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Today’s blog is brought to you by Nicos Mashias, PPI-CY board member and coach. He volunteers at every twinning, camp and tournament and gives his experience at this years PeacePlayers-Cyprus 3 vs. 3 Winter Tournament!
I joined PeacePlayers about 3 years ago, when fellows Gunnar and Adam were in Cyprus and they asked to have a friendly game between the young kids of ENAD, the team I was coaching at the time, and the PeacePlayers team of Dali. After that, I participated in a couple of twinnings and then at the summer camp in Agros, loving every minute of it. Since then, I became good friends with all the coaches, learned a lot from the experienced ones, and managed to get closer with the kids.
Most of them were present this past Saturday at our annual Winter 3×3 Tournament. According to a lot of people, the event was a success, with everyone enjoying a rainy Saturday playing basketball indoors, seeing friends they don’t get to see often or making new ones; including myself. The event started in the morning with about 150 kids 10-16 years old from both sides, boys and girls. They were divided into four groups (junior boy/girls, senior boys/girls) and in mixed teams. There were games all day long with popular music on loud speakers, as kids and coaches were dancing on the side lines, taking selfies and singing in groups as if they were auditioning for a talent show. Some parents were there as well watching their kids play and really enjoying themselves.
It is worth mentioning that Korean Broadcasting Network was at the event taking interviews from children and coaches. Mr Shin, the journalist, kept asking me at the beginning of the event if the kids are Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot. I kept saying, ‘Both.’ He would look at the court, all kids wearing their green PPI t-shirts playing around, and ask me again the same thing. He could not tell who is TC or GC, could not see any awkwardness between them or even a separation into their own groups. I turned around, looked at the court full of kids aged 10-16 years old and said, “Well, they are kids, they are just happy to come and play basketball.” This is the other beauty of sports, it unites people.
After the final games for each group, and as part of our joined program with the Cyprus Turkish Diabetes Association, “Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus”, sandwiches, apples and orange juices were provided for each participant: children, coaches, volunteers, parents.
Much of the success was due to the efforts of our working staff (Stephanie, Ryan, Jale and Sureyya), coaches who were able to come (Andreas, Michael, Konstantinos, Sevki, Hasmet, Bahar) and the young leaders. Their commitment all year long, as well as the rest of coaches and leaders who could not make it, keeps this program alive and evolving, planting the seeds for better things to come!
It’s actually very cool to be a PeacePlayer! #itscooltobeapeaceplayer
Today’s blog is by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland Managing Director, Gareth Harper. Gareth talks about PPI – NI’s Jingle Ball basketball tournament in relation to the ongoing efforts of the other PeacePlayers sites to commemorate the Christmas Truce, a time during World War I when British, French, and German soldiers stopped fighting, exchanged gifts, and played sports.
On 6 December 2014, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland hosted its annual Jingle Ball basketball tournament. This year, the event recognized the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day, 1914. The event was of several that PeacePlayers globally has been involved with to celebrate the courage of those first Peace Players who stepped into “No Man’s Land”, during a time of conflict, to show a different way.
The spirit of Christmas 1914 was on full display December 6, when 140 modern day Peace Players aged 9-14 years old from north, south, east and west Belfast came together to take over the entire bottom floor of Stranmillis College’s sports hall. The participants had been polishing their basketball skills for 12 weeks in the Beflast Interface League on their respective sides of the city. While playing on these integrated teams, they were able to not only develop practical basketball skills, but also take part in community relations discussions which allowed them to understand and learn about the communities and backgrounds their new friends were from. Their leaders, be it their coaches, parent, teachers or community leaders have been encouraging them into their no-man’s land to build sustainable relationships.
On 9 December 2014, PeacePlayers volunteers supported a commemorative screening of the French film “Joyeux Noel” from 2005, which the events of that Christmas Day 1914. The film depicts events through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. In addition, later this month, our PeacePlayers colleagues in Cyprus will be working with the British High Commission to commemorate the Christmas Truce; they are planning to recreate a football match within the Buffer Zone. An international team that will include United Nations soldiers, representatives from foreign missions and diplomats will compete against a bi-communal Cyprus team, which will include PeacePlayers International -Cyprus players. The event, weather permitting, is scheduled for the 22nd of December. The symbolism of these events poignantly and powerfully support us in reflecting upon the bravery and courage of those first Peace Players whose actions 100 years ago continue to inspire all that we strive for today – bringing together divided communities through sport.
So this Christmas let us keep in our thoughts and prayers the Peace Players on the Western Front 100 years ago and all those since, whom in many areas of conflict, have proved and continue to prove that through sport and other means, there is a different way and that friendship works.
This week’s blog recaps PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland’s Jingle Ball basketball tournament. This year’s tournament was particularly special as participants remembered the Christmas Truce.
The Christmas spirit was on full display last Saturday, 6th December, when 140 young people took over the Stranmillis College’s sports hall for PPI-NI’s annual Jingle Ball basketball tournament! This year Jingle Ball had an added poignancy as the event recognised the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day 1914. The tournament was one of several events sponsored by PeacePlayers globally to celebrate the courage of those first Peace Players who stepped into “No Man’s Land” during a time of conflict to show a different way. The truce was celebrated and commemorated in a positive way through our tournament.
The Jingle Ball participants had been polishing their basketball skills for 12 weeks during the Belfast Interface League programme in their respective sides of the city. While playing on these integrated teams they were able to not only develop practical basketball skills, but also take part in community relations discussions where they developed an understanding of the communities and backgrounds their new friends were from. After 12 weeks of growing into tight-knit, competitive teams the BIL programmes came together – girls vs boys and juniors vs seniors – to prove they were the side of the city to beat, to show off their skills and of course to catch up with friends from the other areas.
With everyone eyeing a coveted Jingle Ball award, the competition level was high. But so was the Christmas spirit with Coach Joanne working her Christmas glasses and Coach Joe pulling off a Santa hat. It’s debateable whether the participants had more fun than the staff team this year! DJ Topper provided fantastic tunes and the volunteers from Google, Study USA and Young Adult Volunteers were on hand to keep the energy levels high. PPI-US Director of Development Brian Lemek’s natural coaching talent also shone through as he refereed some intense games, and members of the PPI-NI Board of Directors stepped up to the almost impossible task of choosing the winners of the spirit and hustle awards! Although there was no overall winner of the tournament, North, South, East and West were all represented in the awards ceremony, either as a team or with individual players receiving awards, which made it a winning day for everyone. Jingle Ball is always a huge success and the 2014 edition was the best one yet! Friends were re-united, new friendships formed and we can’t wait to do it all again next year because everyone had a ball – no pun intended!
Today’s blog features PPI Director of Finances, Human Resources & Administration Taylor Brown. Taylor is a graduate of Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York. He recently had the special opportunity to work with some of their students on a class project.
Last week, three 10th grade girls (Ava, Mikayla and Caroline) from Ms. Da Silva’s Advance Placement World History class from Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York, reached out randomly to PeacePlayers for a class project. Their assignment from Ms. Da Silva was to research and interview an international non profit organization and present their findings to the class.
As coincidence and luck would have it, PPI’s Taylor Brown just happened to graduate from Harborfields in 2002, played on the men’s Varsity basketball team and would be in town for his sister’s wedding that coming weekend. So, on Friday December 12th, Taylor stopped by his high school alma mater. He met the girls working on the class project, Ms. Da Silva and spoke about his experiences with PeacePlayers, his time at Harborfields and how he ended up being fortunate enough to join such an incredible organization.
Taylor also got the chance to meet with the current New York state winning Harborfields High School Men’s Varsity Basketball coach, Chris Agostino, and is planning to join the team for some of their practices over Christmas break.
Ms. Da Silva’s class votes next week to determine which of the organizations they’d like to support. Let’s hope they choose PPI!
International Fellow Ryan Hage recounts the Leadership Development Retreat that doubled as an exchange between PeacePlayers-Cyprus and PeacePlayers-Middle East.
PeacePlayers International operates four year-round international sites – South Africa, Middle East, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland. As a Fellow, I read about each site and see pictures of events they have on Facebook, but because we spread out across 3 continents, it is very challenging for sites to meet in person. Luckily, two weeks ago I and the rest of PeacePlayers-Cyprus had the please of hosting three tremendous young leaders from PPI-ME during our fall leadership retreat. We had Heni, Program Coordinator for PPI-ME, as well as Aysha and Duha, former participants who are now coaches at PPI-ME.
The weekend was focused on turning our current Leadership Development Program participants into coaches one day. The exchange was extremely beneficial to both programs and is something we will try do more often.
The girls came a couple days early to explore the new setting and learn about the current conflict. They experienced traditional Cypriot Meze food and were able to travel to both sides of the island, learning about the history of the conflict. Visitng the United Nations buffer zone, an area that divides the island, and St. Hilarion Castle, were really interesting to the girls. The girls also had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with the US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig. The girls shared with the Ambassador their experiences in Israel and their recent trip the United States. Ambassador Koenig really enjoyed the lunch and was happy to have the opportunity to learn more about PeacePlayers outside of Cyprus
Before the retreat, Heni devised a plan with Stephanie, our own Program Coordinator, on what the retreat would be about and what we wanted the kids to get out of it. She was integral for planning the weekend and we loved having a new perspective from someone with new ideas. We both learned a lot!
On Saturday night, Heni spoke about her experience with PeacePlayers, going to the army, which is mandatory in both Israel and Cyprus, and then coming back to PeacePlayers afterwards. This was extremely important because a lot of our kids go to the army and we want them to stay involved afterwards and become coaches/employees of PeacePlayers-Cyprus one day. Heni told me afterwards, “It was a great weekend because we really saw a change in the kids in only three days. They made huge strides in taking the lead and understood a little bit better on what it is like to be a coach. Also, it was amazing to have the kids see how we are all a big PeacePlayers family no matter which site we are from.”
Aysha and Duha were also a gigantic hit at the retreat. They spoke after Heni about the conflict through their eyes and why they became PeacePlayers coaches after they graduated from the LDP program. It was really important for them to be there and mix with the LDP participants from Cyprus and show how similar all the PeacePlayers are from both sites. Our kids listened so much more when they spoke because they are the same age and are peers. They were also great at giving feedback to the Leaders after they coached their mini coaching sessions. “I liked how they became better at coaching as the practice was progressing and they got to learn from each other on what they need to do to become better coaches. I love the whole mission of the weekend and getting to know everyone. They are the best!”
We are so thankful the three tremendous and inspiring girls from PPI-ME could join us and hope that it is an exchange that continues for years to come not only between our two sites, but also with all the sites!
In the past year PeacePlayers International helped more than 4,000 girls and boys from Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and Israel use the sport they love to make peace in their communities. We are proud to share this new 5 minute movie featuring Malak and Romy, two young women who are working together to build bridges between Jewish and Arab youth through the game of basketball.
Please help spread Malak and Romy’s message of peace by sharing their movie on Twitter and Facebook using @peaceplayers and enter a raffle to win a FREE PeacePlayers Basketball!
Thank you for your support!
One-hundred years ago, on the Western Front during World War I, soldiers emerged from their trenches in what can only be termed a Christmas miracle. German and British soldiers, hardened by five months of fighting, entered No Man’s Land not in the spirit of war, but for a moment of peace, cooperation, and… sports!
Yes, as German and British soldiers across the Western Front organized an unofficial truce in order to wish each other a Merry Christmas. They traded food, clothes, whatever they had on them, and took time to talk to the other side. Then, they began playing. The most famous of these games is believed to be a football game between the Lancashire Fusiliers, a British infantry regiment, and their German counterparts, on the northern French coast. While the soldiers did not have a football to kick around, they did have an empty rationed beef tin.
And so the they took to the pitch. Young men from opposing trenches, who the day before were shooting at each other, put down their weapons to enjoy playing a game they all loved. The final score: a 3-2 victory for the Lancashire Fusiliers. However, on this day, all the soldiers were victors as they had the chance to get away from the horrors of war and enjoy good times and good cheer with one another.
The ability of sports to take people away from conflict, create oases of peace, and transcend divides, whether they be trenches, borders, or nationalities, is truly amazing. At PeacePlayers, we work everyday to provide these opportunities to all our program participants. That is why throughout this month, each PeacePlayers International program will link up to the global commemoration of the Christmas Truce by showing how it is an example of the power of sport to transform lives. In addition, we will be posting across social media using #ChristmasTruce, and we encourage everyone to do the same in solidarity with efforts to raise awareness of this special day.
Already, other organizations have made efforts to showcase the Christmas Truce. This past week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon joined British and German ambassadors on the lawn of the UN headquarters in New York City for a penalty shoot in honor of the Christmas Truce. How will you you honor the Christmas Truce? Show us.
Today’s blog is brought to by International Fellow Ryan Hage and his experience with his first Thanksgiving in Cyprus.
Thanksgiving in America is traditionally a time of eating way too much food and watching football all day long while you fall in and out of sleep on the couch. It has been this way since the very first Thanksgiving and will continue for the rest of time. It is also a time of thanks for what we have and the love that we are surrounded with.
Being so far away from home, I did not think I would be able celebrate this great occasion this year. I did not think the island of Cyprus even knew what a turkey was much less have one to purchase. After pretty much giving up before even trying, former Cypriot Fellow extraordinaire, Gunnar Hagstrom, emailed the whole PeacePlayers-Cyprus team to remind everyone that it is tradition that the Fellow cooks the Thanksgiving meal for the rest of the team. The challenge BEGAN.
I went to the largest grocery store on the whole island and actually found a turkey! There were only three in the whole store (maybe the only three on the island??). I may have called my mother thirty times over Skype, but the turkey actually tasted good! My coworkers and friends were nice enough to cook the sides so all I had to do was focus on the big turkey. Many familiar Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie were brought but also things like “Cypriot Stuffing” was brought that was a different and delicious form of stuffing I have never had before. Overall, the day was a gigantic success. I got to spend it eating with my closest friends on the island, most of whom were PeacePlayers workers and coaches.
I have so much to be thankful for these days. I have been here for almost a year and have made life long friends that I call my “PeacePlayers” family. I have a job that lets me share a game I love while also promoting peace at the same time. When I tell people about what I do, they always say that it’s a dream job. And it is. I will never be able to thank everyone enough on the island who have made me feel like a part of their family and invited me into their homes for food and great conversation. PeacePlayers is a special organization with exceptional human beings. I am thankful to be a part of it and will always be thankful that I was lucky enough to experience this in my life.
In today’s blog post, PeacePlayers International – Middle East Fellow, Heba El-Hendi, writes about the beginning of Twinnings season. Twinnings help bridge the divides between the different communities involved in PeacePlayers.
Our Twinning season has finally started! The Twinning program functions as PeacePlayers International-Middle East’s core as it aims to bring communities, Jewish and Arab, together to change perceptions and bridge divides. Each community we work with is paired, or twinned, with a community from the other side of the conflict to practice with twice a month. Usually the paired communities live in close proximity to one another but because of the situation, rarely do they interact on a positive, regular basis. By making the practice a fun and meaningful interaction through drills, relays, and scrimmages, youth are able to associate positive attributes to the ‘other side’. Yet, these changed perceptions take time.
Twinned partners, specifically newly twinned teams, often face some challenges at the beginning. It’s difficult to navigate the different cultures, new faces, and different languages. Many come nervous or scared to the first Twinning because of these challenges. Our International Fellow, Courtney Boylan shares what she noticed at the Twinnings: “At the beginning the players were hesitant to interact with each other and as coaches we needed to aid those interactions through certain drills.” In these ice breaker drills players dribble balls to the center and interact briefly with each other through high fives and other minor gestures. “By the end of the Twinning, interactions were happening naturally,” says Courtney. By splitting of into small integrated teams and adding a little spirit of competition through relay races, the players find that they take on a collective team identity and cheer each other on to complete the basketball task. “During the relay races, it didn’t matter if one was an Arab or a Jew. They were all focusing on having fun and being a good teammate,” reflects Courtney.
Through the youth, parents and the community are also introduced to the Twinning phenomenon. Because of this, PeacePlayers not only impacts the youth, but the community at large. PeacePlayers encourages parents to attend and watch the Twinning so they too can see and become comfortable with the concept. Recently, we held our first Twinning of the season with Tamra and Nahriya teams and the parents responded very well to the Twinning after they saw their kids enjoying themselves in a safe and warm environment. With these special basketball practices, Arabs and Jews break yet another barrier. Generally, the Twinnings are held in the communities both teams come from. Meaning Jews are going to Arab communities and vice versa. This allows both to share where they play and introduce new areas to the youth.
In the past Twinnings have been a great success, and we hope this year will be no different. Aysha, a Palestinian member of the Leadership Development Program and a PeacePlayers coach, shares some of her hopes for this year’s Twinning season. “I hope that the kids grow the idea that peace is possible by taking the PeacePlayers route. I hope through twinnings the kids will open up to the idea that Jews and Arabs can live together without having the problems we face today. It’s important for the youth from both sides to have fun in the Twinning and to have a chance to get to know someone from the other side. Not just know them by name, but also know their culture and traditions. Through this, I hope they see the similarities they both share.” Seeing is believing with the Twinnings. Jews and Arabs are interacting face to face and this way they are altering age-old stereotypes, and breaking the cycle of fear all through basketball.
In this week’s blog post, Chantelle Hutchinson, 16, from East Belfast, Northern Ireland, looks back on her journey as part of PeacePlayers.
Hi, my name is Chantelle. I am 16 years old from East Belfast in Northern Ireland. For many years I have been involved with PeacePlayers. I started as a young girl of only 7 years old learning how to play basketball. I am now a 16 year old with a passion for basketball that plays for Phoenix Basketball club and the Northern Ireland Academy.
Back in the day when I first started PeacePlayers, I was involved in the Community Centre League (CCL). Every Wednesday night we met with the other side of the city to play basketball, have community relations chats and activities, and bring peace to the four areas of Belfast divided by conflict between Protestants and Catholics. I am now involved with the Senior Champions4Peace (C4P) programme. Senior C4P aims to bring together young people aged 15-20 from all over Belfast to help promote peace and to become young leaders that are “Baggage free and Out of the Box”. I have also volunteered during the summer to coach at the Belfast Interface Games (BIG) and at Game of Three Halves events.
This week I have been doing my work experience at PPI-NI from 9am-5pm. I thought this would be a great experience to learn new things about PeacePlayers and also to coach young kids basketball instead of sitting in an office all day.
On Monday morning and throughout the week I have been attending many Twinnings between primary schools. At many of these Twinnings I have been coaching my own team and also doing community relations activities with the kids which is very similar to when I was there age. I also attended the Belfast Interface League- which is very similar to what I attended when I was a young girl- only it is more developed.
I first had to get on the very lively bus with kids jumping everywhere to take the East BIL to the West BIL. This was great fun and I met some really interesting and fun kids who just wanted to play basketball – just like myself when I was their age. I have also helped out around the office and learned what really goes on behind the projects and events to help make them possible. This was such a jaw dropping experience just to see all the planning that really goes on just to make one event happen.
Overall this week has been amazing and one that I won’t forget. I have gained many new skills and have helped me to improve on my coaching and working with kids and also it has made me realise all the goals that I want to achieve in life and in the future.
In this week’s blog, PPI Staffer, Ntobeko Ngcamu, reflects on PPI-SA’s recent Champions for Peace Retreat to Spirit of Adventure. 25 high school students across 5 communities who had shown leadership potential on and off the court were selected to take part in the re-launching of PPI-SA’s Champions for Peace Programme at this 2 day retreat.
After a huge bang of a City Wide Tournament, PPI-SA has done it again taking a select number of our Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants to a Champion for Peace Retreat (C4P).
For PPI, This was a way of showing appreciation to our top players. The goal of the Camp was to enhance our participants’ leadership and teamwork skills as well as help them face some of their fears.
The weekend was a blast, filled with fun, laughter, tears—of joy and fear—and bonding sessions between players and coaches alike.
From the first activity we saw participants crying because of fear, laughing, helping each other, gaining self-confidence, making friends, breaking their comfort zone and showing their talents. It was so amazing. As we went from activity to activity, participants consistently would refuse to do them out of fear or nervousness, but many times, with the support of their teammates, ended up doing them. The weekend was filled with highlights, but two stood out to me.
In one activity called the Snake Pit, participants crawl through a tight space where you can’t see so far as the person in front of you. The only way to move forward is to feel your way through. I remember one participant from Molweni named Thandekil refused to participate and went to hide in the toilets. However, 2 boys from her group (Thetha from Lamontville and Silas from the City) went and comforted her and then motivated and her to do it. I remember she was crying going in the snake pit with these 2 leaders with her. Coming out she was still crying, but this time with a smile on her face. Her response to why she was crying and laughing at the same time, “I can’t believe I did that. If it wasn’t for my teammates there’s no way I could have made it through”.
My second highlight goes to Team A. Upon arriving we were split up into three teams (A-C). I remember in the first activity (a scavenger hunt around the game reserve), half their group got lost in the bush, and they placed last. In the second activity (where each team built a raft to race), their raft sank in the middle of the dam. They had to swim back to the shore and re-build their raft while the other groups sat there and laughed at them. But they did not lose hope, did not stop trying, did not blame each other and continued to work as a team. They later went on to finish first in a majority of the remaining activities. Big high five to team A.
To close, I would say this camp has been a great platform to integrate and unite these participants. I remember when we were all on the bus heading to Spirit of Adventure. Participants were almost entirely sitting with their own teammates. The ride back home was completely different. Participants were talking with new friends, singing together, and exchanging numbers. It was another example of how PPI-SA is able to consistently and effectively bridge divides and change perceptions. When we say we are family we truly mean it.
PPI-SA would like to thank the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation for their support of the Leadership Development Programme and Champions for Peace Team, for whom without this retreat would not have been possible.
In this week’s blog post, PeacePlayers International Communications and Development Intern, Matthew Agar, explains why he is donating to PeacePlayers International for Giving Tuesday, the global day for charitable giving. Giving Tuesday is December 2.
As my blog post from last week says, Giving Tuesday, the global day for charitable giving, is December 2. Hundreds of thousands of individuals and charities will take to social media and other platforms to convince new and old supporters to donate to their causes. While there are organizations across the world that do great work, and they all deserve generous donations for their efforts, I am here to tell you why this Giving Tuesday is a day I plan to donate to PeacePlayers International. Here are two reasons:
To start, let me make clear that my support of PeacePlayers International comes from a time before I joined the PeacePlayers staff. Over the past year, I have immersed myself in researching and writing about the peace and conflict resolution field, and have taken up a strong interest in the role that sports can play in achieving sustainable peace. I have written papers for various classes on the subject. I have even flirted with the idea of creating a for-profit business with similar characteristics to PeacePlayers. Aside from my academic and professional interests, I have also played basketball for 14 years, and I am an avid New York Knicks fan.
My love of and interest in basketball, sports, and peacebuilding is not just personal. I suspect that countless others have at least an interest in, and hopefully even an undying passion of at least one of these things. If any of these matters interest or impassion you, then you should consider donating to PeacePlayers.
Second, I care about the livelihoods of average kids around the world, and realize that PeacePlayers International does an excellent job at improving these livelihoods every day. Our programs empower youth in Cyprus, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel and the West Bank, as well as across the planet, to take ownership for the situations they face in their homes and communities. It is not about blaming the other side; it is about having the courage and the skills to talk and improve relations with the other side. PeacePlayers accomplishes this and more, all while providing our participants with the awesome chance to play the best sport in the world.
So, how can you give back to get involved with PeacePlayers International? Check out and give money through our donation page, MyCharityofChoice page, and Global Giving page. Take the #WhyIPlay Video Challenge and show us why you play sports and how you plan to give back to the sports you love. Spread the mission and goals of PeacePlayers on Giving Tuesday with the hashtags #WhyIPlay and #PPIdoesGivingTuesday. Our work is not possible without your efforts. Let us continue these efforts by donating to PeacePlayers International. I know I will.
Today’s blog is brought to you by PeacePlayers International-Cyprus Turkish-Cypriot Coordinator Sureyya Deger!
PeacePlayers International-Cyprus has been awarded an EU grant in cooperation with The Cyprus Turkish Diabetes Association (CTDA) for their joint project called “Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus”. On Monday, 24 November 2014, the two partners held a launch event at the Home for Cooperation within the United Nations Nicosia Buffer Zone to announce the official start of the project as well as highlight the core activities to be implemented over the three year duration.
During the event the Head of the European Union Programme Support Office, Ms. Alessandra Viezzer, the two Mayors of Nicosia, Mr. Constantinos Yiorkadjis and Mr Mehmet Harmanci, and one of the PPI-CY Youth Leaders, Christiana Miltiadous, addressed the audience.
THE TWO MAYORS OF NICOSIA HAVE SUPPORTED THE CAUSE
Mr. Yiorkadjis Constantinos, has supported the project: “We are here to promote three extremely beneficial attributes that we want our youth to implement: wellness; healthy eating and sports”. He continued by stressing that positive cooperation between the two communities is imperative but the “first building block…is creating trust”. He continued by congratulating the project implementation team on their efforts and offered his support in their endeavour.
Mr. Mehmet Harmanci echoed the words of Yiorkadjis by thanking the implementing partners “for bringing the two communities together for interaction”. He continued by supporting the ethos of the project emphasizing that the project “will help us to raise our children to be aware of peace and wellness, and have a peaceful and healthier life together on the island”. He rounded off his address by offering his support to the project and stated that he felt proud to be included within the project and for being able to play a part in a project that will help to “reshape the future of the island”.
“Through these activities, young people will have the opportunity to experience the benefits of cooperation, leadership and team work”
Viezzer praised the project stating that “through these activities, young people will have the opportunity to experience the benefits of cooperation, leadership and team work”. She continued by stating that positive examples of cooperation between the implementing partners should be portrayed more within the media to provide positive examples that “Cypriots can work and cooperate together for the benefit of their communities, and in this case for the benefit of young people”.
The addresses were finalized by the PPI-CY Youth Leader Christiana Miltiadous who stated that the need to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus conflict is imperative, especially for Cypriot youth; and called out for positive support by the two community leaders. Miss Miltiadous emphasized a powerful message during her address when detailing the activities of the health and wellness project by stating that “without today, there is no tomorrow and without health; there is no future”.
My name is Laith Subhi, I’m 19 years old, and I live in a neighborhood called Beit Safafa in Jerusalem. I’ve been in PeacePlayers since 2010 and I’m a part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP).
At first I joined PPI because I love to play basketball, but after I joined PPI, I found it focused on more than just playing basketball. Coming from this conflicted region, I grew up with the two sides, Arabs and Jews, trying to keep us segregated and not one unified team.
Lately the situation has gotten worse and I don’t always feel safe, especially in Jerusalem. It’s difficult for me to use the public transportation like buses or taxis because I am afraid of being recognized as an Arab and possibly being attacked. This is the same for me walking in the streets alone. Yet, I know the work we are doing with PeacePlayers is important because of the current situation.
I was amazed at the beginning when I saw how PPI could combine the two sides peacefully and without any racism. We were able to put our conflict on the side and just concentrate on the game and enjoy it.
Through the years in PPI I not only made new friends from the other side – Jews – but also I’ve learned that we should not judge anyone by his/her religion or national identity.
The connections and the relations were made stronger between PPI players because of the experiences and the activities we had together like local trips and basketball trainings. But the most amazing experience we had was last month when we traveled to USA for two weeks and we introduced PeacePlayers—Middle East to people. Meeting people who support this organization motivated me to keep on giving more and more to PPI.
One of the characters that inspired and motivated me the most was Susan Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, who welcomed us in the White House and found time in her very busy schedule to come and play basketball with us. She engaged in conversations with us and motivated us to continue our work. We were amazed were amazed by her attitude towards bringing peace and change to the Middle East.
In those two weeks we put the conflict on a side and enjoyed every moment together. We shared moments together that we will never forget and will be with us forever. I am hoping to go through this experience again in the future.
Maybe we have different languages, religions, and national identities but in the end we are all humans, and each day we learn how to respect each other although we have different points of view. For all these reasons I can’t imagine myself without PeacePlayers. I am hoping through our work that we will be the change in the future.
PeacePlayers International – South Africa: Opening new doors and improving lives, one coach at a time
This week’s blog is written by PeacePlayers International – South Africa Coach Gabreila “Gabby” Gokova. Gabby joined PPI-SA in February and has never looked back. Her calming and never say never attitude have been felt not only by the players she coached at Carrington Primary school, but the PPI staff and her fellow coaches as well.
I started with PeacePlayers International – South Africa in February, and this year was my first time coaching basketball and life skills. Not knowing what exactly I was getting myself into, I was so nervous and scared leading up to my first practice. I did not know exactly what to do. We had workshops and trainings, but the thought of implementation had me underneath the covers. Fortunately one of my mentors, PPI staff member Ryan Douwie, started off with me. I would go to his practices, watch what he did and then he would come to mine to help me out. Now looking back, I don’t know what I was afraid of really because the experience of working with children was just too much fun and amazing. The kids at Carrington Primary School always seemed to teach me something new. This whole year has taught me a lot about myself, including stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Besides coaching basketball and life skills, PeacePlayers International has opened new doors for me. I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town and be part of the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sports (YES) Programme. Without PPI, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to meet others from across Africa and learn their cultures.
My favourite moment of the year was the 24th City Wide Tournament. In my first City Wide earlier in the year, I had no idea what to do and I was all over the place not knowing where to go. I felt overwhelmed trying to help organize 300+ kids. This last tournament was different. I took initiative to make sure everything went accordingly on my court. I was familiar with the location, knew the procedure, and the best way to interact with kids I didn’t know. On top of that, my girls won the tournament. I still remember that last whistle signaling the end of the championship game. I was ecstatic. It felt so cool seeing all our hard work throughout the year paying off.
Working for PeacePlayers International has been such an amazing experience throughout this whole year. I’ve seen myself and others grow. My communication skills have strengthened tremendously. I’m not afraid to talk to people as much as I was before. I used to be extremely shy, but now I am a very outspoken young lady.
I loved every minute of this year. Not only did I learn a lot of things, but I had so much fun with my colleagues and can say they have become more like family to me. I hope more youths out there can find organizations such as PeacePlayers International to help them learn about themselves and open new doors for them as it has for me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity PPI gave me this year and can’t wait for 2015!
In this week’s blog post, Communications and Development Intern, Matthew Agar, provides a preview of PeacePlayers International’s #WhyIPlay Video Challenge. The #WhyIPlay Video Challenge is part of PPI’s Giving Tuesday campaign, a global day of giving back to charitable causes.
In the United States of America and Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. People are hitting the road to go to big family dinners. Jolly uncles and sweet aunts are stuffing themselves with turkey and pumpkin pie. Most importantly, individuals around the world are hitting the stores and the web to find the best deals on clothes, electronics, and jewelry on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Wait, what?!
Yes, the beginning of what singer Andy Williams called the most wonderful time of the year marks the height of enormous devouring of things many of us do not need. Maybe I am being too harsh here, but is this not the opposite of what we should be doing around this time of year? The story of Thanksgiving tells us that we should be thankful for what we have, not thankful for what we can get. Better yet, should we not be giving to those who are in need, whether that need be clothing or food in the case of the impoverished, or a chance at peace in the case of PeacePlayers International’s youth leaders? I think the answer in both these cases is yes we should. While helping the poor is very important, the point of this blog post is to show how YOU can help in giving the youth at PeacePlayers a chance at peace.
Starting October 27 at 12:00 am, US EST, PeacePlayers International will be participating in Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday, officially December 2, is a global day of giving to charitable causes. PeacePlayers will be taking part in Giving Tuesday in many ways such as posting on social media and encouraging people to donate to our programs. However, the part of Giving Tuesday that I am most proud to be involved in, and the part I am leading, is a video challenge called #WhyIPlay.
Here is the jist of the #WhyIPlay Video Challenge. Beginning October 27 at midnight, submit a 30 to 45 second video to our WooBox platform. Show us why you play sports. In the same video, and in the spirit of Giving Tuesday, explain how you plan to give back to the sports you love. Enter your video. Invite your friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends to take the challenge (the more people you invite, the more bonus votes you get). Vote for videos you like. Oh, and do not forget to share your video and our challenge on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #WhyIPlay.
#WhyIPlay is PeacePlayers’ way of reaching out to the world to show how sports help make people feel happy with themselves, the people they know, and the environment around them. We want the challenge to be a humbling rather than competitive experience, but at the same time, we know from the basketball court that competition is unavoidable. Therefore, the video submission that receives the most votes and is the most inspiring will be featured as our promotional video on Giving Tuesday. Any questions? If so, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get pumped and get ready to show us why you play!
Today’s blog is written by Cyprus Leadership Development Program participant Alim Sancar. She shares with us her experience with PeacePlayers and what opportunities she has taken advantage of over the years.
Hi! My name is Alim. I’m 17 years old and I’m in my last year of high school. I have been participating in PeacePlayers since 2008. I was introduced to PeacePlayers by my basketball coach when I was in 6th grade and I fell in love with the organisation immediately. Coach Bahar used to take us to all the activities of the organisation throughout the year, so after a while I genuinely started to enjoy being around Greek-Cypriots and having them as my friends.
After 6 years of being a part of this organisation, after meeting hundreds of Greek-Cypriots throughout the years, and having the privilege to know such great people, I realized how much I want there to be peace and unity between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. The language may be different but our culture is very similar and that is what helps us warm up to each other so quickly. Since I was a child, I wanted to be a part of the old Cyprus where people lived in harmony. I have many Greek-Cypriot friends that I talk to constantly and we have met a few times outside of the PeacePlayers activities which made me feel like they were truly my friends and not just people that I only see when I have to. All the summer camps and the Leadership Development camps are a blast. I feel blessed to be a part of an organisation that can introduce you to new people, enhance your socialising skills, improve your basketball game and teach you about peace and so many other things all at the same time. Also, the coaches and the special visitors of this organisation are exceptional.
My favourite thing about PeacePlayers is that there is FREE FOOD. Just kidding :D My favourite thing is that whenever there’s an activity, I get over-excited with joy and whenever I see my Greek-Cypriot friends for the first time after a few months I feel like I’m seeing my family again, and when we go to the summer camps or LDP camps in Agros I feel like I’m going home. The feeling of belonging somewhere, to something so great and so inspiring is my favourite thing about PeacePlayers-Cyprus. I wouldn’t change being a part of PeacePlayers for anything in the world.
My name is Courtney Boylan, and I am the newest member of PPI-ME! I officially started working with PeacePlayers a little over two weeks ago, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and tell you how I was able to get involved with such an amazing organization, where in the coming year, I will be providing support to coaches in Jerusalem and the north.
Originally I am from Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 lakes”, but I have also lived in Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana. I attended college at the University of Michigan, where I majored in Sport Management and was a 4-year letter winner on the basketball team. Choosing to go to school so far from home was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but it proved to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
At Michigan, I was able to earn a degree at one of the greatest Universities in the world while playing basketball in one of the toughest conferences in the country (The Big Ten). I made countless memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and most importantly: I fell in love. I met Stuart Douglass my first day on campus my freshman year at Michigan, and we have been dating ever since (over 6 years now). The reason I bring this up, and why he is so important in talking about my journey to the Middle East and working for PeacePlayers, is because he is the reason that I am even living in Israel.
After college, I was fortunate enough to get a job as a Division 1 Assistant Coach at Northern Kentucky University, and Stuart set his sights on playing professional basketball. Since last year, Stuart has been playing professionally in Israel, and after two years apart, we decided that the following season I would join him in Israel!
It was such an exciting time for the both of us to finally be together, but it was also very scary. I had to leave my job as an assistant coach, and my friends and family were very concerned about me living in country going through so much conflict, much of which I didn’t even understand myself. But, what I did know was that I wanted to stay involved with basketball.
One of my Sport Management professors at the University of Michigan, who is Jewish-American and has family living in Israel, was the one who told me about PeacePlayers International. After he told me about PPI and I did some research, I knew that I wanted to join them in their mission. PPI isn’t just about basketball; it’s about educating and inspiring children from areas of conflict to create a more peaceful world.
As a player and coach I saw first hand how sport, specifically basketball, could be used as a tool to bring so many different types of people together. Basketball has given and taught me so much: discipline, respect, acceptance, self-worth, humility, friendships, mentors, love… and the list could go on. I am extremely excited to be apart of something so special with PPI and hopefully I can pass on some of the things I have learned to members of PeacePlayers.
What I have found out already, in my short time with PPI, is how much I am going to learn. Before coming to Israel, I really didn’t know much about the conflict going on here. I had no idea how big of a deal it really is to have Arabs and Jews playing together on the same team, and not only that, but becoming friends. These players break down countless years of prejudice, fighting, and history, and it is basketball that is bringing them together.
Name: Shawna Walsh
From: Boston, Massachusetts USA
College: Boston University, BA International Relations
M. Phil Conflict Resolution & Reconciliation Candidate- Trinity College Dublin, Irish School of Economics
AAU and MetroWest Basketball player, Best Defender Sarah Behn Basketball Camp, Algonquin Regional High School Soccer, Basketball and Softball (ASA League Softball Pitcher, ODP and Premier League Soccer Member) and MVP Varsity Softball
What interested me about PeacePlayers:
Growing up playing three sports (soccer, softball and of course, basketball), I always saw the power in the formation of a team. You find yourself building friendships with people you wouldn’t necessarily have associated with before and form a bond through learning and training. PeacePlayers gives kids the chance to play and interact with others they wouldn’t have necessarily ever met and in an open facilitated platform. In particular, I am most excited to meet these kids, learn from them, and to help create a safe environment for them to learn one of my favorite games!
I came to Belfast to study Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in what is considered to be a transitioning society. I wanted to be a part of the transformation process through sports because it is an amazing opportunity. Youth will play such a critical role in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland and allowing kids to form a common bond will only help enable change in their communities. The power of our youth cannot be underestimated as a vehicle for change!
Facilitation & Coaching Experience:
My first facilitation experience post university was with the Global Young Leaders Conference which brought high school students from over 100 countries to Washington, DC and New York to learn cross-cultural communication, leadership skills and strategies in international diplomacy, security and development. The program was life-changing seeing these students grow and learn in just 12 days, making friends across continents and taking on civic leadership roles within their communities!
Having spent the past few years working on a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I have seen first hand that capacity-building in the form of facilitated retreats has proven to be pivotal in helping the overall effectiveness of the development work that is carried out all over the world. Working with teams in an office environment surprisingly has a lot of similarities to what you discover within sports teams such as; the importance of inclusion, diversity, playing on individual members’ strengths and mitigating weaknesses to maximize opportunities as well as the “flow” of work and strategy. I’m hoping that my professional background in facilitation, team-building and leadership development will be helpful in my work as a seasonal coach and as a small part of the very energetic PeacePlayers Team during my time here in Belfast.
Fun Facts: I am…
a UN Nerd, a Boston Sports Fan and all that entails, majorly clumsy and own it, an overly obsessive aunt, a twin, and only slightly awkward.
In today’s blog, Fellow Bryan Franklin reflects on an emotional game at Moses Mabhida Stadium this past weekend.
The news swept across South Africa as violently as the Durban wind in October. On 25 October 2014, Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana’s (SA’s national soccer team) goalkeeper and captain was shot and later died after a robbery of his girlfriend’s house.
This wasn’t supposed to be how the story ended. Like so many kids PPI works with, Senzo Meyiwa grew up in Umlazi. While in Secondary School his coach at the time scraped enough money together to take him and a few teammates up to the Orlando Pirates Youth Academy tryout. Meyiwa immediately impressed and went on to play for the club at the junior level, the U-17 National team and made his debut for the senior level Pirates team in 2006. Up until this point , Meyiwa had lead Bafana Bafana to a first place ranking in its AfCon qualifying group, having yet to surrender a goal.
This past Saturday, three weeks after their captain and goalkeeper had passed away, Bafana Bafana took to the field with a chance to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2008. In honour of their late captain, the match was moved to Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
From the moment I entered the stadium, the emotion and intensity hit me. Posters had been made to honour their fallen leader, and in an experience unlike any other I had been a part of, the stadium joined together for South Africa’s National Anthem. The Anthem in itself has special meaning to the rainbow country. Adopted in 1997, South Africa’s National Anthem employ the five mostly widely spoken of SA’s eleven official languages—Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English. It’s a beautiful representation of a country made up of different backgrounds coming together as one.
A moment of silence followed the anthem. It was to be the last silence of the afternoon, as right from the beginning, Bafana Bafana jumped all over its Sudanese opponent, scoring twice in the first half. Sudan came out strong following the break, threatening multiple times before finally bringing the spread back to one goal with 20 minutes to play. Bafana Bafana’s defense held strong however, and the final whistle blew with a score of South Africa 2 – 1 Sudan.
As the stadium erupted in cheer and the jumbotron flashed: “congratulations South Africa, qualified for the Afcon for the first time since 2008”, there was no question who this victory was for. The game, and the afternoon were another example of a now famous quote made by Nelson Mandela at the Laureus Sport for Good Awards:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”