NBA Shooting Legend Pat Garrity Coaches at PPI-Cyprus Summer Camp

Coach Garrity giving some inspirational words of wisdom to the players

Former NBA sharpshooter, Pat Garrity, coaching at the 2014 PPI-Cyprus Summer Camp

This week’s blog is brought to you by Pat Garrity, former NBA sharpshooter, who played professionally for the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic for ten years. Pat and former WNBA player, Evan Unrau, were VIP’s at PPI – Cyprus’ Summer Camp, which brought together 64 Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot children together to play basketball and build friendships. During the week-long camp, Pat shared an unbelievable amount of knowledge and passion for the game with our participants and coaches.

Pat leads PPI's participants through a variety of basketball drills

Pat leads PPI’s participants through a variety of basketball drills

In August I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in PPI-Cyprus’s annual Summer Camp. I’d gotten to know about PeacePlayers through a friend who also serves on PPI’s board. Through him, I met Brendan Touhey, one of PPI’s Co-Founders. During my career in the NBA, I had the good fortune to participate in a number of programs around the world that use basketball as a bridge to connect young people and develop leadership. The experiences all left me with long lasting relationships and terrific memories. Basketball has always been the centerpiece of my life. Since retiring from the NBA in 2008 and no longer able to do what I once used to on the court, I’ve found that teaching kids the game is the next best thing. So when Brendan called me earlier this summer and asked if I’d be interested in helping lead PPI’s summer camp in Cyprus, I gladly accepted.

I worked with a group of Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot coaches whose love for the game was outmatched only by their talent in teaching and mentoring teenagers.

Pat with the senior boys team

Pat with the senior boys team

Prior to arriving, the only thing I knew about basketball in Cyprus was that a former teammate of mine on the Orlando Magic, Darrell Armstrong, had played there in the days before he broke into the NBA. His career in Cyprus didn’t last long, though. He had to return back to the US early after his team’s gym was burned down by rival fans upset about the outcome of a game. After dinner one night, I mentioned the story I’d heard from Darrell to Michalis, one of the camp coaches, wanting to know if in fact it were true. Though he was only 12 at the time, Michalis remembered the game and told me about it in great detail. His ability to recall the episode in such detail illustrated an impression I’d formed early on in my interactions in the first days of the camp:  people here love basketball! As the week went on, this was evident not only in the outstanding coaches who helped lead the camp, but also in the passion and knowledge of the game possessed by the kids who participated.

Pat Garrity with U.S. Ambassador Koenig

Pat Garrity with U.S. Ambassador Koenig

For a week, I along with Evan Unrau (who just joined Stanford’s women’s staff; congrats Evan!) and Robbie Hummel (who just finished his playing career at Stanford), worked with a group of Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot coaches whose love for the game was outmatched only by their talent in teaching and mentoring teenagers. In the mornings, we led 64 participants through fundamentals, and in the evening, the kids put what they learned into action in 5-on-5 games. On one of the nights, Evan, Robbie and I, with the help of some of the older campers,  led a coaching clinic for local coaches. Off the court, the PPI staff conducted a full regiment of sessions aimed at teaching leadership, tolerance, and cooperation. And of course, there was plenty of time for the pool and meals during which the kids could just hang out, uninterrupted by adults, reviewing their latest posts on Instagram, and more importantly, forming bonds which might otherwise never have been formed were it not for programs like PeacePlayers.

At the end of the last on-court session, we had a huge water balloon fight. The last night we had a dance, with a DJ, lights and all, and celebrated all the hard work that the kids, Ryan Hage (PPI-Cyprus’ International Fellow), Stephanie Nicolas (PPI-Cyprus’ Coordinator) and Jale Canlibalik (PPI-Cyprus’ Managing Director) put in to making it such a success.

Basketball has provided me a great deal, ever since I picked up the game in 4th grade. I’ve had a chance to play for some of the best coaches in the game and against the best players in the world. Basketball has taken me to China, Africa, India and throughout Europe. And as anyone who’s been around the game will tell you, it’s the relationship based on a common love of the game that form the longest-lasting memories. My time in Cyprus with PeacePlayers was no different.

Many thanks to all who made my experience with Peace Players possible. Thank you to US Ambassador John Koenig and the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus for supporting the program and taking the time to visit. Along with Evan, Robbie, Ryan, Stephanie and Jale, a special thanks also to the Hasmet, Andreas, Orhun, Bahar, Costas, Michalis, and Nicos who in addition to their contributions to the camp dedicate so much of their time year-round to continue to build the program and put PeacePlayers mission into action. And finally, a big thank you to the 64 campers for their wonderful attitudes, open-mindedness and effort. I hope what you learned this week fuels your improvement, not only in basketball but also as leaders on your team, in your schools and in your communities. I hope our paths can cross again someday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyprus

PPI-SA and SAPREF kick-off Third term

PPI-SA Participants from

PPI-SA Participants from Collingwood and Sukuma Primary Schools pose with SAPREF Representative Londiwe Myeza and PPI coaches and staff at last Friday’s Extravaganza

This past Friday PeacePlayers International – South Africa kicked off its third term with an Extravaganza at the Umlazi Indoor Sports Centre. These bi-monthly events bring together 4 schools across two communities. Kids participate in life-skills and ice breaker drills to get to know one another, before coming back together with their teams for an afternoon of basketball games. Last Friday’s Extravaganza included nearly 100 boys and girls from Collingwood and Assegai Primary Schools of Wentworth, and Sukuma and Mthethweni Primary Schools of Umlazi.

At this particular Extravaganza PPI was joined by a special guest, Londiwe Myeza of SAPREF. SAPREF which is the largest crude oil refinery in Southern Africa, recently came on board as a sponsor of PPI-SA, donating 50 basketballs. Londiwe joined us for her first Extravaganza to present the balls and spend some time with the kids.

Slowly but surely the kids start to get the hang of the ice-breaker Walk the Plank

Slowly but surely the kids start to get the hang of the ice-breaker Walk the Plank

The event kicked-off with fellow Ben Constable walking the kids through a New Zealand original ice breaker called “Walk the Plank”. In this particular ice breaker, kids are asked to dance around the court. While dancing they’ll receive commands like “Life Preserver”—in which three kids must cross arms in a circle—or “Life Boat 5”—where 5 kids must make a straight line at half court. Anybody who incorrectly executes the command is out until we get down to one winner. As an added twist, as the players are receiving commands they must come together in groups with children from other schools to help facilitate interaction.

After this quick and fun warm-up, each team played two games against the schools from the other community (i.e. Collingwood Primary faced off against Mthethweni and Sukuma Primary Schools), before breaking half way through for the presentation by SPAREF.

Players and coaches alike were sad to hear the final whistle blow as the games came to a close. However, the fun didn’t stop there. When the buses got stuck in traffic on their way back to the arena to pick up the kids, something amazing happened. The boys and girls didn’t just automatically retreat to hang-out with their teammates, but instead continued interacting with players form a different school. In one corner of the gym there was a dance circle, where Mthethweni and Assegai took turns being the center of the show. In another, players from all four schools lined up to cheer on Fellows Ben Constable and Bryan Franklin in an impromptu dunk show. Finally, outside in the parking lot, Collingwood and Sukuma primary school participants sat down and shared some post-game snacks. For everything that happened Friday afternoon—from basketball games, to basketball donations, from winning to losing, and plenty of cheering in between—it was these small moments afterwards that proved the event a great success.

PPI-SA would like to give a special thank you to Londiwe Myeza and SAPREF for their generous donation and support of the program.

1 Comment

Filed under South Africa

Fantasy Football for a Cause

MeaninfulWins2

Nearly 40 million people compete in fantasy football leagues every year for a combined total of $2 billion in prizes. However, for many, fantasy football isn’t about the prizes, but the camaraderie and friendly competition. The prizes are just an added bonus.

Entrepreneur John Ellis and Assistant GM to the Texas Rangers Thad Levine competed in the same fantasy league for years when they got an idea – what if the money people use to enter a league was put towards charity? Imagine the millions of dollars that could be raised for nonprofit organizations.

Ellis and Levine recently founded Meaningful Wins which allows fantasy football players to compete in leagues for the charity of their choice. Leagues are first set up on commercial platforms such as NFL.com, ESPN.com, and Yahoo.com just as usual. After doing so, they can then register on MeaningfulWins.com. Each league player then receives an email asking them to register, pay their entry fees, and then choose a charity to play for, upon which completing this information they will receive a tax-deduction receipt. At the end of the fantasy season, the winning player’s charity receives the money!

While any charity can be selected and benefit from this process, Meaningful Wins features ten selected charities, PeacePlayers International being one of them. We are honored to be a featured charity of Meaningful Wins and encourage all of our supporters and friends to register their fantasy leagues on MeaningfulWins.com and choose PPI as their charity.

Everyone loves playing fantasy football, so why not play for a cause?

Leave a comment

Filed under Global

An Epic and Fleeting Experience: Basketball Without Borders

Peace Player Bryan Franklin looking over the top 60 young talents from Africa

Fellow Bryan Franklin looking over the top 60 young talents from Africa.

Basketball Without Borders Africa is a four-day event that occurs annually in Johannesburg, South Africa, bringing together some of the continent’s top players. PPI-SA fellows Ben Constable and Bryan Franklin were fortunate enough to help out with the program earlier this month.

If you read this blog, you already have an appreciation for sport’s natural tendency to bring people together. However, few sporting events demonstrate this to the degree of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Program. If you asked Chris Clunie, former PeacePlayer and current Senior Coordinator for the NBA’s International Basketball Operations, if Basketball Without Boarders Africa ticked all three boxes for Peace Players International (Bridging Divides, Developing Leaders, Changing Perceptions), the answer would be a confident “yes.”

Fellow Ben Constable poses along with some Basketball Without Borders team members and supporters.

Fellow Ben Constable poses with several Basketball Without Borders team members.

And how could it not? Rarely can you gaze onto a court containing 60 of the best African players from 20 nations all while talking to a Zambian Coach about how the influx of South Sudanese refugees to Australia will change the youth basketball landscape. Then walk onto a court to be dunked on by a seven-footer from Senegal, save a little face by high-fiving Dikembe Mutombo on your way off the court, and then quiz Clarisse Machanguana on her foundation in Mozambique.

The concentration of basketball wealth at Basketball Without Borders is staggering and motivating, but what stands out to people who work in areas of social development, who understand that growing the game is a continuous unrelenting process, is how epic, yet fleeting the event is.

There is definitely an awareness within the NBA as to what needs to be done to grow the game in regions like South Africa. Coach Lionel Hollins summarized it pretty well in an interview regarding BWB’s work:

There are seed programs in Senegal, there are seed programs in South Africa that African NBA players and African scouts have implemented, and now you have to teach coaches in order to have them teach the players. That’s where the talent gets stronger and the interest gets higher. But the players need to start playing younger. Most African players are not playing until they’re 15, 16, 17 years old, whereas American players are starting to play at 8, 9, 10 years old, which gives them quite an advantage. When you don’t have a lot of facilities, there’s not a lot of opportunities for formal leagues to be played.

There seems to be a disconnect between the resources the NBA provides and the most efficient way to develop the game in young basketball nations. BWB does a phenomenal job in creating a temporary spectacle once a year, providing an ambitious goal for young African players to work toward, a Mecca for people in the African basketball scene to network. Yet, what is still lacking is incentive for coaches to work at the most junior levels, professional development for coaches at the most junior levels, and consistently accessible facilities for athletes. As we look ahead, we know that this is what is needed to continue growing the game we all love across the African continent.

Leave a comment

Filed under South Africa

In The Name of Basketball: Evan Unrau Bridges Divides at the PPI-Cyprus Summer Camp

The whole gang

Evan Unrau with PeacePlayers coaches and members of the Leadership Development Program

Today’s blog is written by former WNBA player, Evan Unrau. Two weeks ago, Evan along with former NBA sharpshooter, Pat Garrity, flew to Cyprus for the PeacePlayers Summer Camp. Each year the camp brings together 64 Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth for six days of basketball training, conflict resolution, and leadership development.

Evan with the winners of one vs one finalists

Evan with the winners of one vs one finalists

My name is Evan Unrau, and I have recently returned home to Los Angeles after spending a week in Cyprus as a PeacePlayers – Cyprus VIP for their summer basketball camp.  As a Division I collegiate coach and former elite athlete, I have devoted my life to the game of basketball.  I have been blessed with the chance to play and coach at the highest level and have developed a philosophy about my involvement in the game – it’s all about people.  Sport has the unique ability to unite people across ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds and other qualifiers.  When the opportunity arose to partner with PeacePlayers International and assist with their summer camp in Cyprus, I jumped at the opportunity.  I hopped on a plane and made the 14-hour journey to Cyprus filled with excitement and a bit of uncertainty as to  what lay ahead for the next 10 days.  To my delight, I was met with one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  PPI-Cyprus fellow Ryan Hage met me at the airport, and we began an adventure for the ages.  In my days leading up to the camp, I was introduced to my fellow VIP partner, former NBA star Pat Garrity.  Pat is a highly accomplished man on paper, but the real life version is so much better.  Pat has a passion and intellect for the game of basketball that is rare to come across.  Together we toured Cyprus and were treated to its wonderful cuisine and sights and were introduced to a team of PPI staff members whose passion for their cause is truly beautiful.

Evan and Pat with US Ambassador

Evan and Pat with US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig

The day of camp came, and we took a bus to the hills of Agros where camp was to be held. The  views were spectacular!  It is here that we met other camp workers and many of the PPI players attending camp.  What a special group of people!  There was an air of excitement as our PPI camp journey was beginning to take form.   It was in sitting with the PPI coaches that the story of Cyprus and its embattled past began to take from.  A country divided between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, I began to meet the people living the present day struggle to become a country united.  The camp itself was scheduled to include sessions focused on leadership development, team bonding and basketball skill sessions.  Myself and Pat were in charge of the basketball component of camp, but it was outside of the basketball court where I found the true value of PPI’s mission.  In a room with PPI coaches and community leaders, we participated in activities aimed at joining the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot campers together and learned more about one another and finding a common ground.  With many of the players having the ability to speak English, we engaged with this wonderful group of kids and found ourselves talking and laughing a ton.  It was in these sessions that the power of PeacePlayers began to take form.

To my surprise, I was greeted with a group of kids that were already well versed in the game of basketball, which is a huge testament to the coaches of PPI.

Evan leading the girls team through a series of basketball drills

Evan leading the girls team through a series of basketball drills

Basketball time!  I had no idea what to expect when planning my workouts with the PPI athletes.  What level of basketball talent were they?  What kind of drills and terminology had they been exposed to?  Would they look at me like I had 4 heads?  To my surprise, I was greeted with a group of kids that were already well versed in the game of basketball, which is a huge testament to the coaches of PPI.  With the assistance of PPI coaches and senior leaders as translators when needed, we worked hard and got even better!  As impressed as I was with the players on the court, my interaction with them on the walk to the gym and in the moments shooting around before and after practice really showed their personalities, and they are WONDERFUL!  I learned about where they are from, their families, what kind of music they like, who their favorite players are and why they are part of PPI.  As their stories unfolded, I began to truly understand the power of PPI’s initiative – that kids are kids and when you bring them together in the name of a cause, such as basketball, memories and relationships are formed which shed the burden of history that has been thrust upon them.

Evan with the PPI - Cyprus coaches and young leaders who assisted with many of the practices

Evan with PeacePlayers coaches and young leaders who assisted with many of the practices

I can’t thank the coaches and organizers of PPI enough for letting me partake in such a wonderful event.  To PPI-Cyprus fellow Ryan Hage, thank you for your time and enthusiasm.  No one has more energy than you!  To Stephanie, you organized a well-oiled machine and provided the ultimate summer camp experience.  To Jale, who behind the scenes helped make a vision into a reality.  To the PeacePlayers coaches: Hasmet, Andreas, Orhun, Bahar, Costas, Michalis, Nicos, and Robbie, you guys are a basketball player’s dream to have coach them.  To the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia and Ambassador John Koenig who so graciously helped fund and take the time out of his busy schedule to attend the camp.  And finally, to all the campers,  THANK YOU!  I had the time of my life and am thrilled to add PPI-Cyprus to my ever expanding family in the name of basketball.

In case you missed it, check out this fantastic video recap of the camp made by Tessa Ramsay, a volunteer for the week at camp:

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyprus

So Long, Jamie!

International Fellow Jamie Walsh is heading back to the U.S. tomorrow after nearly two fun and fruitful years with PPI – ME. We made a short slide show for Jamie to thank her for her hard work, dedication and spirit. We’ll miss you, Jamie!

Check out the slide show below.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Middle East

BIG is BACK!

This week Ella Harper (9-year-old daughter of PPI-NI Managing Director Gareth Harper), shares with us some video footage she captured at the Belfast Interface Games (BIG) camp held at St John’s GAC in West Belfast. Building on the success of the prior two years, the B.I.G. this year included three days of summer camps in North, South, East and West Belfast. Around 85 children ages 9-13 received training from professional coaches skilled in Gaelic football, rugby and football. Following the summer camps, all participants took part in the flagship Game of Three Halves where they competed against groups from other parts of Belfast in these three sports.Below, Ella and her sister Alana (10 years) share their experiences of their fist BIG camp.

So girls, how was it?

Ella: It was great fun! I was a bit nervous at the start, but I really enjoyed helping my dad out with the games and meeting and playing games with my new friends.

Alana: It was the same for me at the start, but when we got to the gym and started playing, I got stuck right into it.  We were put onto new teams and had to come up with a new team name – we were called  “the Mighty Seamus’s Ducks.”

What was your favourite part?

Ella: I really liked the 4 ball passing game. It was hard to start with, but we got the hang of it.  The game helped me to learn the names of my new teammates.  I also learned how to pass a rugby ball, I have played Gaelic before but never rugby, so that was cool. My team was called  “the Haribo Heads.”

Alana: I really enjoyed playing all the sports and meeting new people. I also enjoyed hanging out with my dad.  The Sports Jeopardy Quiz was great, even though I didn’t get too many of the questions right – I answered “Brian O’Driscoll” to everything.  We also played a cool game called “Empires” – we got to know who everyone’s favourite celebrities where, my dad confused everybody by picking Ozzy Osbourne.

Leave a comment

Filed under Northern Ireland

PPI Board Member RC Buford a Step Ahead on Gender Equality

Hammon speaking to the press about her new role as Spurs assistant coach

Hammon speaking to the press about her new role as Spurs Assistant Coach

Today’s blog is written by PPI Development and Communications Intern, Max Mancher

There has been plenty of drama surrounding this NBA offseason. The biggest stars in the game were flying around the country trying to figure out the best move for their future. As such, the teams that had money to spend were working hard to bring the biggest names in the game to their city as they looked to contend for a title in the 2014-15 season. And while teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls have been very successful on the court, maybe the most significant offseason signing will not be suiting up for their team come opening day.

The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning NBA champions. For the past 15 years, the Spurs have been atop the western conference standings with all indication of staying there. Yet it is this team, led by visionaries such as Greg Popovich and RC Buford, that has made the biggest moves this summer. And no, I am not talking about their signing of pass first big man and former Most Improved Player, Boris Diaw. For even this lucrative $22 million signing pales in comparison to the implications of the Spurs newest coach and former WNBA star, Becky Hammon.

After having spent a good deal of time helping out with and observing the Spurs’ practices while recovering from an injury, the Spurs front office felt that she was qualified for a position as assistant coach. “I know Coach Pop has made it very clear to me that I’m being hired because of my basketball IQ and because I’m qualified,” she said. “He says it just so happens you are a woman.” And why should it not be this simple?

It should also not come as a surprise that it was RC Buford’s team that made such an impactful signing. RC who has been the General Manager for the Spurs since 2002 after 5 seasons as team

GM RC Buford (left) and Coach Greg Papovich (right) were instrumental in bringing Hammon over to the Spurs

GM RC Buford (left) and Coach Greg Papovich (right) were instrumental in bringing Hammon over to the Spurs

president is exactly the type of executive that one would expect to make such a move. Buford has long been involved with PeacePlayers International, sitting on the Board of Directors while also staying actively involved with trips to visit PPI – Middle East and South Africa.

Moreover, throughout his involvement with PPI, Buford has been an advocate for PPI’s efforts surrounding female participants and gender equality. PPI places special emphasis on bridging the gender gap in athletic participation in divided communities. Given the fact that a strong link has been found between girls’ participation in sport and higher academic achievement and future professional success, PPI aims to bring athletic opportunities to girls who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.

This provides some context for how this situation was handled by everyone working with the Spurs. It was casual.

Hammon has simply shown that not only does she have a great basketball mind, but that she is able to teach and coach players extremely well. And while this one signing will not radically change the

Hammon talks basketball with Coach Papovich

Hammon talks basketball with Coach Papovich

game of basketball overnight, what this signing does is increase the meritocracy within the NBA, regardless of gender. And while the change may be gradual, women will hopefully now feel more confident pursuing positions that they are qualified for, regardless of who traditionally occupies that role. This is why the signing of Becky Hammon is so significant.

To the Spurs, they have hired a coach that they believe will put them in the best position to compete for another championship title but it is very clear that this decision goes well beyond the x’s and o’s. It is no coincidence that such a hiring was made by a team put together in large part by RC Buford, a man who has demonstrated his commitment not only to gender equality but to sports as a catalyst for change.

 

Spurs GM, RC Buford coaches a young PeacePlayer.

Spurs GM, RC Buford coaches a young PeacePlayer.

 

For more information on Becky Hammon:

Becky Hammon Press Conference

Player and Coach Reactions

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Global

Cyprus Summer Camp!

 

Fellow Ryan Hage writes a little bit about the big PPI-Cyprus Summer Camp to accompany this fantastic video recap of the camp made by Tessa Ramsay, a volunteer for the week at camp. 

We just wrapped up our biggest event of the year, the summer camp, and it was a GIGANTIC SUCCESS! It is not only a basketball camp, but an opportunity to bring together 64 Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth for six days. They live, eat, breath, and play basketball together while forming friendships that will last them a lifetime.

PeacePlayers had some very special guests this week with former NBA sharpshooter, Pat Garrity, and former WNBA player, Evan Unrau. They both brought an unbelievable passion and energy to the camp that the kids fell in love with. Also, we were lucky enough to have Robbie Lemons, last weeks guest blogger, as a volunteer to give some young life to the coaches.

Overall, it was an amazing week and the video gives just a little taste of all the great events and games the kids got to take part in. Special thanks to the US Embassy and Jotun for supporting the PeacePlayers – Cyprus Summer Camp.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyprus

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard

Hanging out after one of our many Minifests in Jerusalem

Hanging out after one of our many MiniFests in Jerusalem

This will be my last blog as an International Fellow for PeacePlayers International – Middle East before I head back to the States. It’s hard to believe the time has finally come to say goodbye when it seems like just yesterday I was trying authentic Middle Eastern hummus and falafel for the very first time. These days many call me a “hummus snob,” as I know all the good spots to eat and have been known to turn my nose up at hummus that isn’t up to my newly formed standards. Whether it’s the food, the people or the program in general, this place has truly become a home to me, which is why it is so difficult to leave.

PPI staff having fun during this years Springfest

PPI staff having fun during this year’s SpringFest

Initially I applied to be a PPI fellow because of my desire to make a difference. I wanted to feel like I was giving back and hoped that in the process I would also grow as a person. However, now that all is said and done, I can honestly say the people here have given me more than I could ever possibly give them. I am forever grateful for the life lessons I have learned just by being a part of PeacePlayers. Most of the people here will never know the extent to which they have changed my life. Looking back, it was all of the little things together that slowly changed my outlook on life and gave me a new definition of true happiness. I could sit here and write hundreds of stories about how giving, selfless and positive the participants and staff of this organization is.

Jack, Heni, Samantha Dols of the World Lens Foundation and I catching the sights of Jerusalem

Jack, Heni, Samantha Dols of the World Lens Foundation and I catching the sights of Jerusalem

I remember I was eating dinner one night at the house of three of our LDP members in Beit Safafa, an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem. I told one of the girls, Aysha, that I liked the new phone case she had just gotten earlier that day. A minute later she left the room and came back with the phone case wrapped in a pretty package and handed it to me. I tried to tell her a million times that I didn’t want to take it, but she wouldn’t accept no for an answer. It may not seem like a big deal to many people here, but this moment is ingrained in my mind, and it is only one small example of the countless selfless acts I experienced here regularly. To be around people on a consistent basis that have little to no attachment to material things is something that I hope stays with me forever. The people in this program have showed me the true meaning of “the finer things in life,” and for that I am forever grateful.

Acting silly with the LDP

Acting silly with the LDP

On a final note, I have witnessed first-hand just how many people have been affected by the work of PPI. This program has changed the hearts and minds of so many Israelis and Palestinians, and I have absolutely no doubt that it will continue to do so. Especially during these tough times, programs like this are needed more than ever. I am so fortunate I got to be a part of an organization that is doing something so admirable, that is changing the world for the better, one person at a time. No matter where life takes me, a big piece of my heart will always belong to the Middle East and my PeacePlayers family.

1 Comment

Filed under The Middle East