional Coach Ryan Stewart.
Phase one of the project brought 15 young people (14-18 year olds), 5 from each of the Borough Councils, together to complete our Open College Network (OCN) course in “Understanding Diversity Through Sport” (Level One). With the skills and confidence gained through attaining their OCN qualifications, these 15 young people were able to play a key role in supporting PPI-NI facilitators in organising the Carrick, Antrim and Newtownabbey Cross Community League (CANCCL) – phase two of the programme.
The CANCCL was a 6 week basketball programme that established integrated sports teams with participants (aged 9-13) from across the cluster. The finale was our Game of Three Halves (GO3H), which brought together all the participants from the CAN areas to play Gaelic football, rugby, and soccer provided by our partners in the GO3H (Ulster GAA, Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby). PPI-NI coaches delivered basketball training and facilitated a ‘fourth half’ of community relations through sport conversations and exercises, while the young leaders (14-18 group) played a key role as mentors to the younger group. The success of the project was evident on the last day. The kids really gelled over the summer and they were now working together, getting to know each other and having a great time. In a short space of time we were able to bridge divides, change perception and develop leaders using sport.
We have to give special thanks to our partners from various areas who helped us with the project and recruiting participants and of course to the CAN Peace III Partnership for their patience and support. And yes, the what might have seemed like a “challenging” project was indeed a CAN!
Excelsior Primary is a public school located on the border between Lamontville (a primarily African community) and Chatsworth (a primarily Indian Community), two highly underserved areas around Durban. For the past 8 years, PPI-SA has been one of the few after school options available to kids there. In today’s blog, PPI-SA International Fellow Bryan Franklin introduces us to two of Excelsior Primary School’s finest participants: Aphiwe Mbatha and Ntuthuko Makhathini.
As I walked onto the Excelsior Primary School court just outside Durban in Lamontville, South Africa I didn’t quite know what to expect. The school’s normal coach was unable to be there for the month of August, so I was set to fill in for the next few weeks. As I gathered the kids on the baseline and began the long and slow process of an American trying to learn and correctly pronounce their names (one of the most enjoyable moments of practice for the kids by far), two leaders quickly emerged. In classic lead by example form, Aphiwe and Ntuthuko (American pronunciation: Tatugo) helped not only to organize their teammates that day, but in the practices to follow we’re consistently at practice early, the first to volunteer and always there to encourage.
How long have you been a part of PPI?
Aphiwe: 2 years
Ntuthuko: 2 years
What is your favorite part about being a PeacePlayer?
Aphiwe: I love practicing with my teammates and it helps me to stay active.
Ntuthuko: It’s fun to play basketball and I like that we get to play games against different schools.
What have you learned from being part of PeacePlayers?
Aphiwe: I’ve learned to play basketball. I have also learned to respect other people and how important that is.
Ntuthuko: I now know how to learn from my mistakes, and not let them get me down.
What are your future goals?
Aphiwe: I want to be a Chemical Engineer. My brother is studying mechanical engineering. He brought home a book with the different types of engineers and I got to read about each one. Chemical Engineer sounded the most interesting so I researched it some more online. That’s what I would like to be.
Ntuthuko: I want to be a basketball coach. I really like playing the game and when I get older. I would like to teach kids like me to play too.
PeacePlayers is teaming up with Pursuit Sports Group to host a Connect 4 Fundraiser at Penn Social on Friday, September 5 from 6:30-8:30! Our goals are to raise funds for our youth programs and have some fun at the same time. Tickets are a $10 donation and will be available at the door. The $10 includes your tournament entry, networking reception, and complimentary appetizers (served during the first hour).
The tournament is a classic 4-in a row game with a classic grid, so bring your “A” game as strategy drives competition. The tournament will also have appetizers, raffle prizes, and drink specials!
Please come on over after work to join us and our supporters for an exciting evening of networking and attempting to be crowned the Connect 4 Champion! If you’re in the DC area, we hope to see you at Penn Social this Friday!
Today’s blog is brought to you by PeacePlayers volunteer, Tessa Ramsay. Tessa is a high school English teacher who spent the summer helping out PPI-CY.
Since the writer of this blog is usually someone from inside the PeacePlayers organization, I have the opportunity, as an outsider, to shed some light on what the adults in this organization do. It is unlike any of the PeacePlayers staff members here to praise their work or brag about themselves; instead, they use their voices and ink cheering on and advocating for their kids, which is one reason why it is such a successful program. So here is a look at the adults who proudly wear the PeacePlayers-Cyprus logo on their shirts.
Back home in New York City, I am a high school English teacher. At the PPI-CY Summer Camp, I observed the interactions between coaches and players and was amazed at how deeply and naturally the coaches cared for their players. I kept thinking to myself, “these coaches would be great teachers,” until I eventually realized that they of course are teachers, ones that truly love their students.
Just like skilled basketball players, the PPI-CY coaches are always thinking of the next move—how can we make sure this player is more involved, how can we guarantee that this player feels safe, how can we reach more children to build this family? One coach kindly and privately reminded another of the specific struggle of an individual player to keep in mind when running practice. Then another coach proudly and publicly shared the triumph of another player’s awesome behind the back pass to the winning lay-up of a game. Two coaches even brought their two-month-old baby to camp so they could be there for their other kids.
As an educator, I’ve heard the word “patience” a lot. I must have patience with my students, with the budget, with myself. But this word had a new meaning here. I always assumed that you “had” to be patient, but these coaches seem to “want” to be patient. With three languages to attend to at camp, everything takes longer to be completed. That’s three sets of directions, three lists of expectations, three attempts at the same joke. The coaches take their time because they love what they do and they believe in what they do. What’s more impressive is that the players are patient, too. They listen attentively to the wisdom their coaches preach. And believe me, adolescents don’t just listen because they have to; they listen because they want to. They eagerly hang on the words of their coaches because they respect them. They adore them, really. I saw players save seats for their coaches in the camp cafeteria, and the coaches gladly plopped down next to them and started joking around. They shared music and tricks, they played late night pick-up basketball together, they did funny handshakes.
The humor and goofiness that was alive at camp is important to note because it was the enthusiasm of the coaches that really hooked the players. While so much about PeacePlayers is of course about finding peace, this solution cannot be attained if there is no connection. The coaches, with all of their careful planning and contagious excitement, were the reason the players felt comfortable enough to laugh together at the same silly trick their coach did, to start talking, and to begin sharing thoughts and ideas.
It’s clear that the one of the only ways to guarantee any change is to inspire those after you to carry on the mission. Even in just a week at camp, I saw how the Leadership Development Program (LDP) members absorbed the energy of their coaches and passed that on to the younger players. One LDP participant played a silly one-on-one game with a younger camper, and that younger player walked around camp the rest of the afternoon beaming with pride. Another LDP teenager volunteered to translate at a practice since they were a coach short for the afternoon. The LDP teenagers stayed up right until curfew to hang out with one another, just like their coaches did on the other end of the hotel lobby. These young leaders are taking what they learning, turning around, and teaching it almost immediately; it was a pleasure to see. It can take a lot to inspire adolescents, and the PPI-CY coaches make it look easy.
PPI-CY would like to thank Tessa for all of her help this summer! You will always be a part of the PeacePlayers family!
PPI – Northern Ireland Operation’s Team Leader Debbie Byrne reflects on the Belfast Interface Games (BIG) Flagship Event – the Game of Three Halves, a fantastic night for PPI-NI.
On Friday August 8, over 80 young people from North, South, West and East Belfast came together at Seaview Football Stadium in north Belfast for the annual PPI – Northern Ireland Belfast Interface Games (BIG) Flagship Event – the Game of Three Halves. It was a brilliant experience for the children to play in such a great venue with their parents cheering them on enthusiastically on the stands wearing colors that represented each side of the city! Not only did the children play Gaelic football, Rugby and Soccer against the other sides of the city but the children danced, chatted and became strong friends as they moved from station to station. North Belfast ran out as eventual winners but the experience of everyone on the night was that they felt they were part of something very special and positive. The children recognized that they had been involved in something bigger than themselves.
Over the last few years the Belfast Interface Games and the Game of Three Halves have helped to develop young leaders who are better equipped to confront the issues that continue to divide Northern Ireland. The segregation of schools and communities continue to foster traditions of intolerance whereby parade-related disputes and rioting, criminal activity, intimidating displays of flags and murals, and youth-led violence remains commonplace. It is hoped that through participation in cross-community sporting programmes like the BIG camps and this Flagship Event, young people will develop positive personal relationships and therefore be less likely to engage in sectarian-fueled violence in the future.
We are very thankful to the US Department of State and the Department of Foreign Affairs for support our work in this area. The event was facilitated in collaboration with the Governing Bodies for Gaelic Football, Rugby and Soccer. The Ulster Council of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), The Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby donated their coaching time for free. Belfast Bus Company provided the buses free of charge and Seaview provided the venue at a vastly reduced rate: The US Consul on their Twitter feed said:
— US Consulate Belfast (@USAinNI) August 5, 2014
For two weeks leading up to the games, PPI-NI children have participating in our BIG camps to prepare for the big day. One of the key elements, which helped to make the night such a success was the help of many, volunteers – young and old. Hannah Byrne (daughter of Debbie Byrne) a volunteer on the night and at the BIG camps said, “the night was a brilliant experience! I enjoyed working with the kids and I had a lot of fun.” Niamh Burns who is a PPI Coach in Training and a Senior Champion for Peace said that, “Volunteering for the BIG camps and the Flagship event was a brilliant experience! It was amazing seeing the children working together and playing sports they have never played. This is something I would love to do in the future.”
We are very thankful for all our supporters, partners and funders who made this night such a wonderful occasion, and a special thanks to the wonderful PPI-NI staff!!!