Since 2001, PPI has recruited 75 outstanding post-collegiate scholar athletes to serve two year terms with its programs. PPI Fellows provide basketball expertise, serve as mentors and role models, and act as neutral facilitators for PPI coaches and participants. Fellows also benefit from an exceptional educational and professional experience and are at the forefront of a worldwide movement to use sport as a vehicle for social change.
Upon completing their fellowships, PPI alumni have gone on to careers in fields including finance, technology, sports management, social entrepreneurship, and international development and have attended graduate schools including the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Columbia University Business School, and Tuft’s Fletcher School of Diplomacy.
Thibault Manekin, PPI-South Africa 2003-2006
“…one of [PPI’s] biggest lessons was how much we [Fellows] learned about people, and that’s translated really well into the work [I am] doing now.”
Thibault heads Seawall Development, which is innovatively revitalizing Baltimore’s abandoned industrial landscape.
Racquel Thompson, PPI-South Africa 2007-2009
“I feel like the definition of empowerment.”
Raquel is currently the Africa Liaison of the Knowledge Team at Ashoka Ventures, a nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurialism all around the world.
Julie Younes, PPI-Middle East 2008-2010
“The past year has been fulfilling both personally and professionally, as I have learned much and grown through my experiences with PPI – ME.”
Julie is currently pursuing her Masters degree in International Development, with a focus on the Middle East, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Fellowship Alumni have gone on to work or study at the following organizations and institutions, among many others...
- DuPlays (Social Sports in Dubai)
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- New York Knicks
- Laureus Sport for Good Foundation
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- United for DC (DC United)
- McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University
- ELEVATE New Orleans
- MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology)
- Center for Governance Innovation
- Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Others have also become independent filmmakers, nonprofit innovators and successful entrepreneurs.
The Ron and Kathryn Shapiro Family Fellowship was founded in 2007 to honor the philanthropic legacy of the Shapiro Family. Ronald M. Shapiro, an expert negotiator, attorney, representative, educator, and author, served as PeacePlayers International’s first Chairperson and remains its Chair Emeritus. The Fellowship is generously supported by the friends and family of Ron and his wife, Kathryn. Fellowships support all living expenses for Fellows, including room, board, and a small stipend for the entirety of their two-year volunteer terms. Get to know our most recent Shapiro Fellows below!
Meghan Houlihan, Northern Ireland 2010-2012
Meghan, a native of Rockville Centre, New York, joined the PPI family interested in how she could use basketball to help inspire the young girls of Northern Ireland.
“I really believe that involvement in sport allows young girls to develop a sense of self-confidence and assertiveness. On a larger scale, that can play into the integral role women have in achieving peace in conflict situations.”
Before becoming a Fellow, Meghan played basketball while studying at Yale University. Later, Meghan became a volunteer for Camfed, a nonprofit that fights poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by promoting education and investing in leadership opportunities for young women. The experience resonated. “It inspired me to take the next step, to say that this is something that brings a whole different type of professional fulfillment.”
During her two-years as a Shapiro Fellow, Meghan led cross-community Twinning programs between Protestant and Catholic primary school children in Belfast and Lurgan, and worked on the development and delivery of PPI-NI’s community relations curricula, an element of the Twinning program that aims to challenge sectarianism and promote mutual respect through age-appropriate activities and discussion. Meghan's commitment to her communities grew and she also began coaching at the girls' Cross-Community League and facilitating courses on diversity in sport and conflict resolution for young adults. In addition to her extensive hands-on work, Meghan drew on past professional experience in corporate communications to help develop PPI-NI’s communications strategy and social media platform, and was heavily involved in local grant-writing and development.
One of Meghan's most memorable experiences was coaching PPI-NI's Community Centre League, an evening program that brings together 9-17 year-olds from Belfast for basketball training and community relations discussions. She said of the experience: "While the international media tells the story of a region unable to overcome its troubled past, to actually be on the ground in Belfast is to witness the progressive spirit of so many individuals and organizations working to promote peace and a shared future. Although many of the kids are new to the game, their enthusiasm to learn and compete drives these fun-filled sessions."
Adam Hirsch, Cyprus, 2010-2012
"Being a Fellow for PeacePlayers has been the most important and rewarding period of my life. There is nothing like spending every day bringing smiles to the faces of young children who need it."
After graduating in 2009 from the University of San Francisco with a Masters of Science in Sport Management, Adam was on his way to his dream job at the time, working for the Golden State Warriors. It was only by chance that he even heard about PPI, but when Adam realized that his passion for sports could take him overseas to work with children in need, the choice was clear, and just 3 months later he was on a plane to Cyprus.
During his two-year term as a Shapiro Fellow, Adam worked with local staff to bring Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot together and attempt to break down the prejudices and social divides of a 38-year long militarized conflict. Day to day Adam helped organize bicommunal activities, coordinated media and fundraising efforts, and coached several basketball teams. But for Adam, his most important role was that of mentor and ambassador. Adam spent much of his time learning the local languages, immersing himself in Cypriot culture, and building trust with his communities that is essential for international development to work. Looking back on his experience as a Fellow, Adam said: "The Fellowship program is strong because it brings young, motivated, and qualified sports professionals into a new environment where they are greatly needed. But a Fellow's biggest asset comes from within, you can't solve these types of problems unless your heart is in it."
To take full advantage of his new opportunity, Adam constantly went above and beyond, spending his spare time in the communities he served. Drawing on his artistic skills, Adam organized 3 mural projects at disadvantaged schools. One of these projects was for the children of Agios Antonios Elementary School in Limassol. Agios Antonios is very unique in that it is one of a handful of schools in Cyprus that has students of Greek-Cypriot, Turkish-Cypriot, and Roma descent. Teachers frequently report discipline issues, and fights are a common occurrence. This is one of the reasons PPI started a basketball program there in 2009, to give the kids a place to spend their time in a safe and positive way. With these same ideas in mind, Adam designed a picture inspired by the ideals of PeacePlayers: hope, peace, and of course, basketball. "We had anticipated some excitement, but the children’s intense desire to help was overwhelming. The finished product was more than just something nice to look at; it was something the kids cold see everyday and be proud of, showing the world just how much potential they have if given an opportunity."
Adam is now working at the PPI headquarters in Washington D.C. as the Development and Communications Associate, taking with him the knowledge and experiences of 2 years in the field. "I am so grateful to those who made this experience possible, but the impact of the PPI Fellows is ongoing, and there are a lot more children and communities that can benefit from our work. I look forward to assisting the new Fellows as they begin their journey around the world bringing children together for peace."
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