PPI Blog Feed
This past Wednesday, PeacePlayers Middle East celebrated the start of two new teams from Maiser (an Arab community) and Katsir (a Jewish community) with a unique twinning. At twinnings, boys and girls from typically segregated communities come together to play basketball in order to learn, play and make new friends. Since this was only the second meeting for the kids they were separated into mixed groups where they joined in activities to learn each others names and simply get to know one another a little bit better. Later, the Arab and Jewish children participated together in some fun ball handling drills – dribbling through obstacle courses, playing shooting games, and going outside for a fun game of tag.
Initially you could tell each side was a little uncomfortable but as the event went on you could see the children, some of which were as young as 8 years old, starting to relax and get closer to their peers. At one point a small group of Arab and Jewish boys began teaching each other how to count in Hebrew and Arabic. This is another example of progress that can be made when we come together and open ourselves up to new people and new experiences.
Five Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants helped coach the twinning, giving our older participants a chance to improve their leadership skills and make a positive impact on the next generation. The coach from Maiser, Renan, commented on the day, “The activity was fruitful, successful, enjoyable, with a lot of variety and aimed to the goal. The kids went home with a big smile on their faces.”
PPI would also like to thank the representatives from USAID who helped out at the event.
During the first week of June, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) will be hosting Bill Fenlon, a supporter of the program and the head men’s basketball coach for the DePauw University Tigers. Coach Fenlon has coached the Tigers for 21 seasons and is the winningest coach in program’s history. Following his team’s most recent 16-10 season, Fenlon possesses an impressive .638 career winning percentage.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to partner with PeacePlayers,” Fenlon said. “Being a career basketball guy I’m especially proud of the chance to make a difference in young lives through my sport.”
One of his more noteworthy anecdotal accomplishments involves coaching Brad Stevens – now the head coach of the small basketball powerhouse, Butler University, – from 1995 to 1999. Stevens’ Butler teams have defied the odds by playing for the NCAA Division I championships in 2010 and 2011.
DePauw, Wabash, and Butler are all located in the basketball-crazy state of Indiana, which is the setting of the popular 1986 film, Hoosiers. The state has produced many great players, including but not limited to Larry Bird, Shawn Kemp, and Oscar Robertson, and more recently, the trio of Zeller brothers, who played at Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Indiana University, respectively.
One of the highlights of Fenlon’s visit to Belfast will be a coaching clinic on Tuesday, June 4, from 7:30-9:00 p.m. in Queen’s PEC. Participation will cost £3 to help cover the price of the space.
The clinic will also include, during the first half-hour, instruction on warm-ups, conditioning, and injury prevention from Pablo Huertos. Huertos comes from Spain, where he studied sport science and physical activity. He has worked as a fitness coach for a women’s National-League team in Cordoba and the men’s Liga Espanola De Baloncesto team in Plasencia.
This weekend, PPI-SA International Fellows Kyler McClary and Kristin Degou were lucky enough to visit one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world, Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is the second-most populated city in South Africa after Johannesburg, and the provincial capital city of the Western Cape. While there, we were able to experience much of South Africa’s natural beauty and the diversity of people that make up this vibrant city.
One of the most fun parts of the weekend was that we were able to meet up with former PPI-SA participant and coach, Zanele Sikakane. Zanele is originally from Molweni, a rural area located about an hour northwest of Durban. PPI started working within the Molweni area about 5 years after it started its program in South Africa and was able to build a culture of basketball that still exists today. PPI-SA works in 5 primary schools in Molweni and the area has its own club team, the Molweni Flames. As a young girl, Zanele played in the Primary School Program (PSP), and then carried on playing in high school with our LDP program. PeacePlayers introduced Zanele to basketball and she fell in love with the game. With a combination of natural talent and hard work, Zanele was offered a scholarship to play at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She has been there for 5 months now and is studying Sports Science. She is really enjoying the level of competition in Cape Town at the University level and earned a starting spot on the team as a first year.
If Zanele could give any words of advice to current basketball coaches, she would tell them “to treat every player on the team equally.” She emphasizes the importance of individual attention on and off the court, and showing the kids that you truly care about them. “Practice runs much smoother when all players feel equally important” Zanele said.
We are very proud of Zanele for all she has accomplished and for chasing her dreams. She comes from an area where opportunities like this are scarce, but through PPI-SA and basketball, Zanele was able to widen her perceptions of the world and what she is capable of. It took a lot of courage for Zanele to leave her home and family and move to a big city on the opposite side of the country. Zanele’s story is very special, and inspires everyone at PPI-SA to keep working to fulfill our mission for other children.
Tis the season for donning caps and gowns, celebrating with friends and family and listening to inspiring words of wisdom. To commemorate graduation season, here are some quotes from this year’s notable commencement speakers that resonate with PeacePlayers’s values of being champions for peace and catalysts for social change:
“There’s no how-to guide for how to change the world…But it’s easy to get hung up by misconceptions about what it takes to make an impact…We are making progress today not because of a big idea, but because of a big commitment. Because we plunged in and embraced the journey of constant learning and improvement…Don’t put your desire to change the world on hold…Start and go forth in constant pursuit of learning and impact.” - Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, Boston University
“Every day in every life consists of things that are going well, and things that are going badly…We have the power to imagine whatever we want, why don’t we imagine the best? Why don’t we create our own fantasies?” - Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, Smith College
“The whole thing comes down to in the end whether we face the future with open hands or closed fists…You can’t share the future unless you share the responsibility for building it.” - Former President Bill Clinton, Howard University
“I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger” - President Barack Obama, Ohio State University
PeacePlayers dares its participants, and you, to dream bigger too: The dream of a world where children of different backgrounds can play together, live together and build a more peaceful society.
Check out this video of PeacePlayers International Executive Director, Brendan Tuohey, speaking at his alma mater, Colgate University in 2012:
It never hurts to dream big, right? That’s what the community of Nesodden were thinking when they contacted the world famous Harlem Globetrotters, requesting a visit to their quiet community in Norway. In Nesodden, the game of basketball was already breaking down barriers as PeacePlayers-Cyprus’ basketball team of Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys were playing for the Hasna Cup, the first time ever that children from the divided island had the chance to compete together in an international competition.
But when a response came from the Globetrotters, the coaches’ and the community’s dream became reality. The Globetrotters agreed to fly five of their players all the way to Nesodden for a community wide show (little did we know that the entire show was to going to be dedicated to the youth of PeacePlayers).
Friday evening came and people from all over the village showed up for the event. Goril, our teams’ amazing local host, said, “I think the experience was incredibly special.” If seeing and playing alongside the Harlem Globetrotters wasn’t surreal enough for our PeacePlayers’ team, the real surprise came at the end of the evening. As the Globetrotters’ show came to an end, they called our boys to the court, this time to present a check for 25,000 Krones (about 3,300 euro)! The surprise donation was raised through tickets sales and a bake sale that was hosted during the game.
What an unbelievable and unexpected gift from our new friends in Nesodden. They will forever be a part of PeacePlayers-Cyprus and we look forward to the day that we can welcome them to our home here on the island of Cyprus.
Last Friday PPI – Middle East held a Peace League event for two Jewish teams from the cities of Haifa and Holon, one Arab team from Tamra, and a Druze team from the city of Usafiya. PeacePlayers runs events like these to give participants a chance to come together and play in competitive games on mixed teams with kids from different areas.
For Jack Randolph, our American volunteer, it was his first time witnessing a Peace League event. Jack noticed how as an observer you would have no idea that the players are of religions that rarely mix with each other. Instead, you would see is a large group of teenage girls having a great time enjoying each other’s company and playing sports. Afterwards Jack said, “I was extremely impressed by the girls basketball ability and physical play. What was even cooler was that while the games were very competitive the participants really seemed to care about each other and want everyone to succeed.”
This is type of attitude PPI hopes to develop and teach all of its participants, and Peace Leagues are just another exciting way to show everyone that despite our differences we can come together and make the world a better place. Yahel Jovanovic, a new Jewish girl from the Holon team had this to say: “Playing with the Arab and Druze girls is normal to me now. I have been in PPI for over half a year so I know these girls well and consider them my friends. It was weird in the beginning when we first started playing but it isn’t anymore.”
Champion (Champ-eeh-on) - noun:
- a person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, so as to hold first place.
- anything that takes first place in competition.
- an animal that has won a certain number of points in officially recognized shows.
- a person who fights for or defends any person or cause.
- a fighter or warrior.
Champion 4 Peace:
- Someone who catalyzes positive social change, thereby creating a more peaceful society.
Each year PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland brings together 2,000 young Catholics and Protestants from areas least likely to embrace peace or coexistence efforts, and uses sport as a tool to help them understand and overcome conflict. Last year PPI-NI introduced the Ambassador Programme, which gave participants a voice and the opportunity to lead the programmes in which they were involved. The goal was to create a class of new PPI leaders, young champions for peace who actively contribute to creating a more peaceful society.
This year the programme got a face-lift – the programme was split into Juniors (11-13) and Seniors (14-18) and renamed “Champions 4 Peace” (C4P). Over the next few months our Senior C4Ps will be working on fundraising, event planning, and facilitation skills, while the Junior C4Ps work on a fundraising event, recruitment of new C4Ps, and volunteering at the Spring Jam Tournament. In addition, both groups have shown an interest in developing a documentary film as a way of recruiting new members!
If you are interested in getting more information about the PPI-NI Champions 4 Peace programme or want to help in any way with the programme, please contact Joanne Fitzpatrick at email@example.com.
On Sunday, May 26th, PPI-SA will join Discovery Health and over 31,000 others in promoting an active, healthy lifestyle by participating in the 2013 Discovery East Coast Radio Big Walk. The walk begins at uShaka Marine World on the southern beachfront and ends at People’s Park in front of Durban’s world cup venue, Moses Mabhida Stadium. The event offers four different courses ranging from 5km to 20km.
As ambassadors for sport in the region, PPI-SA felt it was imperative to show up and support the largest athletics event of the year in Durban. All of PPI-SA’s office staff, along with several coaches, have pledged to participate. PPI’s entry fees for the event are being sponsored by Laureus, so, once again, a big thank you is owed to them.
East Coast Radio, Durban’s leading commercial radio station, started the event in 2004 with just 1,800 walkers. In 2009 the walk added Discovery, a leading health insurance provider, as a co-sponsor. Discovery has teamed with PPI-SA in the past by contributing to events and donating to PPI schools. Discovery says their involvement in the Big Walk was fueled by seeing the walk as “a great opportunity to show people how easy it is to follow a healthy and active lifestyle.” Durbanites are obviously catching on to the message, as the event has grown by over 30,000 participants in its 10-year existence. The event continues to grow on an annual basis, with over 8,000 more people registered this year than last year.
Stay tuned for pictures of PPI-SA’s day at the Big Walk, which will most likely be posted here on Tuesday, May 28th.
In a recent article for the New York Times, top WBNA pick and Baylor University senior Brittney Griner, who is openly gay, discussed her new job with the Phoenix Mercury, her experiences with bullying and how she hopes she can inspire others to love themselves and others for who they really are. Growing up, Griner was bullied about her sexuality, appearance and height (she’s 6’8) . Even though she would always put on a tough face and try to let the hateful words roll off of her, she said it was always painful to hear those things. Despite those hard times, she says “I never thought that to be beautiful, you had to look any certain way at all. In my opinion, you’re beautiful because you are you.” The more comfortable she became with herself, the more open she could be with her family and friends and focus on the things she loves in her life, like basketball.
Griner hopes she can be a “light that inspires others” and wants “everyone to feel at peace and O.K. with being who he or she is.”
PeacePlayers strives to inspire every child who participates in their programs to shine their light and love themselves and their teammates for who they are. Through the game of basketball, they learn life skills and peace building skills that give them the confidence to be themselves and love others.
In Northern Ireland, teammates learn to see each other not as Catholics and Protestants, but as friends. In the Middle East, Jewish and Arab children respect and learn from their differences and play together. In Cyprus, Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cpyriot children work together as united Cypriots. In South Africa, children of different races and socio-economic backgrounds see past those differences on the basketball court.
How do you shine your light and inspire others? Tell us in the comments!
If it weren’t for the love, support and encouragement of our mom’s we wouldn’t be the people we are today. That is why this week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to get to know one of our amazing PPI moms, Cleopatra Charalambous, mother of one of our very special young leaders, Dimitris.
Cleopatra was raised in London but returned to Cyprus over 20 years ago. A mother of four, and working full-time at UCLAN University in Pyla, Cyprus, Cleopatra is quite a busy woman. She is the epitome of hard working, loving moms worldwide who balance their professionalism with the invaluable task of raising and shaping their children into the young leaders they dream for them to become.
Having been raised in the multi-cultural atmosphere that is London, Cleopatra developed an understanding of the importance of respecting other cultures and seeing people as people. Even while raising her children in the quiet community of Larnaca, Cleopatra has managed to pass along these important values to her children.
Six months ago Cleopatra’s 16 year old son Dimitris joined PeacePlayers and has already become a standout participant. After demonstrating leadership on and off the court, Dimitris was chosen to attend our Leadership Development Camp in Kantara and travled to Norway with the PeacePlayers bi-communal boys’ team to compete in the Hansa Cup.
“PeacePlayers has been such a great opportunity for Dimitris, it is only too bad that he found out about the organization so late. He doesn’t want to detach from the organization so when he finishes playing he wants to become a PeacePlayers leader.”
Cleopatra has been very supportive of her son’s interest in PeacePlayers, and is thankful for the opportunity for Dimitris to develop new friendships with young people from all over Cyprus. When we asked Dimitris if his mom was nervous about going to the LDP camp in Kantara he said, “I don’t think so. She thinks it is great for me to have friends that are Turkish-Cypriots and I would spend more time with them.”
Cleopatra is the kind of encouraging parent that we as an organization are grateful for. When asked what she would like to see from PeacePlayers in the future, she responded, “I would love to see more children in Cyprus have the opportunity to be a part of PeacePlayers. The organisation is an excellent tool for promoting good relations between our Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities, and the kids that are involved are getting a lot out of it.”
On behalf of the entire PPI family around the world, we are wishing every mom a Happy Mother’s Day!
This week we have a guest blogger, Tenealle Tenwolde. Tenealle was one of Chad Ford’s students from BYU that was featured in the blog from last week. Below Tenealle shares what PPI meant to her and what she learned from the program.
Believing that “children who play together can learn to live together” is an inspiring belief that was strongly translated in the PPI organization members. Meeting all the staff, from the International Fellow and the volunteers, to the Managing and Operating Directors, I felt a sense of family between them all. They didn’t just operate as co-workers but with a loving friendship of importance. Greeting us with hugs and laughs we immediately felt welcomed, a genuine love and meaningful relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
That authentic care has positively influenced the kids they work with and I’m so grateful I was able to experience and feel it. As Caitie, Taylor (other BYU visiting students) and I entered the gym to a mini’s practice, we were shown so many smiles, hugs and even basketball tips from the kids. We instantly felt a connection and the phenomenon of seeing people as people was in full effect. Even though everyone spoke different languages, we all understood the happiness that was felt.
Like every family or organization, problems will arise and struggles will appear, but with that genuine love and shared passion to bring children together to find peace, PPI comes together to overcome, sustain peace and strengthen their family relationships.
I’m so happy I was able to be a part of that for the brief time we spent there. It has inspired me so much and shown me that we all need each other to grow, love and overcome obstacles. Even the smallest act can bring the greatest change and I believe PPI is making those small changes to create influential greatness.
The text and pictures for today’s PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) post come from Michael Brannigan, a student at Prince’s Trust. He spent the last two weeks helping us out on a work placement.
I considered myself lucky to be given this opportunity to work with PeacePlayers. As far as I’m concerned, working with youth through sport is one of the best jobs there is. The line of work I’ve been taking part in has involved bringing children from ages 8 to 11 in primary schools and ages 14 to 15 in secondary schools. The children come from Protestant and Catholic communities and learn about basketball and community relations. I can already see the impact the programming has on kids in terms of their confidence, teamwork, understanding, and new friendships.
But this his has also been a great opportunity for me to build and focus on my leadership skills, which will benefit me in the future. Managing Director Gareth Harper suggested that I bring the team’s camera around with me to take a few pictures. Here are a few of my favorite shots!
This weekend marked the 139th Kentucky derby. The victorious horse, Orb, made a tremendous comeback late in the race after running in 15th place for the first half. It was the first derby win for Jockey Joel Rosario, as well as the trainer Shug McGaughey and Orb’s owner Ogden Mills Phipps. This race also had a few almost firsts. Jockey Rosie Napravnik was attempting to be the first female to ever win the race and Kevin Krigger was aiming at becoming the first African American to win in over 100 years. Even though they weren’t first to the finish line this time, their determination to be trailblazers was inspiring. Also this week, NBA player Jason Collins made history by becoming the first openly gay professional active athlete who plays for one of the four major American sports. The trailblazer Collins explained that he was no longer afraid and wanted to share who he was with the world.
PeacePlayers International has its own fair share of trailblazers too. This past week, a team of 12 young basketball players, six Greek-Cypriots and six Turkish-Cypriots from PPI – Cyprus, traveled to Norway to participate in a Norwegian youth basketball tournament in Bergen, and won second place! They are the first bi-communal boys team from Cyprus to play in an international basketball tournament, a tremendous milestone for PPI. These young trailblazers showed everyone how sport can bring us together. Now that they are back, they will continue to bridge divides and change perceptions. All of PPI’s programs, in the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland and Cyprus, strive to think differently and change perceptions by developing young leaders through basketball.
This week’s blog is written by Coach Michalis Seraphim of PPI – Cyprus’ Kiti boys and girls teams. Michalis, along with PPI coaches Bahar Mevlit, Thanasis Souflias and Sevki Pirlanta, recently traveled to Norway with a PeacePlayers bi-communal boys basketball team to compete for the prestigious Hansa Cup. PeacePlayers would like to thank the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Jotun Group and Nordic Choice Hotels, who all contributed to having Cyprus’ first integrated basketball team compete in international competition.
May 23rd was the day we had all been waiting for and it had finally arrived. Just 7 weeks after forming Cyprus’ first ever bi-communal boys’ basketball team, our group of 12 teenage boys and 4 coaches headed to the airport to begin our journey in Norway. After a 5-hour flight from Paphos, we arrived in Oslo where we met with representatives from the Jotun Group – one of our sponsors for the trip – were given new jackets, and ferried to the city of Nesodden to meet our host families who were members of the Nesodden Basketball Team. The warmth that we felt from the Nesodden team immediately lifted off any reluctance from our boys, demonstrating how sports can overcome social barriers like language, nationality and culture (in our case electronic video consoles helped too!).
In Nesodden we visited a local high school where our boys gave a presentation to 2 different classes on the history of Cyprus, PeacePlayers and how we are using basketball to bridge divides in conflict areas. Most exciting event, however, was watching and participating in a show with The Harlem Globetrotters (more stories about that in next week’s blog).
We also had the chance to spend two days in Oslo where we visited the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Museum, the Nobel Peace Center, the Red Cross Central Office, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Gry Larsen. These experiences increased our understanding of Norway’s firm dedication and legacy in promoting peace worldwide. Regarding Cyprus, it is my personal opinion that PRIO’s Cyprus Center should get more recognition as it has published a variety of scientific research on the Cyprus conflict.
We arrived in Bergen early Saturday, April 27th with only a few hours of sleep. The sense that the tournament was bigger than we had thought was causing a little stress for everybody. The Hansa Cup is the most prestigious tournament in Norway, attracting the majority of Norwegian clubs to compete. We didn’t fully realize the magnitude of the tournament until we spoke with other coaches and players. Just being there was a milestone for our organization – for the first time a competitive team, comprised of both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, was going to compete in an official international tournament.
These factors brought a tremendous amount of passion to our team. We won our first game handily. The fear of the unknown made our boys struggle for every ball, fight for every possession, they just spilled their guts out! After our first game the coaches could see in our team’s eyes that any social barriers that may have remained had disappeared. They were ONE team, they were boys who love the game, they were CYPRIOTS, and although our opponents in the second game were stronger, we won it too.
That night the boys slept well and awoke Sunday ready to play. Even though we had only really had a few practices together, there was the feeling that we had been together as a team for many months, partially due to our time spent together at the LDP camp in Kantara, and the 3 days in Nesodden. With this spirit inside of us we proceeded to the knock-out stage of the tournament, advancing all the way to the finals. After a hard fought match, we finished second and were awarded the silver medal. But this was much more than winning or losing: this was a group that started as a mixed group of boys from different communities and finished up as one team.
This was an experience that gave positive emotions to everybody. I hope PeacePlayers participates again, and I hope to see Nesodden young players at our summer camps in Cyprus. Finally, I hope that other players, boys and girls, and other coaches, have the opportunity for such an experience because I believe that this journey was the essence of what PeacePlayers is all about.
P.S. What I described above would not be possible if we coaches did not lead by example. For most of us, it was the first time that we were in a coaching staff of 4, not to mention leading a mixed group, and I believe that each of us played a specific role that was crucial to our success.
P.P.S. Special credit needs to be given to my friend and fellow coach, Sevki Pirlanta, for being PPI’s photographer and capturing so many wonderful memories we will cherish forever. To see all the pictures from our journey, like our Facebook Page!
PPI – Middle East had the great pleasure of hosting Global Board Member and friend, Chad Ford, and three of his students this past week. Chad is a Professor at Brigham Young University – Hawaii (BYUH) and Director of the University’s McKay Center. He is known for his study of conflict resolution with an emphasis on large group ethnic and religious conflict, as well as for his sports journalism with ESPN. This week’s blog features highlights from an interview with his three students, Caitlyn Nalder, Tenealle Tenwolde and Taylor Rippy, who were given the opportunity to visit the Middle East for the very first time.
Why did you apply to come on this trip with Chad to the Middle East?
Tenealle: I decided to apply for this trip because of the amazing stories Chad has told us about PeacePlayers and my personal interest in conflict resolution. The opportunity to put all my peace building studies to work and really see a different culture. I had to apply!
What did you want to get out of this experience?
Caitlyn: The thing I wanted most out of this trip was being able to spend time with the people, particularly the girls. I wanted to learn from them and in exchange maybe they could learn a thing or two, something small from me.
Can you tell of something that surprised you or what you walked away with after this experience?
Taylor: I reflect back on everything and I can’t believe I was there and experienced what I did. I was so overwhelmed with love for the people I met, specifically the PPI players. I wasn’t even anticipating it, but the first day I walked into the gym where the girls were warming up, I almost exploded into tears. It was the greatest warmth and love that just rushed over me. I truly immediately loved each one of them. And now I’m crying as I write this. The region itself is beautiful and the cultures, the people, the land. I close my eyes and it all comes back. I never want to lose that.
Were there any moments that really touched you in your time here?
Caitlyn: I was deeply touched when walking into the gym with the girls warming up for a game. Music was bumpin’, and the energy was alive. There was a special spirit there. Tears fell down my cheeks and the thought clearly and distinctly entered my mind, “You’re at the feet of heroes here. These girls are going to change the world. Powerful leaders and influences for good are in front of you, stay connected with them. They have a lot to teach you.” From that point on things changed. I couldn’t help but want to get to know them, no matter the language and cultural barriers. At the heart of it all, we are alive, breathing, and people. And above all, we have the capacity to love.
Tenealle: Seeing the biblical sights, the amazing architecture and the religious perspective was amazing and influential. But the moments that really touched me was how we all interacted around the table. The culture of food is so inviting, not only because absolutely everything I ate was delicious but also because it wasn’t just a time to eat together it was a time to share our thoughts and share the joy. We would always share our dishes and exchange our thoughts openly and freely. It was an invigorating feeling and strengthened our relationships and showed how commonalities in cultures can bring us together.
Today, we hear from PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) Project Coordinator Darryl Petticrew one last time before he moves on to a post with Ulster Rugby. We are both sad and proud to see him go; he has served us so well in the past six years.
I’ve been with PPI-NI for almost six years now, and it’s been an amazing journey, one that I don’t believe will ever fully end. I first got involved with the organization while sitting at my desk, studying in Ardoyne. My phone began to ring, and I answered, hearing an American accent in response. I was confused but just went with it, and the guy on the other end of the phone rambled on about an organization called PeacePlayers International and how he would love for me to get involved. I decided to meet with this guy, who introduced himself as Sean Tuohey. Little did I know that this would be the start of a long journey with PPI-NI.
Sean and I decided to meet at a café called the Toasted Soda, now McCaufield’s, in Ardoyne, a place that we now take all our new fellows as a tradition. I arrived alone and was joined by five people, including Sean, Kelly Lyons (PPI-NI Managing Director at the time) and a few others. We began to talk about the programme, specifically the first twinning with Holy Cross Girls and Wheatfield Primary Schools. My ears perked up and from that moment on I was hooked.
My first event with PPI-NI was the twinning featured in the ESPY piece with the two schools. I remember the kids running into the gym, so excited to be doing something different and meeting kids that they might not have been able to before. The kids were smiling, the energy was amazing. Seeing the children from my neighborhood getting the opportunity to play sport together outside of all the off-court conflicts is something I will carry with me forever. At that moment, nothing could have wiped the smile of my face.
I remember thinking to myself “how can it get any better than this?” To this day I still have the same thought every single day. I constantly think, “this is actually my job, I’m doing something I love and it’s making a difference.” PPI-NI has been good to me over the past six years, I’ve made countless memories, and I have met people that will be a part of my life forever.
I am leaving the office to take up a new job, but I am most certainly not “leaving” the organization. I look forward to being on the other end of PPI-NI’s partnership with Ulster Rugby. And the mission, vision, and ethos of PPI-NI will be in my heart for the rest of my life.
A few weeks ago, we proudly announced that 9 of our PPI-SA coaches had been selected to take part in the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport (YES) Programme. Our coaches have just returned from the first leg of their training, a 10-day retreat to Shongweni Dam just outside of Durban. While we are busy gathering feedback and stories from our coaches, please enjoy this blog written by PPI-SA coach Andile Msomi after day 5 of the training. Andile participated in the YES pilot programme last year and was asked to return this year to help the first-year participants along:
It is almost the end of day five of the Laureus YES program at Shongweni Dam Spirit of Adventure. This place is a constant reminder that the “earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”. I couldn’t be anywhere else but here. I adore everything about this place; the people, the air, the mountains, the trees; it just makes me think, wow… this is what it is to be happy.
The YES Leaders 2013 have been consistently working hard, pulling a sweat every day. Every day is presented with a variety of a combination of accredited and non accredited activities that brings out the best in everyone in so many different levels; The leaders shared that, when they partake in these activities their “confidence is challenged, they are put under pressure, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, it’s beautiful, enlightening, and adventurous’’. They added that “nothing is impossible”. Therefore, a lot of emotions are being shaken, catered for, provoked and tested. However, all of this is “crazy fun”!
Today was filled with exhilarating activities. In the morning there were seminars where people presented on anything and everything. The presentations were amazing; you could tell that people put effort into it even when presenting is not everyone’s
strongest attribute. This goes to show that continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking one’s potential. It was an honor sitting through the presentations and hearing people presenting about things that affects them spiritually and emotionally, positively and negatively. To mention a few topics, “21st century youth vs. the olden day youth”, “personal inner drive”, “love” etc. They were real. Two big events that took place today were abseiling and jumping down the dam wall that is 7 meters (23 ft.) high. A lot of emotions and feelings were apparently floating in the air. Some felt thrilled, it was a breakthrough for some, and some were threatened, a victory for some, and others were phobic and afraid. And for me, it was a reminder that water has the power to take lives. I respect nature and its course, I admire its peacefulness, and I recognize its presence because it is just too beautiful and truthful to be missed. But mostly, I envy its power and abilities.
Privileged, blessed and lucky would understate the feelings I have towards the discovery of the Laureus YES program. The program continuously turns the leaves of hope and faith for me. It just humbles me to be given an opportunity to be part of this program that equips me with the skills to be a better person, to be resilient in life, to accept myself and the world around me, to lead and follow when needed, to learn, face my fears, explore and to be around people that seeks to better themselves and the people around them. YES is home away from home, it’s my shoulder to lean on, it’s my breakthrough, it’s a ladder towards my sunny days. Moreover, it’s a reminder that wherever I go, no matter the weather, I should always try to bring my own sunshine.
The leaders this year are great beyond words, I have learnt so much from them in the past 5 days and excited to learn some more for the rest of the journey. I am thankful to Laureus for continuously giving the opportunities to learn and be surrounded by such amazing souls.
p.s. just remember that when it is dark enough, you can see the stars
This week, as Nate Robinson of the Chicago Bulls was willing his team to a triple overtime victory, and Stephen Curry rained threes out of Oakland, a group of young PeacePlayers were competing for their own championship. A team of 12 young basketball players, six Greek-Cypriot and six Turkish-Cypriots from PeacePlayers – Cyprus traveled to Norway this week to participate in a Norwegian youth basketball tournament in Bergen – the Hansa Cup. Here is an update from PPI – Cyprus Managing Director, Marina Vasilara:
Our team’s trip to Norway is not over yet, but earlier today, after a long (11 hour) bus ride from Oslo to Bergen, our team with 1000% effort made it to the finals and got second place! An unbelievable achievement from a complete ‘outsider’ team. Second place is not bad, but our kids are in every respect the big winners – from what they gained this past 5 days from their host families in Nesodden, playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, putting on a presentation about PeacePlayers and Cyprus at a local high school , and visiting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet with the Minister himself. We are extremely proud of them!
The trip is part of PeacePlayers’ continuous effort to bring together youths from different backgrounds to learn from one another and contribute to a better future in Cyprus. Since its creation in 2006, PPI’s programs in Cyprus have worked with over 3,000 youth from the island’s ethnically divided communities. In a recent article in the CyprusMail, the Norwegian Ambassador, Sjur Larsen said: “PeacePlayers and the Norwegian embassy share the same vision, to unite Cypriot youth across the island. We believe that by bringing these youths together they will learn from each other and be better able to contribute to Cyprus in the future.”
“Play for peace, respect each other” answered one of our PeacePlayers Leadership Development participants when we asked her what PPI-Cyprus means to her. This past weekend 31 PeacePlayers boys and girls between the ages of 15 to 17, spent 3 days and 2 nights at our semi-annual leadership retreat. Friday afternoon the buses picked up the kids and brought them to the checkpoint in Nicosia, but this time was different than all of our previous weekend retreats. Instead of the Turkish Cypriot youth crossing through the checkpoints into the south, it was the young Greek Cypriots turn to now cross to their friends’ side in the north for a long weekend. While to an outsider this may seem like just another weekend camp, to those of us within the PeacePlayers-Cyprus family we understand the depths of meaning behind this moment. The staff and the board at PPI-CY has been making an effort to balance out the number of events that we hold in the two communities and give our players the opportunities to feel comfortable visiting the rest of their island.
Kantara camp is nestled in the mountains that stretch out towards the Karpaz Peninsula on the northeastern stretches of the island. Three outdoor basketball courts surrounded by small bunkhouses in the forested mountain range made for an ideal setting for our weekend retreat. Respect was the buzz word for the weekend as we explored the essences of respecting one another, respecting ourselves and respecting the environment. Nick Symmons, from The Cyprus Environmental Studies Centre led sessions in the classroom and in the forest focusing on bio-diversity and environmental awareness.
The retreat also served as a bonding, teambuilding weekend for our PeacePlayers boys team who left Tuesday for their week long trip to Norway to play in the Hansa Cup. They arrived Tuesday evening in Oslo and took a ferry up to Nessodden where they are currently living with host families, visiting the local high school and playing friendly matches with the local team, who happen to also be their host brothers. Check out the video that aired on national TV in Norway: http://nrksuper.no/super/supernytt/2013/04/25/spiller-for-fred/
Please follow along on our Facebook page for daily updates from the team!