New Beginnings with PPI-CY’s Sophia Georgiou


Sophia with her fellow campers at PPI-CY summer camp 2015

This week’s blog is written by PeacePlayers Alum, Sophia Georiou. Sophia recently enrolled in her first year of university in Nicosia. An active member of PPI-CY and the Leadership Development Program for the past few years, Sophia decided to reflect on her time with PeacePlayers and the beginning of her new journey at university.

Hi Guys! My name is Sophia and I’m from Larnaca, Cyprus. I’ve been a PeacePlayer for a few years and I’ve just begun my first year of university in Nicosia. A few months ago I moved out of my family home and into a new city with my brother who is also studying in university. I decided to focus my studies on radiotherapy and radio diagnostics. So far I’m really enjoying my lessons, particularly anatomy and radio physics.

Sophia, Helin and Toot at PPI-CY summer camp 2015

I was so surprised to find that while making this new transition from high school to university, I would find similarities in some of my sessions I had while I was with PeacePlayers. I participated in a classroom session at a Leadership Development retreat. We were learning about setting, achieving and maintaining goals in the long-term and short-term. I can easily relate to goal setting here in university as I work towards achieving and sustaining a strong GPA, set up study schedules, plan projects and study for midterms.

Sophia with Coach Steph

Luckily for me, my PeacePlayers family is still around to support me. My first day of classes I got lost and was having trouble finding the school. Thanks to my great relationship with one of my PPI coaches Steph (who happens to live close by), she picked me up and helped me find my way around. Some of my favorite memories come from my time spent at PPI. I had a blast at the last summer camp, meeting up with my old friends and making new ones with the participants from other PPI sites. I’ll never forget hanging out with my friends Mush and Toot and scaring our friends in between our basketball and classroom sessions! Thankfully we caught some of it on camera. It’s nice to know that as I start this new chapter filled with new memories, I can still hold on to these great ones. It’s great that I’m able to keep in touch with my PPI friends and even find time to meet up with some of them too.

jwalton2015New Beginnings with PPI-CY’s Sophia Georgiou
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An Ode to the Fellowship

This weeks blog was written by former PPI-CY Fellow, Ryan Hage. Ryan was an outstanding member of our family for over a year. After finishing his fellowship, Ryan accepted a position at his alma mater, Fordham University, where he currently works with their men’s basketball team. The following is his “ode” to the fellowship:

Ryan and PPI-CY participants preparing for tip-off at a Twinning event.

Looking back, it’s funny to me that when PeacePlayers offered me the fellowship, there was a moment of hesitation to accept. Little did I know that it would be one of the greatest things I would ever do.

Let’s put aside for a second that you get to live on a Mediterranean island or work with kids in the outskirts of Durban, South Africa. That you can get the best hummus in the world with some hummus experts in Jerusalem or explore a country that is famous for warm people in not so warm Northern Ireland.

Your job is to TEACH THE GAME OF BASKETBALL IN THE NAME OF PEACE. Does that even sound real? I look back at it now and think of it as almost too good to be true. I have to look at Facebook pictures and text old coaches to make sure it wasn’t just a dream. I know the role of an International Fellow is different from site to site, but the main responsibility is to share your knowledge of the game of basketball while making kids feel comfortable enough to build relationships in conflict areas. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

Ryan, Jale and Jessica at PPI-CY Summer Camp 2015

I received a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something I am extremely passionate about and share that with others, but I also got to do it while making a Cypriot family 7,000 miles away from home. The greatest part of my fellowship was going to help with practice in Iskele and then being invited for dinner every single week at Coach Sevki’s house; getting a coffee with Coach Koulendis to talk PeacePlayers strategy for hours after watching him work his magic at Faneromeni school; having a boss that is so supportive and helpful with anything issue or topic, from helping me with the annual budget to helping me cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. Jale Canlibalik is the greatest boss I will ever have.

Calling up PeacePlayers Coach Nicos Mashias to play pickup with International Fellow and great friend Jessica Walton on a random Tuesday night and then going out for a Mediterranean feast afterwards was a regular occurrence that I will miss forever. Asking PPI-CY Program Manager Stephanie Nicolas about political barriers to hosting an event and then calling her because I blew a tire again and need her help is a resource I will miss very much. But I know I have made a Cypriot family that I will have for life, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

While the details are different, I know the love, learning, and support to be the experience of each fellow at every site because I have had countless conversations with fellows from the other sites. After traveling to PeacePlayers-Middle East many times and seeing the impact a single fellow can have on a site and how much that site can have on a fellow, I knew it wasn’t only my experience. Now I have best friends like Heni Bizawi, Program Manager of PPI-ME, that I could ask for advice for our own programming and also someone who I count as a friend for life.

If you are thinking about applying to the fellowship but may not be sure how it will affect you with your career or if it will be everything you want it to be, then let me put your worries at ease. It will be the most transformational experience of your life. You are given the freedom to really make a difference and put your stamp on a program that is changing lives. Former fellows have gone on to work for the NBA, Nike, and attend Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

“I want YOU for the fellowship”

It has been very sad to see my time with PeacePlayers end, but I will be forever grateful for being able to do something I love with such amazing people. To use PPI-ME Fellow and friend Jamie Walsh’s words, “how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

So if you are thinking about applying or know some who should, APPLY NOW!!!!!









jwalton2015An Ode to the Fellowship
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Meet Nicos! Our Newest PPI-CY Coach

Coach Nicos with Camp VIP, Sebnem Kimyacıoğlu

This weeks blog features an interview with Nicos Mashias. An active member of PPI-CY for the last four years, Nicos has volunteered at numerous events like Twinnings, LDP Retreats and Summer Camps and just recently became an official coach of our boys team in Aglantzia.

Q: What most excites you about coaching PeacePlayers this season?

A :I’ve been a part of the organization for almost 4 years now, but never had my own team throughout the year. I believe in the values PPI is promoting; bridging divides, developing leaders, changing perceptions, and I’m very excited to be able to pass those values and beliefs on to our young participants.

Q: Who are some of the people who’ve influenced you in basketball (coaches, players, etc.)?

A: I was very close to my father from a young age.  He exposed me to all kinds of sports, while also emphasizing the importance of performing well at school. I somehow fell in love with basketball!

The person who influenced me the most was my first coach, former Bulgarian national team player Sasha Venekov. He was my coach from the ages of 12 to 16 and then we became teammates on the men’s team. He taught me almost everything I know about basketball, including work ethic, taking responsibility for my actions on the court and the importance of playing team-style basketball to win games. From a young age, I began to admire basketball players that were leaders on and off the court; the ones whose actions speak louder than their words.

Coach Nicos and PPI-CY participants

Q: What does being a PPI-CY member mean to you?

A: Being an active member of PPI-CY means a lot to me. Since I joined 4 years ago as a volunteer, I’ve managed to build long lasting friendships with other coaches and PPI-Cyprus staff.  I have also been able to interact with many kids that share my passion for basketball and doing the right thing no matter what. I must admit, a lot of our young leaders are actually teaching me, through their actions, what true leadership is. They remind me the positive effects sports have on both a child’s development and their community’s development. They inspire me to continue contributing to this organization. If children can play together and overcome differences, then their parents and neighbors can eventually do the same. It’s all about human interaction.

Q: If you could be a part of any professional team (Coach or Player) which team would you join?

A:That’s a tough one. I really admire the NBA team – San Antonio Spurs. I know my friends in Phoenix, AZ will not like this, since they’re a rival of the Phoenix Suns. However, I strongly believe that any organization, not just in sports, should have the vision to be successful for many years, not just for the next 3-5 years. In order to accomplish that, all members of the team should be selected carefully, not just on individual talent, but on their ability to perform together as a team. The Spurs, under the leadership of Coach Greg Popovic, have been able to perform well every year for the past 20 years.

jwalton2015Meet Nicos! Our Newest PPI-CY Coach
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PPI-CY Plays for Peace with Cyprus Youth Council

PeacePlayers Cyprus participates in event with Cyprus Youth Council. Anticipation and excitement builds as our participants and staff begin practices and plan for new events, including the Fall LDP retreat.

We’re so excited to jump right into this new programming year. After a very successful year filled with bi-communal basketball, teamwork, learning and fun, we can’t wait for practices to get into full swing as we head into October!

PeacePlayers-Cyprus celebrated community, teamwork and sport last week with the Cyprus Youth Council at Ledra palace. Teams from both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities came together and were joined by some local basketball enthusiasts at Ledra palace.  The Cyprus Youth Council promoted the importance of active, healthy lifestyles through sport and our PeacePlayers demonstrated how basketball is a wonderful tool for bi-communal cooperation.

October also marks the official start of our basketball season. As teams are beginning to gather together for training all of us here at the PPI-CY office are preparing and planning for our new activities, community events, Twinnings and tournaments. We are also really excited for our upcoming Leadership Development Retreat this November. We will continue to teach our young leaders about the importance of using their PPI skills and knowledge within their own communities. It is always such a pleasure hosting these events and we are looking forward to updating all of our blog readers.

So be sure to continue to check our blogs as we update you on our progress!

jwalton2015PPI-CY Plays for Peace with Cyprus Youth Council
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