PPI-ME Coaches Retreat 2014

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The LDP were on hand for demonstrations and also to learn from one of the best basketball teachers in the country Vito Gilic

Last weekend, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) hosted a retreat for its coaches in Kibbutz Sdot Yam, near Caesarea. There are few things more important to the success of PPI-ME than its coaches, so it’s very important to offer them training in both basketball coaching and peace-building. The retreat provided an opportunity to do just that, all while spending quality time with them.

Vito looks on at this creative drill using chairs as props

Vito looks on at this creative drill using chairs as props

The event also benefited from the expertise of Vito Gilic, who is the former head coach of the Croatian Women’s National Team. He has coached all over Europe for the last 17 years as one of the best teachers of the game in Israel. His experience, preparation, and creativity offered the PPI-ME coaches a chance to learn practical drills to add to their repertoire. PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) was on hand to continue their education as young coaches.

Vito in the white giving the coaches another demonstration of an interesting drill

Vito in the white giving the coaches another demonstration of an interesting drill

The retreat began with Vito demonstrating unique coaching drills with the assistance of the LDP, who ran through the drills. The coaches watched from the sidelines taking notes as Vito led the LDP through many unique drills that combined difficult situations for hand-eye coordination, foot work, reaction-time, and shot-making.

In collaboration with Vito, peace education facilitators Renana Gal and Nissreen Najjar led an insightful activity in the afternoon. They first met with the coaches to setup a simulation with the LDP that immediately followed. Renana explained, “We wanted to give the coaches a more holistic experience of what we are doing at PPI. We wanted them to go back to the way they were as players.”

Coach Shady from Arab village Tamra (male pictured on the left), coaching the LDP

Coach Shady from Arab village Tamra (male pictured on the left), coaching the LDP

PeacePlayers creates opportunities for its participants to view others as human beings like themselves instead of as objects to use or avoid. The coaches are immensely important as they must also understand their players and then foster it in their players and PPI participants. Renana continued, “For the coaches to have empathy to what their players are going through, it is important for us to put the coaches in the same shoes they once wore… as basketball players.” The activity put the coaches and LDP together on the court playing. The teams were mixed up so you had both coaches and LDPers on each team. Throughout the activity, Vito continued to adjust the situations on the court to keep everyone guessing and allow the coaches to feel the vulnerability and lack of control that comes with being a player. Following the activity, the coaches and LDP came together with Nissreen and Renanan to discuss the activities. According to Renana it was important for these groups to be together to maximize the understanding.

Looks like like a relaxing day of basketball...

Looks like like a relaxing day of basketball…

I asked Alla Barhoom, village head for Ein Rafa, for his perspective regarding the importance of coaching in terms of the impact coaches have on players’ lives. Alla has been taking the PPI-ME Coaching for Reconciliation course this year, and he was on hand at the retreat to learn along with the other coaches and the LDP. “First, it’s so important to have a retreat like this for the coaches that allows us the chance to step back, look inside ourselves, and discuss with each other, alongside experts like Vito, Nissreen, and Renana. Sport is rather low on the priority list in our society, but really it is so important when one considers the impact it has on shaping our lives in such positive ways. That said the impact is rather dependent on the coach’s style and perspective.”

… But a bit more chaotic after all!

… But a bit more chaotic after all!

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PPI-NI Shares International Knowledge on Using Sport to Bridge Divides

At the beginning of March, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) staff were hosted by Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in Rome, Italy. In this weeks blog, we see how Coaches Megan, Joanne, Laura and some of the sessional got on over the 3 day trip and what they got up to.

The passionate staff at PPI NI help to Bridge Divides; Change Perceptions & Develop Leaders.

The passionate staff at PPI NI help to bridge divides, change perceptions & develop leaders.

The exchange brought together young leaders from 4 organisations across Europe, as well as Mercedes-Benz Italia for an exchange of knowledge, ideas and expertise  in how to use sport to tackle social issues.

The staff at PPI-NI would like to thank everyone involved at Laureus Sport for Good Foundation for inviting, hosting and making everyone from PeacePlayers International who travelled feel so welcome.

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LDP Breaks the Ice in SA

Eager players from various local high schools await instruction during the year's inaugural LDP practice in Umlazi.

Eager players from various local high schools await instruction during the year’s inaugural LDP practice in Umlazi.

After a couple of successful months of programming in our primary schools, the PeacePlayers – South Africa Leadership Development Programme (LDP) for high schoolers is finally underway for the 2014 school year. Umlazi is the first area to get an LDP team up and running this year, with 18 students (boys and girls) attending the year’s inaugural session last Saturday.

The LDP session was held at Sukuma Primary School, which is part of PPI-SA's Primary School Programme.

The LDP session was held at Sukuma Primary School, which is part of PPI-SA’s Primary School Programme.

The LDP teams recruit students in grades 8 through 12 (ages 14-18) to receive more in-depth basketball and life skills training, as they learn to not only live healthy lives themselves but also serve as leaders within their own families and communities. Most LDP participants are graduates of the Primary School Programme (PSP) and are looking to continue their relationship with PeacePlayers as they move on to high school. In addition, PPI-SA looks to its LDP programme for future coaching candidates, and many of PPI-SA’s current and former coaches were once LDP participants.

Those who previously played in our Primary School Programme  were eager to teach newcomers the skills they remembered.

Those who previously played in our Primary School Programme were eager to teach newcomers the skills they remembered.

This year’s LDP participants in Umlazi didn’t seem to mind the scorching hot sun last Saturday, as for many of them it was their first chance to play some organized basketball since they left their primary schools. They were ecstatic to be involved with PeacePlayers once again and to share the game with others.  Of the 18 participants at the session, 12 were a part of the PeacePlayers programme at their various primary schools, and the other 6 were friends and siblings of those participants. The players represented 8 different schools. The team is expected to grow as word gets out that sessions have started.  If numbers get too large, a competitive try-out for roster spots will be held or a second team will be created.

The team is expected to grow over the coming weeks, as word-of-mouth spreads.

The Umlazi LDP team is expected to grow over the coming weeks, as word-of-mouth spreads.

Lamontville is also slated to get an LDP team up and running within the next month and we are exploring the possibility of setting up an LDP team in Wentworth for this first time. The communities of Molweni and Umbumbulu, which used to be part of the PPI-SA programme but now carry out their basketball programming independently, both operate high school teams full of former PPI participants who will also be able to provide good competition for our LDP teams.

 

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4th Annual “Dropping Dimes for Peace”

PPI Executive Director

PPI Executive Director, Brendan Tuohey, thanking the supporters and people who make PPI possible

Monday evening, April 7th,  PeacePlayers International (PPI) held its annual “Dropping Dimes for Peace” pre-party to the NCAA Basketball Tournament Final at Hill Country Barbecue in New York City.

Guests bidding on various items at the silent auction

Guests bidding on various items at the silent auction

The event brought together friends, activists and supporters of the critical sports diplomacy and peace education work PPI does everyday in conflict zones throughout the world. Overall, PPI raised over $35,000 through ticket sales, the March Madness Box Pool and the silent auction, which included prizes such as autographed Knicks gear, tickets to the Colbert Report, a basket from Tribeca Treats (which also donated cupcakes to serve at the event) and a Martha’s Vineyard getaway.

Guests listened as PPI’s Executive Director, Brendan Tuohey, introduced a new upcoming video following the lives of two long-time PPI – ME participants, Romy and Malak, which highlights thousands of friendships being made throughout PPI, in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Israel and Palestine. Thank you to GMMB for creating this video pro bono!

We would like to extend our thanks to our generous sponsors, our gracious host Hill Country BBQ and to everyone who came out to support PPI. See you next year – same game, same place.

Click here to see the full event photo album on Facebook. 

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PPI-CY Seen Through a Different Lens

Today we have a special guest blogger who comes all the way from Washington DC. Zach Mazlish and his family visited PeacePlayers-Cyprus for a week to help out and see what our organization is all about. They shared in a week of basketball, sight-seeing, and forming new friendships with kids from Cyprus and Norway. 

Eve, Zach, Tony, Anne, and Tony with the ESK kids

Eve, Zach, Tony, Anne, and Tony with the ESK kids

Hello, I’m Zach Mazlish, a 15 year old 9th grader, who lives just outside Washington D.C. From February 21st to the 28th I was in Cyprus working with PeacePlayers International. My dad, sister, brother, and I are all big basketball players and fans, and my mom supports our passion and she came up with the idea of the trip to Cyprus. My mom and I arrived alone on Friday the 21st to go to in a three-day leadership retreat in Agros.

Coach Tony teaching the kids a defensive stance!

Coach Tony teaching the kids a defensive stance!

That Friday night I met a Norwegian group that was with us, and the Turkish and Greek Cypriots that were at the retreat. We played a bunch of different Ice Breaker games, and the whole group immediately started to bond and become friends. The next two days we learned about the Lead 4 Peace program and were taught about how to create a community service project. By Sunday morning it was amazing to see that all the kids there had thought up unique and creative service projects that they were going to start themselves. Of course we also had three basketball practices led by Coach Vito that helped us all relax and have some fun.

Zach and Dean enjoying the sun

Zach and Dean enjoying the sun

Sunday afternoon we returned to Nicosia to have an awesome barbeque at the Home for Cooperation, before the Norwegian kids each went off to their host families. That night my dad, brother, and sister all arrived as well. The next couple of days were filled with sightseeing and basketball with largely the same group of Norwegians and Cypriots from the weekend retreat. We were able to explore and see different areas of Cyprus such as Larnaca, Kiti, Iskele, Famagusta, Dali, Lapta, Kyrenia, and of course Nicosia. For my family and the Norwegians this was our first time seeing all these different places, and even many of the Cypriots had not been everywhere we visited. I especially enjoyed the bike tour around the North and South of Nicosia, where we learned much of the history of the conflict between the North and South. Personally, I found our trip to the Kantara Castle very cool, as it was a very interesting castle that had amazing views of the surrounding area.

Zach following in his father's coaching foot steps

Zach following in his father’s coaching foot steps

The whole week was an amazing experience for my family and me. I was able to interact a ton with many of the Norwegian and Cypriot kids, and I really developed strong friendships that will last with many of them. Additionally, I found Cyprus to be an incredibly interesting and amazing place, and it didn’t hurt that the weather was nearly perfect. Whether it was sightseeing, playing basketball with different groups of kids everyday, or just spending time with the different people there, the whole week was amazing. Thank you Peace Players for giving my family and I such a great opportunity to explore Cyprus and really interact with the community of people there. It was a great experience, and one that I will never forget.

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UN’s Sport for Development & Peace: 12 days with Ibrahim

Ibrahim with Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Ibrahim with Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Ibrahim, a 19 year old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, is an eight year participant of PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME), and a current member of PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program Boys basketball team, which is made up of Israelis and Palestinians from East and West Jerusalem, from Palestine and Israel. Ibrahim is studying occupational therapy at the Arab American University of Jenin (AAUJ) in Jenin, Palestine. In 2007, Ibrahim was interviewed on “The Today Show” in a segment about PeacePlayers International.

Ibrahim (left) on the Today Show in 2007

Ibrahim (left) on The Today Show in 2007

I understand you returned last week from the ninth editition of Youth Leadership Program (YLP) with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) held in Berlin, Germany. Tell me Ibrahim. What was the YLP all about?

It’s about bringing youth leadership from different organizations internationally to teach the youth how it can develop life skills, solve conflicts, and bring peace. There were about 25 of us from different countries that have conflict. My conflict being the one of Israel and Palestine, while in Africa there is a great challenge to learn how to develop the countries, so each country can maintain peace.

What kind of activities did you do at YLP? Was there one that stood out as the most impactful?

We experienced so many great activities, and we met many organizations that actually have their own plans to solve a certain conflict. There was an organization helping young people in Colombia and Africa to solve problems using table tennis. In Berlin, we learned about leadership with disabled people, and how we can use basketball to change their lives. I can now teach them sports and they can have a team. When you ask what activity was the most impactful I cannot point to a specific activity, but what I can point to is the participants – the other youth that surrounded me throughout the 12 days and every session we were in.

I understand that there were people from 13 different nations at the YLP. Did they seem very different than most people you know? How did you get along?

Yes, that’s right. Mostly African nations except for me and a girl from Lebanon who I could speak with in Arabic. The other participants had truly unique life perspectives from my own, and it made me eager to get to know them and understand their culture and way of life. As each of them opened up about their life struggles at home, I was amazed to hear what they had been through. I was surprised to feel less mature than many of them based on what intense experiences they had had at such a young age. It was a really special time with them, and we became like brothers and sisters. Everyone was participating with an open mind and open heart not afraid to be vulnerable with the group.

Ibrahim picture with the red shoes amongst his fellow youth leaders of sport for development and peace

Ibrahim picture with the red shoes amongst his fellow youth leaders of sport for development and peace

How does what UNOSDP is doing around the world compare to what PPI-ME is doing in Israel and Palestine? Do they have the same goals?

They have the same goals but in different ways. PeacePlayers goes directly to the children to solve the problems directly. UNOSDP focuses on training the youth leaders who can in turn focus on the problems in their area. It is similar to our LDP, but UNOSDP brings together different organizations so everyone can learn a lot from each other. Meeting others and seeing what other organizations are doing in this field gives me strength to continue the mission at home. Now it’s not just PeacePlayers. There are so many people and organizations who are going for the same goal trying to make the world a better place for everyone.

Did you find that there are other organizations or movements like PPI-ME out there in the world with similar missions?

From what I saw there are many organizations like PeacePlayers except they are using different sports like table tennis and soccer. PeacePlayers seems to operate on a larger scale, however. I did not find another organization that is using its methodology so deeply in such diverse areas of the world like PeacePlayers is.

The YLP offered the chance to meet professional athletes.

The YLP offered the chance to meet professional athletes.

What did you learn from this experience that will effect the way you live your life?

Those 12 days made me a wiser young adult. Actually, now I can do so much more by myself than I realized. I need less help now than I used to. I heard a great quote from a disabled man at the YLP. He gave me a bracelet and told me, “You can do more than you think.” I get up in the morning, and I go to this game and do better than I expected in the first. Don’t let your thoughts be the limits. Let your actions speak. Always do more than you think you can.

How did it compare to life in Israeli and Palestine?

Life was great there. It seemed so peaceful there, and everyone was smiling. I saw no signs of conflicts. Sometimes, you need this vacation from conflict to be ready to deal with the conflict again and to be ready to get back to your fight.

With former professional soccer player Edgar Davids - Ibrahim admired Davids growing up as an aspiring soccer player

With former professional soccer player Edgar Davids – Ibrahim admired Davids growing up as an aspiring soccer player

What do you envision for the future, Ibrahim? What do you desire?

My dreams got bigger during those 12 days. After every activity each organization was speaking to me about how I am going to be an ambassador for my country to make a difference. They made me feel like I’m not going to be a usual guy. This gave me hope and new dreams. I now have new points and new things to fight for. I study occupational therapy in the university, but now thanks to UNOSDP I have hope to be more than just a practitioner. Now, I am focused to become a manager and a leader of my own business, organization or clinic.

And I want to say thanks to PeacePlayers for supporting and encouraging me to pursue this opportunity to experience the Youth Leadership Program with UNOSDP, and I also want to send a thanks to UNOSDP for those 12 days, one of my best life experiences.

At a professional basketball game of Alba Berlin - Ibrahim described the stadium as one of the most beautiful in the world

At a professional basketball game of Alba Berlin – Ibrahim described the stadium as one of the most beautiful in the world

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PPI-SA Alumnus Soars into SA’s Basketball Elite

Precious Buthelezi of Lamontville started her basketball career with PeacePlayers in 2007. Now she is one of the top young players in the country.

Precious Buthelezi of Lamontville started her basketball career with PeacePlayers in 2007. Now she is one of the top young players in the country.

Precious Buthelezi of Lamontville is one of the top up-and-coming women’s basketball players in South Africa. Basketball has had a profound impact on her life, and it was PeacePlayers who first introduced her to the sport that she now loves.

Precious was introduced to basketball through PeacePlayers in 2007 when she joined the team at Excelsior Primary School in Lamontville as a 6th grader. She instantly fell in love with the sport.

“It was so fun,” Precious recalls, “I was like, ‘Basketball, I could do this for life!’”

She returned for a second year with the Excelsior team as a 7th grader, and was driven to become the best she could be. That hard work led to her selection to the KwaZulu Natal Under-13 Provincial team which played in the national U-13 tournament in Pretoria. That was just the beginning of the accolades, selections, and honors for Precious.

Precious (far right) during her days on the PeacePlayers LDP team in Lamontville.

Precious (far right) during her days on the PeacePlayers LDP team in Lamontville.

In grade 8 and grade 9 Precious continued honing her skills while playing on PeacePlayers’ LDP (Leadership Development Programme) team in Lamontville. She was eventually selected to the KwaZulu Natal Under-16 team and was named an all-star at the national tournament in Port Elizabeth, where her team finished 3rd. Her performance led to her being invited to the national Under-16 camp in Johannesburg, where she earned a spot on the South Africa Under-16 national team. As a part of the U-16 national team, Precious flew with her teammates to competitions in Angola and Zambia, getting a taste of the high-life during the all-expenses-paid trips, along with a taste of top-notch competition.

“It was fun! I had never been in such a serious competition before! And the freebies! The room service! Everything!” Precious reminisces.

Later that year, after an all-star performance at the Under-18 national tournament playing for KwaZulu Natal Province, she was invited to the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg, one of the top developmental camps in Africa, which features the best young players from across the continent. As you may have expected, she was named an all-star there as well.

Precious (front row, center) poses with her municipality team that won 1st place at the Kwanaloga Games.

Precious (front row, center) poses with her municipality team that won 1st place at the 2013 Kwanaloga Games.

Precious played on the KwaZulu Natal senior team at the 2012 national tournament, and led her municipality to a provincial championship at the annual Kwanaloga Games in 2013. Now, she is waiting for the South Africa Under-20 camp to get underway so she can prove that she deserves a spot on the national Under-20 team. Though her basketball opportunities are getting larger and grander with each passing year, she still remembers her four years with PeacePlayers very fondly, and with great appreciation.

“PPI made a huge difference in my life…The coaches were so qualified, I learned a lot from them,” she says, “I wouldn’t be in the position I am in without PPI. I am so grateful for that. They played a huge role in my success.”

Precious shows off the shoes she is giving away to a young player in her community.

Precious shows off the shoes she is giving away to a young player in her community.

Precious is hoping that other girls from her community might follow in her footsteps. When we caught up with her, she was in the process of giving one of her nicest pairs of basketball shoes away to a young player in Lamontville.

“As a player, I want to contribute to the community and I thought one way I can do that is to give away something that I don’t use that may be useful to someone else,” she says, “I have to give back, you know?”

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International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

Each PPI is all in for the celebration of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace day on April 6

Each PPI is all in for the celebration of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace day on April 6

Sport for Development and Peace is an opportunity to recognize the potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time, the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6 underlines that sports can foster peace and can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding.

Imani experienced first hand the ability PeacePlayers has to bring communities together and to make friends.

Girls of PPI – NI bonding after an event

Sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at the local, national and international levels. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

At each PeacePlayers International site, we have joined the celebration of peace and sport and are holding events for the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

On April 5 at PPI – Northern Ireland, the under 13 girl’s basketball team traveled to Dublin for their first international match against Killester Basketball Club.  In its first season, this team has brought together 11 girls from different communities in Belfast, based on our belief that people who play together can learn to live together.  This match showcased the skills and teamwork that the girls have learned over the course of the season.  After the match, girls from spent time getting to know each and forming lasting friendships.

Hopeful players show off their skills at Sekelani Primary School in Umlazi.

Hopeful players show off their skills at a PPI – SA event.

On the same day, PPI – Cyprus hosted 3 separate “twinnings” at Ledra Palace in the UN Buffer Zone.  Three PeacePlayers teams from the Greek Cypriot community and three teams from the Turkish Cypriot community met with their “twinned” program from the opposite community for a full day of connecting youth from across the divided island through basketball.  Following the three matches that intermix youth from both communities, families joined PeacePlayers for a barbecue in the Buffer Zone.

PPI – South Africa is expanding their reach as they ran a pilot program in a new community, Newlands East, on April 6. Through the programming, people from divided communities are brought together using sport as a catalyst. PeacePlayers International – South Africa currently serves approximately 1,000 children from 35 primary schools and over 20 schools and we hope to add Newlands East to that list to provide them with weekly activities, special events, and tournaments in addition to helping their own community.

At PeacePlayers International, a core component of our programing is our “twinnings” where PPI’s trained coaches use basketball, the curriculum and their facilitation skills to help players build the respect and understanding that leads to lasting friendship. PPI stresses the pursuit of shared goals and relationship building over a prolonged period of time. For the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, PPI – Middle East is holding a “twinning” on April 7, bringing together young girls from East and West Jerusalem.

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Meet Jale! PPI-Cyprus’ New Managing Director

Hard at work in the office!

Hard at work in the office!

Today we meet PeacePlayers – Cyprus’ new Manager, Jale Canlibalik! We sat down with her and asked her a few questions after her first week in her new position.

What drew you to PeacePlayers?

I have been interested in the work of PeacePlayers for a while now, and especially on how they use sport as a peace-building mechanism to open up the dialogue between divided communities.  When the opportunity to join the team arose up there was no doubt that I wanted to be part of this program.

unnamed-2What was your first week like in this new work environment?

My first week was very different to say the least! We were hosting a group of teens from Norway during their one week stay in Cyprus and the program included basketball trainings and matches as well as tours across the island.  It was a very active and busy first week, and it was the perfect opportunity to engage with the team and the coaches but more importantly the kids involved.

What is your vision for PeacePlayers as you begin your position as Managing Director?

I want to ensure that we at PeacePlayers – Cyprus stay true to the ethos of PeacePlayers International and continue to promote peace through sport on the island.  I see us continuing to grow and develop as a team and as an organization and engaging with more youth in Cyprus.

Coach Vito and Jale getting ready for the day

Coach Vito and Jale getting ready for the day

Have you been able to meet a lot of the kids that participate in PeacePlayers?

I was very fortunate during my first week to meet many of the kids and see how they interact with each other and how they are really benefiting from this program.  It’s been amazing to see just how powerful the program is in bringing together kids from divided communities and giving them the opportunity to develop great friendships through playing basketball together.

What is your favorite part of PPI – Cyprus so far?

I have enjoyed every day since I started but my favorite part so far is when we had a basketball match during the Norwegian visit and the teams were mixed with Greek-Cypriot, Turkish-Cypriot, Norwegian and American kids.  The kids really connected and interacted with each other and played as a team. There were no differences or barriers, just kids playing together.

 

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Aysha & PPI-ME, 8 Years in the Making

Aysha pictured in the middle years ago...

Aysha pictured in the middle years ago…

Aysha is a 19-year-old Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem who works for PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME). 8 years ago, Aysha became one of PPI-ME’s early particpants and went on to join PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). She has played on the Jerusalem All-Stars, and this year Aysha started playing for the professional basketball team ASA Jerusalem as their first-ever Palestinian. She also studies in an intensive Hebrew-language program at Hebrew University.

What brought you to PPI-ME?

At first just to have fun, but after that to meet new people, to do something new, to learn new things, and to play with Jewish people. After spending so much time playing basketball with Jewish people, it showed me how important it is that we make peace in our world.

When did you become a part of the LDP, and why did you join?

I began in the beginning of the LDP, which started about 4 years ago. I joined because I wanted to learn how to be a good leader. I wanted to be able to teach the younger kids to be good leaders after me.

What are your relationships like with the other participants in PPI-ME, especially the Jewish girls?

We are like sisters, like family. We talk every day. I think we will be like this for the rest of our lives.

Aysha in the midst of a defensive drill

Aysha in the midst of a defensive drill

What has happened in PPI-ME from the beginning until now?

PPI-ME is making a difference in everyone to bridge the divides of the conflict with the ideas of our peace curriculum and activities.

My Hebrew teacher at the Hebrew University is very interested that I have spent eight years playing basketball with Jewish people. I told her about the Twinnings and the other activities we do.

Aysha how have you changed in the last eight years?

At first I didn’t like it. I heard so many bad things about the Jewish before I started PeacePlayers. So, I didn’t like spending time with them at first. But I got to know them, and now I love them. PeacePlayers changed my mind about how I feel about Jewish people.

What did PPI-ME do to change your mind about the Jewish kids?

We just got to spend a lot of time together playing basketball. PeacePlayers gave us the chance to really know and understand each other.

Tell me about the team you are playing on this year?

I started playing for ASA Jerusalem just this year. It’s a professional women’s team, and most of the players are 23 to 32 years old. I am the first Palestinian to ever play on this team, which is an amazing feeling. I am so proud that I can represent the Palestinian people on this team, and it would be great for me if more Palestinians will play on this team because of me.

Were you scared in the beginning to be the only Palestinian?

I was not scared in the beginning, but I felt a bit confused. I didn’t know anyone at first, but now I know them, so everything is fine. I have become friends with the other girls on the team.

What’s it like for the other girls to play with you?

I think it’s fine. I don’t think anyone has complained about me being on the team.

What’s your favorite memory from PPI-ME?

All the memories from PeacePlayers are so special. I cannot choose one.

Aysha has transformed into an amazing young woman

Aysha has grown to be an amazing young woman

What do you wish for the future?

I can’t say now what I want the future to be. Right now my life is perfect. Everything in life changes. I can’t know what will be for my future, but I want to be a doctor.

What do you want to say to the world?

I want to tell world about our experiences over the last eight years. I want to tell the world how we have changed from PeacePlayers.

Thank you Aysha.

My pleasure.

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