Opening Doors For The Youth of Cyprus

Helen, representing PeacePlayers at a fair in Nicosia

Helen, representing PeacePlayers at a fair in Nicosia

Today’s blog is brought to you by Leadership Development Participant Helen Partakki. Helen, along with her fellow PeacePlayers Nursu and Savvas, were selected to the Cyprus Friendship Program for this upcoming summer – a very prestigious honor.

Last summer during the PeacePlayers’ camp in Cyprus, a few participants and I were given the opportunity to experience a sweet taste of another bi-communal non-profit organisation, the Cyprus Friendship Programme (CFP). CFP is an organization of volunteers cooperating from both sides of the island, promoting peace and understanding while bringing together teenagers with future leadership potential, encouraging life-long friendships among them, and extending these friendships to their friends and families.

Nursu, center, with her PeacePlayers family!

Nursu, center, with her PeacePlayers family!

After that first contact, two of my fellow PeacePlayers teammates and I decided to apply for the CFP United States Residency Program (along with 160 other applicants  with an equal chance and hope of being selected). Fortunately, we were all interviewed and all of three of us PeacePlayers had been selected as part of the 60 teenagers participating this year!

So far we have spent our spring season getting to know each other’s  Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot cultures (although it was not difficult at all since PeacePlayers had already given us the chance to do that) and partnered up with someone from the other community with whom we will be going with to the U.S. to live with our American host family for four weeks!

The opportunity we were given from PeacePlayers to learn about this organisation was so far life changing. My Turkish-Cypriot teammate Nursu mentioned to me that, “PeacePlayers influenced me once again to try for peace and join the CFP. It is nice to know that there are people to support you when working for peace. It just makes me more confident.” Our other teammate Savvas added, “I was given the chance to play basketball with people my age from the other community by PeacePlayers and I think it would be amazing to live with one of my buddies for 4 weeks!”

Savvas, on right, at a twinning pointing to the path to greatness!

Savvas, on right, at a twinning pointing to the path to greatness!

I am convinced that by now, joining PeacePlayers was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. All teenagers keep getting challenged to become better leaders and are given life changing opportunities, but most importantly we can feel the love given to us by the PeacePlayers family running through our veins which only motivates us to work for peace in our world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyprus

Texas MBA Student Takes the Court Without Shoes

 

IMG_0801Today’s blog is written by Ivy Le, a member of the Texas MBA group that visited PeacePlayers last month. Ivy is the Principal at 9Terrains, a social media strategy firm that offers website design, content creation, social media guidance, and print service.

I came to South Africa for a school trip about nonprofits and social enterprises. I’m in the evening MBA program at the University of Texas, and our business school has been meeting with Peace Players International for the last two years. Each year our time together starts off with the dedicated people running the organization telling us about nonprofit management, organizational challenges, and needs. Then we ball hard Texas McCombs vs. PeacePlayers International, playing for nothing less than national pride for our respective countries. The children get a kick out of watching their coaches beat us.

ivy 1By us, I mean my athletic classmates. My parents came to America as refugees from Vietnam a couple years before I was born. Extracurricular sports  – or anything requiring the purchase of special equipment, clothing, or arranging personal transportation for that matter – were not exactly a priority for me growing up, so I felt an affinity for the kids playing with no shoes. I just knew, they didn’t want to ask their parents for sport shoes when it was stressful enough for them to get their children school uniforms and class supplies. Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

So I went on the court without shoes, too. Trust me, shoes could not make me a better basketball player anyway. Right away, a young lady named Tiara answered my fashion statement. Tiara asked with a smile “You like to play barefoot? I used to play barefoot, too. But then I got cut, so my mom got me shoes.”

In true PeacePlayers spirit of bridging divides and changing perceptions, Tiara and I began talking. It didn’t take long to find out that we both like the same hip hop artists, we both have relatives in Germany, and we both love to travel! She hasn’t had much of a chance yet, but she’s only 11. I never left my country until I was 15.

PeacePlayers International pours asphalt for basketball courts at disadvantaged schools, but that asphalt is actually IMG_0673bringing kids together. These kids face no shortage of challenges. Their bathroom stalls are covered with cruel slander, but it’s feasible that some of the girls named in the graffiti really are pregnant. The neighborhoods are defined by race and many of these kids, young men and women alike, are tempted, threatened or both by local gangs, not to mention the pressure to do drugs, alcohol and more.

Students aren’t signing up with Peace Players International because of the basketball; South African children know a lot more about American movie stars than American sports. Children sign up to play basketball, because they don’t have other after school choices. That’s fair, because the PeacePlayer’s coaches also have another motive: bridging divides, developing leaders and changing perceptions.

As we prepared to leave, I looked for my new friend to say goodbye. The other girls,  I noticed, were gathered in gaggles around the other MBA women from my class, but not Tiara. She watched the game quietly slightly apart from the others. Knowing what it’s like to have trouble fitting in, I asked Tiara who her school friends are. She told me, “The girls on my basketball team.”

Leave a comment

Filed under South Africa

Keeping the Flame of Friendship and Fun Alive

PPI coach in training, Aysha, leads a practice in Jerusalem.

PPI coach in training, Aysha, leads a practice in Jerusalem.

Today’s blog is written by Aaron Chan. Aaron is a former seminarian turned peace activist, world traveler, and teacher. He currently lives in Geneva where he works for a Landmine Action NGO and teaches English at the UN.

Three weeks ago I was able to attend a mixed Jewish and Arab basketball practice in Jerusalem. I was anxious to attend because I had already visited PeacePlayers International in Northern Ireland with students from the Sandy Spring Friends School. The students and I had helped organize a school fundraiser to support the wonderful work PeacePlayers does.

Aaron

Aaron visits Bethlehem in 2003

Although this was my sixth time in Israel-Palestine since 1999 – I had worked as a peace activist with Israeli and Palestinian peace groups before – this was my first time visiting a peace group like PPI. To be honest, I’ve seen the situation and hopes for peace get worse in the region since 1999, with violence escalating in the early 2000’s and peace groups constantly having to adapt.

Having traveled there after living in Switzerland for eight months, the contrast was glaring. The tension was tangible. Yet, in this little bilingual Hebrew-Arab school where PPI practices take place, there was a sense of normalcy. It was just kids playing together for fun and for friendly competition. In their basketball jerseys, most people wouldn’t be able to tell who was Jewish or Palestinian.

While the politicians bicker amongst themselves and peace groups scramble to expose the various injustices to get the world to respond, a simple game has the power to at least temporarily put those outside distractions away to let kids just play and be kids. This can grow and endure. Even during the middle of the recent violence in Gaza, many of the veteran PPI kids kept in touch. Palestinians have been invited for Shabbat and Jewish kids have been invited for the breaking of fast during Ramadan. It’s an image of what can be once the politicians start thinking about their own people and choose the only viable solution: a peaceful and just one. Until then, PPI is keeping the flame of friendship and fun alive.

1 Comment

Filed under Global

It’s Hard To Learn Anything While You’re Talking

The above picture is from the Game of 3 Halves that the young leaders who participated in our OCN course help us facilitate last month.

The above picture is from the Game of 3 Halves that the young leaders who participated in our OCN course help us facilitate last month.

Joseph “Joe” Smith an International Fellow at PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland shares a recent experience working with a group of young leaders in Northern Ireland. 

When I started working with PeacePlayers a short 8 months ago, I was looking forward to helping us achieve our mission statement – to bridge divides, develop leaders, and change perceptions. The first two phrases really spoke to me. The areas we are working are divided communities; 95% of the schools in Belfast are still segregated by religion, so bridging divides was simple to see. As a cross-community charity working with young people, I could certainly see the need for developing leaders to be a part of our mission. But how was I going to help change perceptions? Having never been to Northern Ireland before, how can I come to this part of the world where discrimination, sectarianism, and disagreement is palpable, and terror, bombings and death are in the not to distant past and help move the society forward. One conclusion I have come to; most times (like mom says) the solution does not lie with what I can say, but instead what I can listen to.

Coach Joe and Coach Nasiphi take some of our participants through the PPI-NI favourite, "not on my team," and activity used to challenge stereotypes and prejudice.

Coach Joe and Coach Nasiphi take some of our participants through the PPI-NI favourite, “not on my team,” and activity used to challenge stereotypes and prejudice.

We walked into the Greenhill YMCA conference room in Newcastle excited to meet the 20 young people participating in our Open College Network (OCN) course “Promoting Diversity Through Sport.” Though I had never met this group, I had delivered this OCN course to a similar aged group before, and was looking forward to judging how well they were able to engage in our materials. They all walked in and sat down, looking at each other a bit of nervousness and curiosity, waiting for myself and the other facilitators to get started. We began by playing a few icebreaker games, learned participant’s names, where they are from, and a bit about each other, our standard procedure at the beginning of such courses. As I scanned the room I began to do what we preach in the course not to. I began looking at what each of them was wearing. What colours did they have on? What was their surname? Did they call one of the city’s up north “Derry” or “London-Derry” It was during my time categorising and stereotyping that I was thrown off by one of the more excitable members of the group. The young man was wearing a Celtic Football top (traditionally associated with the Catholic community). I immediately began to question his motives for his outfit. I came up with possible comebacks for comments, and ways I was going to prevent this young man from becoming a “problem” in our group. It was at that moment that I was drawn from my thoughts back to the room where he was explaining his reasons for joining our OCN. He was a protestant, who was living in a predominately protestant community. He had thought provoking questions regarding his own community and Northern Ireland as a whole. Throughout the weekend activities, the topics of diversity, stereotyping, pre-judgment and ones “way of being” were discussed, and I discovered just how much these young people wanted to see change. They acknowledged that though the road to a shared society will not be easy, it was a necessary one to take.

This same group of young leaders helped PPI-NI facilitate a 5 week programme in their community which culminated a few weeks ago with the Larne YMCA Game of 3 Halves, during which they took on the task of facilitating one of PPI-NI’s classic games about perception change and stereotyping, “not on my team”. It was incredible to watch them relaying what they had learned during the OCN course to a younger generation.

This story is one of many that I have been lucky enough to be a part of during my time so far in Northern Ireland. It is one I tell not to highlight how great PeacePlayers is, or to pat our self on the back, but one that I hope encourages you to think about how you see and perceive people in your own life. Instead of trying to “change” others, try to get to know them, understand them, and care for them. It is after this process that the space can be created for change, in some cases (as shown above), your own rather than another.

In the attached video, participants from our Open College Network course “Promoting Diversity Through Sport” take some young people through a popular PPI-NI community relations activity “Not On My Team.” At the beginning of this activity, the participants are asked to arrange 8 cards from most important to least important player they believe would help their hypothetical basketball team be successful. The participants are given no more information than what the person on the card looks like. Once arranged in order, the participants are then given a bit more background about each player. Once they hear the background, they are asked if they still believe their order is correct. The activity is a fun and engaging way to discuss stereotypes and challenge our perceptions of how we see people. We enter the video after the participants have arranged their cards based on look, and are learning a bit more about each player…Enjoy!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Northern Ireland

PeacePlayers-Cyprus Hosts Leadership Development Retreat

Nessoden IF exploring the Pafos Archeological Park with PPI-CY

Nessoden IF exploring the Pafos Archeological Park with PPI-CY

Today’s blog is brought to you by Jessica Walton, International Fellow at PeacePlayers-Cyprus. PeacePlayers-Cyprus hosted Nesodden IF during last week’s Leadership Development (LDP) Retreat.

Last Thursday, PeacePlayers-Cyprus welcomed friends from Norway (Nesodden IF) to Cyprus to participate in a week long leadership development retreat. Kids participated in a wide range of activities like Lead 4 Peace community service programming, communication/leadership presentations, high ropes course team building exercises and of course, basketball training!

PeacePlayers-Cyprus after basketball training in Agros

PeacePlayers-Cyprus after basketball training in Agros

The Retreat began in Pafos, where the kids explored the Pafos Archeological Park. After Pafos, participants arrived in Agros to begin their basketball training and continue leadership development programming.

Just like Twinnings, the LDP Retreat was a bicommunal event. Both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot youth came together to learn about the importance of becoming strong leaders at an early stage. Together they reflected on how they can grow both together and individually to see positive changes within their own teams and communities.

One of the most notable moments at the retreat was listening to each of the kids give their community service project presentations to their peers. It really highlighted just how incredible the kids really are. Through the LDP program both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot kids were able to not only learn about the process of becoming a leader, but then applied those skills to their own personal projects for the betterment of their communities. From holding food drives, to volunteering at animal shelters and coaching in their communities, our PeacePlayers-Cyprus young leaders have really grown into leaders. Listening to them present to each other was really special.

Team building challenge on the ropes course at the Limassol Adventure Park

Team building challenge on the ropes course at the Limassol Adventure Park

The retreat came to a conclusion in Limassol, where kids and staff participated in team building exercises like a high ropes obstacle course, testing our abilities to work as a cohesive unit and helping us conquer our fear of heights. Both PeacePlayers-Cyprus and Nesodden IF had a fun-filled, exciting week and were able to walk away from their experience as better people, friends and leaders!

PeacePlayers-Cyprus would also like to thank Adidas for their generous donation of t-shirts and basketballs, helping make our LDP Retreat even more successful for our kids!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyprus

Durban hit hard by Xenophobia

“Why are you coming to S. Africa?”, the question came out in a mix of anger, annoyance and accusation.

“My brother is sick”, came the meager reply.

The setting was the South Africa-Swaziland border. After a four hour taxi (mini-bus) ride, I stood there half asleep watching this scene unfold. As the man in front of me, a native of Swaziland got interrogated in what must of been his third or fourth language (English) by a South African Immigration officer, I, the American was stamped and shuffled through without so much as a question.

“This must be the tenth Swazi who is coming to visit a sick brother in South Africa today”, shouted another immigration officer from across the room.

Little did I know that this one event would be a foreshadowing for what were to happen in the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks, Xenophobia has been all over the news. Dating back to 2008, when riots and looting began in Johannesburg before spreading across the country, South Africa has a long history in its short time as a democracy. Recent events in KwaZulu Natal  have set off a new string of riots, looting, and killings across the province. It has also shed a new light on the work that PeacePlayers does, specifically within SA. Sure we’re here to help bridge divides between different South African communities. At the same time, perhaps without even knowing at times, we’re bridging divides between S. Africans and refugees from different African countries such as Zimbabwe, Congo and Mozambique to name a few.

Below, PPI-SA staffers Sbahle Mkhize and Ntobeko Ncgamu talk about the recent events, their feelings and hope for the future:

The recent outbreaks in attacks against our fellow Africans are heartbreaking for me. It saddens me that Africans are fighting Africans. With the progression South Africa has made since apartheid, these attacks are moving us backwards. The same people who our fathers, uncles and brothers are attacking are the same people who protected Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other great leaders when they went into exile in countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Angola. The increase in crime, violence and substance abuse in South Africa is not due to the increase in immigrants and refugees. Blaming them is just the easy way out. The S. African  Government needs to re-assess their reasoning and stop blaming harmless individuals who are trying to make a living for themselves. It’s scary that people in South Africa can even believe that crime has color! There needs to be a huge mindset shift in this country which in turn, will influence the people of this Nation. Phansi nge-Xenophobia!!!! (Translated: Xenophobia is wrong!)

– Sbhale Mkhize

Girls from four different PPI communities at last year's City Wide Tournament

Girls from four different PPI communities at last year’s City Wide Tournament

I have seen and witnessed the craziness of my fellow South Africans first hand all because of Xenophobia. Watching and hearing about people getting attacked, beaten and sometimes killed just for being from a different country makes me sick. We are supposed to be the rainbow nation. It’s time that we as a nation stand up to discrimination like this. Xenophobic attachs are a crime and should be prosecuted!

Since joining PeacePlayers International – South Africa I have met a number of people from different countries and different parts of the world. Here at PPI, no matter where you come from we treat you like family. Part of our mission is to bridge divides, develop leaders and change perception. Our participants encompass our S. African tradition of Ubuntu (humanity, hospitality, love) everyday with the way they interact with their teammates, teachers, coaches and children from other communities. The PPI children and coaches are our hope for the future.

 – Ntobeko Ncgamu

Leave a comment

Filed under South Africa

Chubby Cheerios and Sweaty Betty

PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland international Fellow Casey Tryon shares her 6 weeks experience of working with the Carrickfergus project. 

PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland wrapped up a 6-week programme in Carrickfergus working with Greenisland Football Club and St. Mary’s Football Club. The two clubs engaged in a programme in which 40 boys from the under 10 and under 11 teams came together to play football and take part in PeacePlayers community relations activities. For most people, Friday afternoon can’t come soon enough. They can’t wait to get out of the office and start their weekend. I would normally be one of those people, but over the last several Friday evenings, I’ve had more fun than I could have imagined delivering this programme with Coaches Hannah, Taylor, and Ben.

PeacePlayers International- NI coaches with Greenisland Football Club and St. Mary’s Football Club

PeacePlayers International- NI coaches with Greenisland Football Club and St. Mary’s Football Club

On the first night, the boys from St. Mary’s waited in the car park and came in as one group. Once inside, there were two distinct teams sitting in the clubhouse. You could see some hesitation on their faces as we split them into mixed teams and they had to separate from their teammates. However, it did not take long for them to get to know their new teammates. Choosing team names was a great catalyst in starting conversation and helping the boys get to know one another. There were definitely a lot giggles, but eventually they settled with “Chubby Cheerios” and “Sweaty Betty”. By the time week five came around players from both clubs were walking in together as they arrived chatting away. It was interesting to see how a love for football could so quickly bring the boys together, but also momentarily divide them. Football was the similarity that initially created conversation and the beginning of relationships, but during an activity on symbols in Northern Ireland a Rangers and Celtics jersey became a spot of contention. At first sight each jersey received both cheers and “boo’s” of which you could sense the emotion behind the praise or dislike for each team. However, a willingness to listen to each other led to a great conversation about how supporting different teams doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, and by the end some of them were even willing to try on the jersey of the team they didn’t support.

Participants learning about different symbols that are they would see in Northern Ireland.

Participants learning about different symbols that are they would see in Northern Ireland.

 

 

The enthusiasm and eagerness to work with new teammates and the PeacePlayers staff made the programme fun and enjoyable for all. There were a few times where we all had to pause the activity for a minute so we could control our laughter. As Northern Ireland continues to work to bridge divides it’s clear that coaches, youth leaders, and teachers are critical to the success of programmes like this. The four coaches from Greenisland and St. Mary’s had a tremendous impact on the success of this programme, and the attitudes of the boys were a direct reflection on their coaches. A big thank you to the coaches and players of both clubs for helping make this programme successful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Northern Ireland

A Serendipitous Donation from the Performance Institute

Executive Director of The Performance Institute, Bruce Anich, with PPI's Director of Finance, Human Resources & Administration, Taylor Brown.

Performance Institute’s Dir. of Operations, Bruce Anich, with PPI’s Dir. of Finance, Human Resources & Administration, Taylor Brown.

Nobody likes moving, but PeacePlayers International’s recent office move was made a little better thanks to a generous donation from The Performance Institute (PI) – a nonpartisan, private think tank seeking to improve public and private sector performance through the principles of transparency, accountability, performance and engagement. Thanks to some serendipitous circumstances, PI’s Director of Operations, Bruce Anich, was able to arrange the donation of a complete set of 7 office furniture desks to support PPI’s move from 901 New York Ave. to our new location at 1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Suite 875, Washington, DC.

“The PI donation allows PPI to use our funds directly on program participants and not on tenant improvements.” said Taylor Brown, PPI Director of Finance, Human Resources & Administration. “We had an opportunity for PI to donate excess furniture as we move out to our new training facility 3101 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA and the PPI donation allows them to increase their results by outfitting their new headquarters and applying what would be a cost to be directly apply these funds for the development of youth leaders.” said Bruce Anich, PI Director of Operations.

Some of the lovely ladies after practice in Ein Raffa.

PeacePlayers participants in the Middle East

PI serves as the nation’s leading authority and repository on performance-based management practices for government. Their mission is to identify, study, and disseminate the leading management innovations pioneered by “best-in-class” organizations. Through their best practice research and strategic consulting services, interactive training programs for government and private sector managers, and our national conferences on pressing issues, The Performance Institute provides cutting edge expertise in the design, implementation and evaluation of strategies to solve operational and managerial challenges and enhance organizational performance.

A special thanks to Bruce and all the folks and PI for their support of PeacePlayers International, and our mission to unite, educate and inspire young people in divided communities through basketball.

Leave a comment

Filed under Global

Inspiring the next generation of “Baggage Free” and “Out of the Box Leaders”

Inspiring the next generation of “Baggage Free” and “Out of the Box Leaders”

PeacePlayers inspiring the next generation of “Baggage Free” and “Out of the Box Leaders”

PeacePlayers in Northern Ireland is very much in the business of creating the next generation of leaders within the communities that suffer most from the legacy of sectarian and political conflict. At PeacePlayers we call these young leaders Champions for Peace. Simply put, a PeacePlayers Champion for Peace is a young leader who, free of the baggage that so many of this and past generations carry with them, is ideally positioned to actively contribute to creating a more stable and peaceful society. Below PPI-NI Managing Director Gareth Harper shares a story that helps to place in context the challenge that remains but also the opportunity that exists to realise the potential of our young Champions for Peace.

The Adam and Dave Story

Adam said to his father Dave, “Dad, what’s a Republican?” Dave, a Protestant Ulster Rugby fan who has been supporting his son’s choice to play Gaelic football at his local integrated primary school, does his best to answer the 9-year-old’s question. Dave tells Adam that there are two main traditions in Northern Ireland. He explains that there are Unionists/Loyalists who see themselves as British and who are mostly Protestant, loyal to the British Queen and focused on supporting the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. He then explains that Republicans, who are mostly Catholic, believe that the whole island of Ireland should be one republic and that Republicans don’t recognise the existence of Northern Ireland but rather are supportive of a united Ireland. Dave pausing for a breath as he sees that his son looks a bit confused asks, “Where did you hear about Republicans?” To which Adam responds, “On the Simpsons…”

participants doing a not in my team activity that focuses on stereotypes and prejudice awareness.

participants doing a not in my team activity that focuses on stereotypes and prejudice awareness.

Our young Champions for Peace can hear and see things differently – they don’t apply the same almost reflex filters to certain words, names or indeed sports – they don’t see things through a lens that has been tainted by negative lived experience. Rather they can see things as they are now, they can see people as people. Be it the seven year old, who after a Twinning session, at home asks his parents “why do I go to a different school from my new friend that I met at PeacePlayers today?” or the 16 year old PeacePlayers Coach in Training that is facilitating a ‘Not on My Team’ stereotypes and prejudice discussion with children from Catholic and Protestant primary schools in her own community – both are Champions for Peace, both are challenging the status quo and contributing to a better more shared and integrated future.

For its part PPI-NI will continue to provide more ‘Out of the Box’ spaces where the youngest and those who are the most vulnerable in our society feel safe and empowered to continue to play a positive role as they engage with their peers from other sections of the community. PPI-NI and its ever expanding team of young Champions for Peace will work to strengthen the peace that has been built over time and ensure that the negative elements of our society are prevented from off-loading their baggage onto younger generations.

PPI-NI Managing Director Gareth Harper

PPI-NI Managing Director Gareth Harper

Leave a comment

Filed under Northern Ireland

Coach’s Corner: Rebecca Ross

A shot of Coach Rebecca in uniform for this year's Israeli professional team.

A shot of Coach Rebecca in uniform for this year’s Israeli professional team.

This week’s blog is about North Miami Beach-born coach Rebecca Ross who moved to Israel with her family in 1997.  Ross has been playing professional basketball in the women’s first division Israeli league since she was 18 years old.  She has been coaching young girls in basketball for a while, but this her first year with PeacePlayers International – Middle East.  Here Rebecca talks about the her experience and the impact PeacePlayers has had on her.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born in the United States, moved to Israel with my family in 1997 from North Miami Beach. I started playing basketball when I was 7 years old. I’ve been playing professional basketball in the women’s first division Israeli league since I was 18 years old. I represented Israel as a player on the Israeli national team in many international tournaments. I’ve been coaching young girls since I was 16 years old.

Ross in action driving past a defender.

Ross in action driving past a defender.

How did you find out about PeacePlayers?

I knew about the PeacePlayers organization for many years but this is my first year working as a coach with the organization.  I heard about it mostly from friends and other coaches.

What is your role in PeacePlayers?

I coach the young All-Stars team (a mixed Arab-Jewish team for 15-16 year-old-girls). We play in the first division Israeli youth league. Since most of my girls are relatively young, it’s there first year competing at such a high level.

What was your mindset prior to working with PeacePlayers?

Before I started working with Peace Players I never really knew any Arabs personally, even though I saw them all the time and lived with them, I never had a conversation with an Arab.  I was basically taught to “hate” the Arabs, due to the environment I was raised in; the atmosphere was very tense between the Jews and Arabs particularly.

How has PeacePlayers impacted you?

Ross with her mixed 15-16 all-star team before a game.

Ross with her under-16 All-Star team before a game.

I must say I didn’t expect my involvement with PeacePlayers to be so powerful and basically life changing. I  met some amazing people, who all just want to live like normal human beings in peace. I just think that no matter who you are and where you come from, (in my case we were enemies) once you get to know someone personally, without any borders, there is no limit to where it might take you.

PeacePlayers has made a huge impact on me personally, due to the extreme right wing background I came from. It basically changed my whole point of view, not only towards the Arabs specifically but in general towards human beings.  I’m happy I got the opportunity to work with PeacePlayers, I definitely feel that through basketball my young girls have a great opportunity to experience something special that will give them tools and help them in the future.


Even in knowing Rebecca for just a short amount of time, it’s easy to see she is a natural leader, warm, and very passionate about basketball and her role as a coach.  She is always there for her girls after the final buzzer sounds and building meaningful relationships and learning.  We are very fortunate to have her as part of the program in the Middle East and grateful that she took a chance and tried something new.  This is what being a PeacePlayer is all about!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Middle East