PPI Blog Feed
PPI Board member and General Manager of Southeastern Europe for the adidas group, Lawrence Norman, visited PeacePlayers-Cyprus this week to meet our young leaders and play some basketball. Lawrence was joined by a group from the adidas Corporate office in Cyprus. For many of the adidas Cyprus team, this was the first time they have interacted with Turkish-Cypriot basketball players, and many stated repeatedly how much fun they had and how much they learned.
A small island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has been physically divided by a UN Buffer Zone since an inter-ethnic war in 1974 split the island into two separate Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Today, many youth grow up without ever meeting anyone from the “other side”. PeacePlayers-Cyprus uses the game of basketball to allow Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play together, learn together and build positive relationships that overcome generations of mistrust. PeacePlayers is currently the only year-round bi-communal youth sports organization on the island.
“When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.” – Lawrence Norman
When the group from adidas arrived, they were greeted by PeacePlayers coaches and participants. International Fellow Ryan Hage and Program Coordinator Stephanie Nicolas gave a presentation on the history of PeacePlayers and how we use sport to promote bi-communal interaction. United States Ambassador John Koenig, also spoke to the group, saying: “It’s been a pleasure since I have become an Ambassador here to be associated with a program like PeacePlayers-Cyprus and to support them in any way possible.”
Finally, PeacePlayers participants were given a chance to share their own experiences and explain how the program has helped them overcome stereotypes and build lifelong friendships. Many from the adidas group were amazed at what the youth had to say, and had many questions including how they could get their own children involved in the program!
After the meeting, the adidas group played basketball with the PeacePlayers participants at Ledra Palace. Lots of smiles and laughs were had during the contest, and the adidas workers were impressed at the skill of some of the participants. Lawrence Norman participated in the action on the court, and spent time speaking with many of our participants, hearing stories of how PeacePlayers has changed their life. Later, Lawrence told our staff, “When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.”
We would like to thank adidas for their ongoing support, and the group for spending a whole day with PeacePlayers, getting to know the coaches and participants on a personal level. On behalf of all our coaches and participants around globe, THANK YOU ADIDAS!
PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland intern Shawna Walsh shares her experience of the #BelfastHour networking event she attended last Sunday at the Odyssey arena.
Twitter is no longer just for following celebrities and daily musings of each others’ lives. It has proven itself to be a very effective tool bringing small businesses, charities and organizations together on a platform to share ideas, events and successes with one another. Every Thursday night from 21:00-22:00, #BelfastHour is a host to over 350 businesses in Northern Ireland looking to network, learn and share and of course, practice our social media skills! Almost every week #BelfastHour trends in the top four in the United Kingdom.
This past Sunday, PPI-NI social media queen Nasiphi Khafu was lucky enough to be invited to #BelfastHour’s first in-person networking event hosted by the Belfast Giants – Northern Ireland’s local ice hockey team. Mingling with some of Belfast’s most connected organisations was a great way to promote the work we do with others who value our vision. Since we spend most of our time on the basketball court and in schools, #BelfastHour is a great opportunity to take a step back, or shall I say into, technology to learn about what other like-minded organisations are doing and share how people can get involved with our programs. As Edward Norton said, “Instead of telling the world what you’re eating for breakfast, you can use social networking to do something that’s meaningful.” Don’t be social media shy, it’s the wave of the future!
If you wish to explore more about this online platform, all you have to do is use the hashtag #belfastour which will lead you to all our discussions taking place in the twitter universe. According to NI Business Now, over four and a half million timelines have been hit to date! Talk about reaching thousands of people through simple word-of-mouth. Imagine how many people we could get excited about basketball, bridging divides developing leaders and changing perceptions.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @peaceplayers, tagging #PPI_NI, on Instagram @peaceplayersintl, and of course Facebook PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland!
Today’s blog is written by PPI-SA’s newest member: Sbahle Mkhize. Sbahle joins the team as the Fundraising and Marketing Manager. She previously coached for PPI-SA from 2012-2013 and even during her brief stint away was very involved as a volunteer. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Sbahle to the team.
From a very young age basketball has been a part of my life. One can say my career started in Pelham Senior Primary School, in city called Pietermaritzburg (just 1 hr West of Durban). I was always an active child and always tried to participate in different sports. But it was in grade 5, when the Under-11 basketball coach invited me to try out for the basketball team that I realised my love for the game of basketball. I made the A-team, and from there basketball became a part of me. Throughout Primary school I represented KwaZulu Natal which exposed me to a number of different parts of South Africa and showed me just how big basketball was. From Pelham, I made my way to Pietermaritzburg Girls High School, which had and still does have one of the top ladies basketball teams in South Africa. It didn’t take long for me to flourish. I started playing for the 1st team from grade 10 and eventually became the 1st team captain. My time as a player and captain at PMB Girls High taught me valuable lessons like discipline, leadership and commitment, the same lessons we impart on kids today at PPI.
When it came to deciding what I would study in University, a Bachelor Degree in Sport Science was an obvious choice. I was excited when I got accepted to further my studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, Westville, however, very nervous about moving to a city where I only knew a few people. Shortly after the move, I was introduced to Mtu Zulu at a National Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament. He spoke to me about Peace Players International and encouraged me to apply for a coaching job there. I had never been exposed to an organization of this nature in Pietermaritzburg. So, when the opportunity presented itself it didn’t take a long time for me to apply for the job. What I loved about PPI was that it merged the two things I was and still am passionate about –basketball and developing the youth of South Africa.
I joined PPI in 2012 as a coach for Durban Primary School. Coaching, for me, was an amazing platform to apply the conditioning and coaching principles I had learnt while studying and pass on the skills and techniques I had learnt from my coaches and mentors over the years. But most importantly, it was an opportunity to learn! Within a year with PPI I was afforded the opportunity to be a part of the Laureus Youth Empowerment Through Sports Programme and the Coaching for Hope Programme, where I met people from across the planet doing similar work and at the same time gained valuable skills such as project management and an introduction to entrepreneurship.
In 2013, I decided to take a step back from coaching and focus all my attention on completing my Honours Degree in Sport Science and Leisure Sciences. Upon my completion of my Honours, an opportunity to re-join the PPI team revealed itself. I applied for the position for the Marketing and Fundraising Manager and it was successful. I am over ecstatic to join PPI-SA full time!
One can say this is a success story, but, I believe that my story is what PPI is all about. All the coaches training and mentorship I received, and the programmes I was a part of, because of PPI, played a major role in equipping me for me this position. No University textbook or lecture could teach me what the team at PPI did during my time with them. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Hello PeacePlayers! My is David Korang and I am the new Technical Assistant Intern here from Liberty University. I will be graduating in May with a bachelors in Sports Management and hope to begin a career in basketball operations after spending the summer overseas as a sports missionary.
This is a pivotal moment in the civil relations of the United States. The deaths and legal proceedings to end the year have led to protest, riots, and encouraged mistrust between the black community and law enforcement. From Ferguson, Missouri, to New York City, to Berkeley, California, a number of demonstrations have taken place in solidarity of those who have lost their lives and to evoke legal, social, and cultural reform.
America has unmistakably taken great strides to end racism and is often considered a beacon of equality around the world. In comparison to the social climate of 1860s, and 1960s, peace has been achieved but the reality is there is still work to be done. There are still racial differences and prejudices that shape our lives that need to openly be addressed if this country is to move forward. There are still instances where the color of my skin is a hazard to my health or at least influences my credibility regardless of my knowledge, experience, or merit pertaining to the situation.
It is important for us as a nation to open the lines of communication and listen to the experiences of both sides. Too often it seems we are quick to speak but slow to hear from those who may oppose our views and opinions. This is a time when America can begin to bridge racial divides again. Only after listening can we begin to understand and empathize with one another, then develop ways to resolve these issues and move forward as a nation.
Seeing people come together to end conflict is the reason why I enjoy working for PeacePlayers. I know the work we do will help others see past prejudices and other preconceived notions to reconcile relations for peace. We have the privilege to help youth around the world look past racial, ethnical, and religious differences to accomplish a goal on the court, which in return creates off the court trust, respect, and camaraderie. I am honored to be working with PeacePlayers International, and I hope to use the knowledge and approaches we use around the world to help my community grow closer right here in the states.
PeacePlayers newest addition to the Middle East team, LaToya Fisher, shares some insight on her first month as a Fellow.
I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I first arrived in Israel! There have been some very memorable moments and lots of basketball. The day after my arrival I was fortunate enough to participate in a twinning and it was so amazing to see girls from two different communities coming together to learn about one another and play basketball. I was also very relieved and grateful at how welcoming they were towards me and interested in learning more about me and speaking with me. My favorite event so far was the WinterFest where children from all of the different schools we work with came together and got to do activities such as Kung Fu, juggling, coloring a mural, and a basketball obstacle course. The event allowed me to interact a lot with the kids and hang out and work with some of the coaches and PPI-ME participants that I see less often.
One thing that has been very interesting to me is the weather here versus Maryland. When I landed, it was after a snow storm and my roommate Heni told me that the snowfall was a big deal and people were driving to Jerusalem just to see it and the city had shut down for a while. What made this so interesting was that the snow was a light dusting (little accumulation) and something that would not disrupt things back home. Due to the snow that fell before I arrived, I also experienced some power issues, one of which was not having water…The day before I went to the main office to meet my other co-workers and boss. Luckily I hadn’t done any exercising the day before so I didn’t smell too badly! Thank goodness for bottled water and body spray. Overall I prefer this winter, where there have been days I could wear shorts, to winter in Maryland.
I am adjusting fairly well and the language barrier has not been a huge issue. Although, I will say that I have become even more aware of my surroundings and pay close attention to detail since I got lost when I first got here. About a week or so after I arrived, I was introduced to a shawarma place (amazing!) close to where I was staying and decided to get some food by myself to take back to the house. When I tried to find my way home I got terribly disoriented and wandered around for an hour. I finally found my way home with the help of a really nice stranger and ate my wonderful cold shawarma and chips (fries). It turns out I was literally around the corner from where I was staying. That was my first and last time getting lost and now I’m basically an expert!
So far Jerusalem has proved to be full of charm, diversity, and adventure. I feel like I’ve experienced a lot in just one month and can only imagine how this rest of this journey will go. There is so much history, opportunity, and beauty around me in this country and I can’t wait to take it all in and see what the future holds. Hopefully less shower-less nights and getting lost and more great food and basketball.
PeacePlayers International-Norther Ireland Intern Will Massey shares his experience of working Castlereigh Borough Council Project.
I recently discovered a difficult truth. Belvoir is inexplicably pronounced “beaver,” and nobody has been able to give account for why that would be. I have been in Belvoir twice now to lead community relations session for a program with the Castlereigh Borough Council. The three-week program gives a group of 30 children aged 8-11 an opportunity to play rugby, football, Gaelic, and basketball together and to experience PeacePlayers’ magnificent community relations seminars. You would be familiar with this idea of bringing deferent sports from the Game Of Three Halves (GO3H), where we invite our partners from Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby to assist us with coaching.
Most PPI – Northern Ireland programs deal explicitly with the divide between Protestant and Catholic communities, and for most groups of children this is a sensible approach. However, not all the kids we worked with in Belvoir match the binary that characterizes most of Northern Ireland. For instance, children born in China and Sudan are participating, who cannot easily identify with the particulars of Catholic and Protestant relations. But the mission of PeacePlayers is not restricted to just one cultural division, and it is not hard to adjust session plans so that our activities and conversations are relatable for children who do not identify as Catholic or Protestant. PeacePlayers is about constructing a peaceful society, and all children need to feel that they belong in that conversation. Whether they be Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Buddhist, it is so important that we can be intentionally inclusive.
The work of changing perceptions can address historical conflicts but can also anticipate future conflicts. I cannot report any statistics, but the demographic landscape of Northern Ireland seems to be changing. The Castlereigh project demonstrates that. If Northern Ireland is anything like my country of origin, the United States, then children from minority backgrounds will occasionally be the victims of hurtful stereotypes and unfriendly words. As Northern Ireland becomes more diverse, the task of promoting diversity through sport becomes even more exciting and important.
It was really great to also get an opportunity to work with PPI – NI coach and Senior Champion4Peace, Michaela Thompson. Because I am mostly based in Ballymena, I hardly get time to work and interact with other coaches that are based in Belfast. It is always great to get these opportunities to work in these projects as it helps us to get more access to children that might not be in our programming already. Thank you to Castlereigh Borough Council Project for asking PPI-NI to assist in delivering this project.
Last week we heard from Thando Msweli, one of the most experienced coaches at PPI-SA. But we thought you should have the opportunity to meet ALL our coaches, so we are starting the series PPI-SA – Introducing Our Coaches. Every week you will hear from another of our 20 coaches making noise hear in Durban. Today, we hear from one of the newest additions to PPI-SA’s coaching staff – Samkelo Linda. Samkelo coached his first practice less than a week ago, and it’s very clear that he has a natural ability to relate to and teach youth. He’s quite a guy. Here’s his thoughts and reflections from his 2 weeks at PPI-SA.
My name is Samkelo Linda and I am an 18 year old male from Kwadabeka, South Africa. I matriculated from Sthokozile Sececondary School in 2014. I have been playing basketball since 2010 when I was in grade 8. It has been an amazing experience and I have gained a lot of knowledge and made a number of friends from different walks of life thanks to basketball.
I first got introduced to PeacePlayers by coach Bryan Franklin. He came into my township to check my old team, and when I saw him I just went straight to him. We talked about my team and he told me about PeacePlayers and that I will have an opportunity to coach young kids – I gladly accepted!
Last week I conducted my first try out session at Glenmore Primary School – a school where PeacePlayers has been working for several years. For the first time I was afraid of little kids, I was so nervous I did not know what to expect. But with help coming from coach Ben, coach Mdu, and the school and especially Ms Pillay, I managed to get my nerves away.
We played a lot of games and we taught fundamentals of basketball like passing, dribbling, shooting and the jump stop. The kids were learning fast and there was progression. The experience was really fun because the kids had energy and they were excited for basketball.
After the practice, kids came to me asking if they have made the team or not, which showed me that they really have love for basketball and they really want to be on the team. The selecting was very challenging because coach Mdu and I had to look for good character, teamwork, skills and the love of the game in the kids. It did not matter if a kid is black or white, because the main idea is to unite them and become one family. It was exciting to select the final team and it was sad at the same time because it is hard to decline a little kid but those that made the team were very excited and happy. Even though there were kids that did not get in the team, we ensured them that if they keep on working hard they will definitely make the team in the future.
Being a coach at Glenmore Primary School is a big step for me. I know PeacePlayers has a lot to teach us as young coaches and I am looking forward for it. This will completely change my behavior, I will have to learn to be a leader and one thing I like is I can apply my knowledge of being a leader somewhere else in life.
I have realized that as PPI-SA coaches we are really putting discipline in the kids while we on practice. They might have fun but at the same time there are rules like listening, no bullying, etc. These rules bring change in the kids mindset because in regular life the same rules apply. That is where I see the power of sport on someone’s life.
I am really looking forward for the future with PPI. I have a good feeling we will make history and change lives.
Today’s blog is written by Brian Kelley, a Freshman basketball player at Babson College. Brian has a passion for teaching, community service, and definitely basketball!
It is a special privilege to be on the Babson Men’s Basketball Team. Babson is a great school and being able to wear the green and white is an honor. Recently, the team has undergone a cultural shift these last 2 years. Now sitting 19-2 and recently ranked 11th in the country in division 3 basketball, we are receiving a lot of attention. However, it was not too long ago, the 2012-2013 campaign to be specific, where the team held just 8 players and struggled to float above .500.
This year’s team has worked extremely hard every day physically. Coach Brennan has been pleased with our continuous great work ethic. With three senior captains leading the team, the underclassmen and I are learning from terrific models of the program. The new players, 6 freshmen and 2 transfers, have helped contribute to the team in a variety of ways, but ultimately it has been the team’s returning nucleus that has pushed us to this dream season. With the mindset of treating each game one at a time, we set a new standard each day during practice in preparation of the next challenge. Our belief is that each win is as important as the next.
Being a part of such a historical season has been awesome. This season is something I will never forget. Playing with such motivated teammates is just another example of how basketball brings people toward a common goal while creating lasting friendships.
Today’s blog is proudly brought to you by Jason Hage, brother of International Fellow Ryan Hage. Jason came to visit Cyprus for a week and got a first hand account of what PeacePlayers achieves on a daily basis.
Peace is such a tricky thing because it means that we have to let go of a little bit of ourselves to let the other in. Often times we can be so consumed with ourselves, with our own little world, that we cannot see the people standing right in front of us. What we may think is the healthy task of maintaining personal boundaries actually can become a constricting behavior that results in trapping ourselves into an invisible prison where we do not allow ourselves to love or to be loved.
PeacePlayers is one such organization that aims at breaking down the barriers that keep one human person from acknowledging the humanity of another. They do this most of all by fostering the gift of friendship by teaching the game of basketball. After I experienced a “twinning” during my visit, which is when groups from all over the island join together in a basketball clinic, I was struck by how the PeacePlayers organization was not simply about bringing up future basketball stars. No, it was first and foremost about creating an environment for friendship where one person could begin to discover the deep connection they have with the person in front of them.
As I watched a “twinning” unfold, I could not believe what was happening before my very eyes. I observed children who knew nothing of the other move from tepid interaction to genuine interest and finally into acceptance and openness to the other. I was watching friendship blossom before me, and I could not help but think about how without the dedicated coaches and staff who work tirelessly at making this program a success, none of which I was encountering that day would be a possibility. Children, who at first were not sure how to interact, were soon playing and joking and laughing together in a most unlikely place at a most unlikely time.
Encountering this program first hand has given me renewed hope and encouragement that efforts at peace in this world are not only admirable, but also possible. Peace is such a precious gift. I believe that the gift of peace is itself the manifestation of the presence of God on earth. I also believe that anyone who works toward fostering peace are signs of God’s activity in our world. May the PeacePlayers organization remain steadfast in its all-important work of building peace in parts of our world where some think it impossible. For where a little good will exists with a touch of grace the most unimaginable things can begin to take place. I believe the unimaginable is happening through the PeacePlayers organization in Cyprus, and I am filled with such gratitude that I was able to witness it myself.
An integral part of PeacePlayers-Middle East programing is the Peace Education Curriculum that was developed to meet the needs of the participants within a basketball setting. Through the Peace Education program, participants are learning important skills, which also compliment the Twinning topics. The underling theme that weaves the Peace Education topics together is the Arbinger motto of seeing people as people. By teaming up with the Arbinger Institute, PeacePlayers is making sure the youth are able to understand and deal with the dynamics of conflict.
Using basketball helps send these important messages to the players in an effective manner. Instead of hearing a lecture and losing attention, the youth engage in basketball and practice the lessons taught. By using the Arbinger concepts of seeing people as people, players are better able to dispel age-old stereotypes and build stronger relationships with each other. Having these sessions helps the players connect to each other in a safe environment and through an interactive basketball setting.
Before going out to the communities we work with and facilitating the Peace Education curriculum, the facilitating staff come together and asses the needs of each team to create sessions that meet each team’s needs. Back in December, seven facilitators came together and planned the skeleton model for each team. Five of the seven facilitators were once participants who then received Arbinger facilitation training. PeacePlayers attempts to include older participants in as much programing as possible, coaching or facilitating for example, because they have an insider perspective. They are closer in age to the younger participants and have been through the program themselves.
The sessions so far have been a great success! “The participants are receptive and enjoy using basketball to learn,” says Duha, one of the facilitators. One of the sessions focused on understanding what PeacePlayers does as a global organization and learning about the different sites internationally. Each of theses international sites has something in common; there is conflict between communities. By exposing participants to the different traditions and cultures of the other sites, we are hoping to expand their abilities at looking at the big picture. Another facilitator commented on the dynamics of the sessions. “It’s amazing how much curiosity each team demonstrates when they are in theses sessions. They have plenty of questions and love to show what they learned”
As the basketball season wraps up here in Northern Ireland, Project Coordinator Joanne Fitzpatrick talks to 3 key members of the U14 girls team; player Eimear Ward from South West Belfast, assistant coach Aimee ‘AJ’ McMinn from North Belfast and coach Michaela Thompson from West Belfast.
Joanne: Tell us how you got involved in basketball?
AJ: I got involved with basketball when I was around 9-10 when PeacePlayers came in and signed us up for the Monster Mash Tournament and I’ve been playing ever since.
Eimear: I was 9 when a basketball coach first came to my school. When PeacePlayers came in at the start of primary seven, I began to really enjoy basketball and knew that I wanted to keep playing after I left primary school.
Michaela: I got involved in basketball back when I was 11/12. My uncle Sean has a youth club and he brought me along with them to PeacePlayers Community Centre League and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Joanne: What do you think makes the team different to other PeacePlayers programmes?
AJ: I think the fact that it’s an actual team that plays in the league. It’s more serious than the likes of Jingle Ball, but it’s still as fun as the other PeacePlayers programmes.
Eimear: With most of the programmes there is a balance between community relations and basketball, with the team it is solely based on basketball.
Michaela: The team runs on longer than most PeacePlayers programmes which helps the girls become closer as a team and, as they call themselves, a family.
Joanne: What have you gained this year from being involved in the team?
AJ: I have gained a lot of friendships from all over Belfast, with people who I wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for the team. I have been given the chance at assistant coaching this has given me the feel of what it’s like to be a coach for basketball, which I would like to do when I am older.
Eimear: This year from the team I believe that I have improved a lot of my basketball skills and in particular my dribbling. I have also enhanced my teamwork skills which are beneficial in all aspects of PeacePlayers.
Michaela: I have gained a lot more basketball knowledge and I have just loved being a part of this team watching the girls progress every single week.
Joanne: What are your goals for the team next year?
AJ: My goals for the team would be to have the assistant coach opportunity again, to teach others the skills I know and to bridge divides using basketball.
Eimear: I hope to continue to improve my basketball and teamwork skills.
Michaela: My goals for the team next year would be to come up with new drills for the girls, have a bigger team and to make them run a lot more :)
This week’s blog is written by Musa Abu-Dalu from East Jerusalem. Musa has been with PeacePlayers-Middle East and is sharing about his journey with PeacePlayers.
My name is Musa Abu-Dalu. I’m 16 years old, and I live in a small neighborhood called Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem. I’ve been participating in PeacePlayers for over seven years, and now I’m part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP). PeacePlayers has impacted my life in more ways than I imagined. Over time, I’ve learned how to treat all people the same, and that nobody is really that different no matter what their religion, identity, or beliefs are. We are all humans.
At first when I started participating in PeacePlayers I didn’t fully understand what it was all about. I thought the main focus was only basketball with diverse people, but as I grew older I understood that PeacePlayers is a life-changing program. The impact PeacePlayers has on people is astounding and I hope that it will only continue to grow and reach its full purpose to combine two divided communities together. PeacePlayers works because people start to enjoy the company of each other. Through PeacePlayers, my perceptions and ideas were changed.
One of the most life changing experiences that I had with PeacePlayers was going to a joint practice, a Twinning, that combined Arab and Jewish communities. It was very hard for me to participate in this practice because of all the stereotypes and false beliefs that I had about the other side. I even thought about quitting the program, but with more practices, I started to get to know the Jewish participants better and we eventually became friends. I have come to realize now that what I was taught was wrong and there is in fact hope for these two communities to come together and move past all the wrongdoing.
After seven years in PeacePlayers I’m now part of the LDP, and now I get to coach and teach young kids who believe the same things that I used to. I try to help them change what they think in every practice, Twinning, or just a small activity that we do as a team. I want my peers and the younger participants to have a more open mind and heart about everything in their lives in hopes that they then instill this in the next generation and so forth.
Being part of PeacePlayers is a privilege that not everybody gets to experience. I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to be with a program that cares about its participants and wants to make a change.
Casey Tryon PPI-NI International Fellow reflects on the her Super Bowl weekend experience in Belfast.
Soccer is easily the most popular sport in Northern Ireland, so I spent the week equating my love for the New England Patriots to the feelings the kids have for Manchester United, Liverpool, or any other Premier League team. While American football will never compete with soccer, it has been gaining popularity in the UK and Ireland over the last few years, and this year London hosted two NFL games. There is even talk that London may have its own NFL team in the next few years. I even had one student this week from Glenwood Primary tell me his dream job was to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Clearly, we have to work on where is loyalties lie.
Belfast is also home to the reigning Irish national champions, the Belfast Trojans, who have been won the title for the last three years. What’s more exciting than their championships is that each year they host a Super Bowl party as an annual fundraiser. Although the game didn’t start until almost midnight, over 800 tickets were sold! Living in a foreign isn’t always easy, and it’s great to have a little taste of home every now and then.
PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland also went ahead with some American football traditions this past weekend. Our Junior Champions4Peace (C4P’s), who are hoping to do an exchange trip to Brooklyn, NY in October, did their version of “Super Bowl Squares” as fundraiser for their exchange! Martin Johnston, one of our C4P’s, thinks this fundraiser is a great idea saying, “It’s really class to do a fundraiser that is relevant to the big sporting events that are happening in the world. If we are planning to go to America, it makes sense to learn about their sporting traditions and use those to help us get closer to making this trip a reality.” All 100 squares were sold and one of our Jr. C4P’s actually won both the second and third quarters! Being part of this event provides local kids an opportunity to learn about new sports and traditions. The Super Bowl is yet another example of the power sport has to bring people together.
Thando (Pronounced Tarn-doe) Msweli is an outstanding member of PPI-SA’s coaching staff and Professional Development Programme. Recently she participated, and did a little bit of teaching, at PPI-SA’s Professional Development Camp – A two day overnight experience in Valley of a Thousand Hills, Durban, South Africa. Today she shares her experiences and expectations for the the year to come in Durban!
I’ve been part of PeacePlayers International – South Africa since 2009 as a participant, and moved onto their PDP programme in 2014.This is my 2nd year as a PPI-SA coach, and I’m currently doing my 3rd year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal towards my Bachelor in Social Science (Housing).
Last week, old and new coaches attended a 2 day coaches training, which was not only informative but mind stimulating. The training sessions incorporated a variety of different aspects which would be useful for a coach – especially a first time coach. It help equipped us with the necessary skills needed to organize, grow, control and develop ourselves as coaches and our teams.
The training brought a lot of people out of their shells, it gave us as coaches clear guidance on what do to, how to do it and why we do it. It gave us direction and showed a 2nd year coach like me where I went wrong last year, where I needed to improve, and how to improve. It also empowered us as young coaches because we gained a number of skills during the training, like how to communicate better with our players and how to deal with certain situations which we may face.
The highlights of the training would definitely be the session about growing young people’s mind-sets, changing it from a fixed mind-set to a growth mind-set. That for me also changed my way of thinking and how I see and approach certain situations. It helped me expand the way I think and my general output on life. It also taught me how to motivate our team in order to help them grow their confidence. Another highlight of the training had to be “catch the flag’ a teambuilding activity/game that we played which brought out the competitive sides of people. That really made us work well and communicate well as a team, but most of all it was fun.
From this training session alone I feel like I’m a better coach, well equipped with the necessary skills to facilitate, plan practice sessions, monitor and evaluate progress of my players and build positive relationships. I also learnt a lot about myself and grew as a person and as a coach. With all the knowledge gained and the great people around to help and share ideas, we will most definitely be bridging divides, developing leaders and changing perceptions community by community.
This week’s blog is written by Amanda Busch, Technical Supervisor at Instituto Passe de Mágica (IPM), an organization that uses sport for development in underprivileged neighborhoods in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since 2012, PPI and IPM have been working together thanks to the support from the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
Our history with PeacePlayers International began in 2012, when we were invited by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to learn about PPI’s methodology with several other organizations in Argentina. Like Passe de Mágica (IPM), each organization there used sport to promote integration between different communities, encouraging dialogue and friendship.
At the beginning of 2013 we were pleased to host Gunnar Hagstrom in Sao Paulo, a fantastic team member from PPI. With his outgoing and dynamic way, he taught us not only about PPI’s methodology, but several ways to share with people the knowledge. Gunnar also found out a lot about the work we do, and how we teach basketball to kids as young as 8 years old.
Following the training, we were invited to work with PPI as facilitators in a new course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As the only Brazilian institution that had participated in previous course, this time we were able to share the way we use the Anatomy of Peace methodology, contextualizing it to our national situation. In Brazil, all institutions working with sport are required to have their staff be certified in this area, so we are often challenged to relate the human development side to our coaches. The Anatomy of Peace was a great tool to teach these concepts, and brought us another way to see others and understand that everyone has a life context that needs to be taken into consideration. PPI helped enlarge our vision of the communities we serve, and helped us in the way we see and recognize each other.
We thank PPI for the opportunities that have been generated and the partnership that has been extended. We hope that we can more and more contribute methodologically, politically and especially in favor of human development around the world!
Today’s blog is brought to you by Emine Ulucay, a Turkish-Cypriot Dietician who has just started working with the participants from PeacePlayers as part of our partnership with the Cyprus Turkish Diabetes Association. Her knowledge and bright attitude are welcome additions to the organization!
Hi everyone, I’m Emine Ulucay and I’m a dietitian. I am very excited to be part of this program since I also participated in a similar but much shorter program many years ago. My earliest bi-communal experience was one at the Seeds of Peace Camp I attended many years ago in Maine. As weird as it may sound, since the checkpoints in Cyprus were not yet open back then, I had never seen a Greek Cypriot in my life before. From the first night in which I felt very uncomfortable sleeping in a bunk with my fellow GCs friends, to the last night where tears were shed as we would be parting. Reflecting back, I now see how sport (team relays, soccer games and various other activities) was a very bright idea to connect us all.
This short journey of mine later lead me to participate in a lot of common projects and activities with the GCs. So now I am very happy to be involved with PeacePlayers International-Cyprus because of the project called ‘’Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus”. This is an EU funded joint project of PeacePlayers International-Cyprus and The Cyprus Turkish Diabetes Association (CTDA). It is a 3 year long project that aims to add the healthy eating component to PeacePlayers.
My role, together with Elena (the Greek Cypriot Dietitian) is to hold fortnightly sessions/workshops with each of the PeacePlayers teams, and to teach kids about healthy nutrition. Elena will be working with the GCs and I will be working with the TCs. There will also be joint sessions where we both will be teaching mixed groups of kids twice a year. On top of this, there will also be a couple of sessions addressed to the parents each year. This is fundamental since although the children themselves are involved in decision making when it comes to food choices, the parents are those who cook and serve the food at home. We will prepare the syllabus together with Elena, ensuring that the information delivered is as similar as possible.
I did my first session with two of the teams last week and will be doing two more this week. First sessions were all about measuring and recording the kids’ heights and weights. We thought this would be a very good starting point enabling us to make comparisons at the end of each year. The parents we met were also very happy when they heard about the additional healthy eating component of the program greatly motivating us all. I hope through sound nutritional education, our kids will become healthier and stronger basketball players who would grow up to become healthy adults ‘bridging divides’.
The participants in our Coaches for Reconciliation program (CCT) all came together for a retreat on handling conflict situations within the basketball setting. The two-year program was started last year in aims of training coaches in conflict resolution education to bridge divides through basketball. In the past year the CCT participants, which come from both within the PeacePlayers program and outside the organization, completed and received their basketball certification, first aid training, and began sessions on conflict education. By the end of the two years, the students will receive a diploma from Zinman College at the Wingate Institute, a reputable sports education institution in Israel. Currently, the student coaches are taking language courses to equip them with basic language skills to use in mixed team settings. They are also completing practicum hours to practice their new skill sets with youth from PeacePlayers.
During the weekend retreat two guest lecturers came to address how to deal address conflict situations within sports. Dror Rubin, one of the lecturers, used participants’ experiences as coaches to structure the mediation workshop. By breaking out into groups and discussing the real life scenarios, the student coaches were able to exchange ideas and attempt to troubleshoot the difficulties they faced. Oren, a Jewish participant in the program, said, “it was great and helpful to discuss one of the problems I had with my team.” Through the workshop Oren was able to role-play the situation with the other participants in attempts to come up with a solution with the guidance of Dror. “Since the retreat, I was able to go back and solve the problem. Now the player is back on the team,” says Oren.
Giving the participants real life applicable skills was one of objects of the retreat and of the program. As mentioned before, the participants are enrolled in a language study of either Arabic or Hebrew and are completing practicum hours to gain experience in working in mixed group settings. Learning to communicate, even if on a basic level, with all team members is an asset for the student coaches because it encourages team inclusion. During the retreat, the student coaches participated in a mock Twinning to prepare them for their practicum. To encourage creative juices, the participants also created and demonstrated Twinning drills for different age groups and received feedback for the drill. For Odai, a Palestinian PeacePlayers participant in the program, the retreat “helped me have more ideas on how to build trust between mixed players so they can be united, and how to avoid possible problems by being proactive and ready for them.”
This week’s blog is written by a former PPI – Northern Ireland participant, 16-year-old Sean Paul.
During my time at PeacePlayers I found out a lot of new things that they do both around the office and in the field. Before I started my work experience with PeacePlayers, all I knew was that they go around primary schools, Catholic and Protestant, and try to get they kids to make friends and tell them that just because they are different they still can be friends and meet new people from that area. This past week I found out a lot more about the ins and outs of PeacePlayers here in Northern Ireland.
Here a glimpse of what it is like to work for PeacePlayers for a week!!
Monday: I went to the Holy Cross Boys and Glengormley twinning with Coach Joanne, Coach Jack and Coach Aidan. I took a lot of pictures for the social media group and had a meeting with Nasiphi and then I went back to the office and had a meeting with Debbie to find out what I would be up to the rest of the week. Nasiphi asked me to help her with coordinating social media, I was in charge of taking pictures and videos then upload them on Instagram.
Tuesday: I went to the office and had a talk with Gareth more about the goals for PeacePlayers in Northern Ireland. I enjoyed hearing him talk about different programmes and plans for the future. I had a bit of lunch before I went to Antrim with Coach Joe. We went to visit 2 schools, St. Benedict’s and Park Hall College. During and during the visits I got to participate in an OCN he delivered “Promoting Diversity Through Sport” Level II.
I realized throughout the week that the “office” is not just Peace House on Lisburn Road, it is in all of the classrooms, sport halls and community centres where they work.
Wednesday: I went out for a winning session between Victoria Park and St. Joseph’s Primary 4 classes with Coach Joe, Coach Nasiphi, and `Coach Simon. I had my own team and got to come up with a team name and cheer! It really took me back to when I was a PeacePlayers participant with Coach Joanne almost more than seven years ago! That afternoon I headed out to another twinning in North Belfast with Coach Jack.
Thursday: I got to sit in on the weekly staff meeting between all the staff members in the office. It was interesting to see the inner workings of an organisation like PeacePlayers, and how they organise and prepare for upcoming events. After the meeting, it was Debbie’s turn on the weekly lunch rotation, and she made some amazing chicken curry for everyone!
Friday: I got to head to a Primary 7 twinning between St. Annes and Finaghy Primary School with Coach Nasiphi at Finachy Primary School in South Belfast. I got to meet the school dog and help coach some of the participants. We had lots of fun coaching basketball in their hall.
Honestly going into the week I wasn’t sure what to expect doing my work experience at the PeacePlayers “Office”, but I realized throughout the week that the “office” is not just Peace House on Lisburn Road, it is in all of the classrooms, sport halls and community centres where they work. It was a brilliant week where I learned a lot and by the end of it, I didn’t want to leave!
PeacePlayers International is excited to introduce our Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Julie Younes!
Julie officially moved into her new role in January 2015, though she has been a PeacePlayer for several years, serving as a Fellow in the Middle East from 2008 – 2010. After leaving Jerusalem, Julie went on to receive her master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where her studies focused on conflict resolution and monitoring and evaluation in international development. She then worked as the M&E Officer for Coach Across America, a US-based sport and youth development program, and as a Design, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at Search for Common Ground, a peacebuilding nonprofit organization. At Search, she provided M&E support to UNICEF staff working on projects aiming to transform the way education is delivered in high-conflict areas, traveling to a variety of countries, including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi and Kenya.
It has been very exciting for me to return to PeacePlayers. As our new Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, I will help the organization gather the information we need to keep improving our programming.
Julie graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in French and International studies, with a specialization in Middle East Studies. While at Dickinson College she was also a member of the women’s varsity basketball team.
With a plethora of experience, knowledge about peacebuilding, a love of basketball, and passion for the work PPI does, PeacePlayers is ecstatic to welcome Julie to the team!
Julie’s position was made possible due to the generous support of the Youngkin Family.
Today’s blog is brought to you by PPI-CY Managing Director, Jale Canlibalik, who recently helped organize a bi-communal football match to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce. She recounts the event and why it was so important to the island.
On 22nd December 2014, the British High Commission in Cyprus with the support of PeacePlayers International-Cyprus commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce. The Christmas Truce, so named because of the spontaneous ceasefire on the Western Front between the divided troops who came together on Christmas Day to talk and play football, is a reminder that sport can bring people together even during the most difficult of times, an ethos that is echoed by PeacePlayers internationally.
The idea was to host a football match with an internationally represented team against a bi-communal Cypriot team within the United Nations Buffer Zone in Nicosia. PPI-CY had the task of bringing together a bi-communal football team, a feat that not even the two Football Federations in Cyprus have been able to achieve, to play against a team composed of United Nations representatives. As part of the bi-communal Cyprus team we were joined by Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots as well as the two chief peace negotiators for the island Mr. Andreas Mavroyiannis and Mr. Ergün Olgun.
The day’s proceedings were launched with a speech by the British High Commissioner Mr. Ric Todd who emphasized the importance of the meaning in commemorating the Christmas Truce and in continuing to support reconciliation efforts. A minute’s silence was held in respect of those that died during their service to their country and for those that continue to suffer from conflicts. The event was supported by many key actors, representatives and civil society organizations as well as the local media.
The Cypriot team wore their PeacePlayers t-shirts proudly and supported not only the spirit of the Christmas Truce but also the spirit of PeacePlayers as they played hard against their opponents. As PPI-CY, we were proud to be able to support such an event; and continue to promote the work we do and the message of how sport can open up dialogue and contribute positively to reconciliation efforts. We thank the British High Commission for providing us with such an amazing opportunity to help commemorate such a historic event that evokes our own core vision. We also thank our amazing Cypriot players for their commitment in supporting PeacePlayers and being part of the very first bi-communal Cypriot football team since the divide of the island in 1974.
For those that are wondering our Cypriot team lost by 5:2…