adidas, Lawrence Norman visit PeacePlayers-Cyprus

Team Adidas and PeacePlayers Cyprus after a friendly basketball game!

Lawrence Norman, team adidas, and PeacePlayers-Cyprus play a friendly basketball game inside the UN Buffer Zone

PPI Board member and General Manager of Southeastern Europe for the adidas group, Lawrence Norman, visited PeacePlayers-Cyprus this week to meet our young leaders and play some basketball. Lawrence was joined by a group from the adidas Corporate office in Cyprus. For many of the adidas Cyprus team, this was the first time they have interacted with Turkish-Cypriot basketball players, and many stated repeatedly how much fun they had and how much they learned.

PeacePlayers-Cyprus uses basketball to build friendships between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot youth.

PeacePlayers-Cyprus uses basketball to build friendships between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot youth.

A small island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has been physically divided by a UN Buffer Zone since an inter-ethnic war in 1974 split the island into two separate Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Today, many youth grow up without ever meeting anyone from the “other side”. PeacePlayers-Cyprus uses the game of basketball to allow Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot boys and girls to play together, learn together and build positive relationships that overcome generations of mistrust. PeacePlayers is currently the only year-round bi-communal youth sports organization on the island.

“When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.” – Lawrence Norman

When the group from adidas arrived, they were greeted by PeacePlayers coaches and participants. International Fellow Ryan Hage and Program Coordinator Stephanie Nicolas gave a presentation on the history of PeacePlayers and how we use sport to promote bi-communal interaction. United States Ambassador John Koenig, also spoke to the group, saying: “It’s been a pleasure since I have become an Ambassador here to be associated with a program like PeacePlayers-Cyprus and to support them in any way possible.”

Lawrence Norman (center) meeting with members of adidas Cyprus Corporate office (left), PPI-Cyprus coaches and board (right) and US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Keonig (far right).

Lawrence Norman (center) meeting with members of the adidas Cyprus corporate office (left), PPI-Cyprus coaches and board (right) and US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig (far right).

Finally, PeacePlayers participants were given a chance to share their own experiences and explain how the program has helped them overcome stereotypes and build lifelong friendships. Many from the adidas group were amazed at what the youth had to say, and had many questions including how they could get their own children involved in the program!

Lawrence and LDP player Sophia high five after the game!

Lawrence and PPI-Cyprus young leader Sophia high five after the game!

After the meeting, the adidas group played basketball with the PeacePlayers participants at Ledra Palace. Lots of smiles and laughs were had during the contest, and the adidas workers were impressed at the skill of some of the participants. Lawrence Norman participated in the action on the court, and spent time speaking with many of our participants, hearing stories of how PeacePlayers has changed their life. Later, Lawrence told our staff, “When you hear these stories from a kid, you know that they mean it. PeacePlayers has truly changed my life as well, and seeing what happens when you put two kids together from different walks of life and seeing they can get along because of basketball, it’s amazing.”

We would like to thank adidas for their ongoing support, and the group for spending a whole day with PeacePlayers, getting to know the coaches and participants on a personal level. On behalf of all our coaches and participants around globe, THANK YOU ADIDAS!

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PPI-Northern Ireland represents itself as a “linked in” organisation at #BelfastHour!

PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland intern Shawna Walsh shares her experience of the #BelfastHour networking event she attended last Sunday at the Odyssey arena. 

Belfast Giants

Belfast Giants

Twitter is no longer just for following celebrities and daily musings of each others’ lives. It has proven itself to be a very effective tool bringing small businesses, charities and organizations together on a platform to share ideas, events and successes with one another. Every Thursday night from 21:00-22:00, #BelfastHour is a host to over 350 businesses in Northern Ireland looking to network, learn and share and of course, practice our social media skills! Almost every week #BelfastHour trends in the top four in the United Kingdom.

While the Belfast Giants were battling for a win, the #belfasthour crew was deep in networking!

While the Belfast Giants were battling for a win, the #belfasthour crew was deep in networking!

This past Sunday, PPI-NI social media queen Nasiphi Khafu was lucky enough to be invited to #BelfastHour’s first in-person networking event hosted by the Belfast Giants – Northern Ireland’s local ice hockey team. Mingling with some of Belfast’s most connected organisations was a great way to promote the work we do with others who value our vision. Since we spend most of our time on the basketball court and in schools, #BelfastHour is a great opportunity to take a step back, or shall I say into, technology to learn about what other like-minded organisations are doing and share how people can get involved with our programs. As Edward Norton said, “Instead of telling the world what you’re eating for breakfast, you can use social networking to do something that’s meaningful.” Don’t be social media shy, it’s the wave of the future!

If you wish to explore more about this online platform, all you have to do is use the hashtag #belfastour which will lead you to all our discussions taking place in the twitter universe. According to NI Business Now, over four and a half million timelines have been hit to date! Talk about reaching thousands of people through simple word-of-mouth. Imagine how many people we could get excited about basketball, bridging divides developing leaders and changing perceptions.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @peaceplayers, tagging #PPI_NI, on Instagram @peaceplayersintl, and of course Facebook PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland!

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“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” – Sbahle Mkhize re-joins PPI-SA!

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Today’s blog is written by PPI-SA’s newest member: Sbahle Mkhize. Sbahle joins the team as the Fundraising and Marketing Manager. She previously coached for PPI-SA from 2012-2013 and even during her brief stint away was very involved as a volunteer. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Sbahle to the team.

From a very young age basketball has been a part of my life. One can say my career started in Pelham Senior Primary School, in city called Pietermaritzburg (just 1 hr West of Durban). I was always an active child and always tried to participate in different sports. But it was in grade 5, when the Under-11 basketball coach invited me to try out for the basketball team that I realised my love for the game of basketball. I made the A-team, and from there basketball became a part of me. Throughout Primary school I represented KwaZulu Natal which exposed me to a number of different parts of South Africa and showed me just how big basketball was. From Pelham, I made my way to Pietermaritzburg Girls High School, which had and still does have one of the top ladies basketball teams in South Africa. It didn’t take long for me to flourish. I started playing for the 1st team from grade 10 and eventually became the 1st team captain. My time as a player and captain at PMB Girls High taught me valuable lessons like discipline, leadership and commitment, the same lessons we impart on kids today at PPI.

IMG_208205860567324When it came to deciding what I would study in University, a Bachelor Degree in Sport Science was an obvious choice. I was excited when I got accepted to further my studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, Westville, however, very nervous about moving to a city where I only knew a few people.  Shortly after the move, I was introduced to Mtu Zulu at a National Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament. He spoke to me about Peace Players International and encouraged me to apply for a coaching job there. I had never been exposed to an organization of this nature in Pietermaritzburg. So, when the opportunity presented itself it didn’t take a long time for me to apply for the job. What I loved about PPI was that it merged the two things I was and still am passionate about –basketball and developing the youth of South Africa.

I joined PPI in 2012 as a coach for Durban Primary School. Coaching, for me, was an amazing platform to apply the 10446491_908403329186182_757330006319424677_nconditioning and coaching principles I had learnt while studying and pass on the skills and techniques I had learnt from my coaches and mentors over the years. But most importantly, it was an opportunity to learn! Within a year with PPI I was afforded the opportunity to be a part of the Laureus Youth Empowerment Through Sports Programme and the Coaching for Hope Programme, where I met people from across the planet doing similar work and at the same time gained valuable skills such as project management and an introduction to entrepreneurship.

In 2013, I decided to take a step back from coaching and focus all my attention on completing my Honours Degree in Sport Science and Leisure Sciences. Upon my completion of my Honours, an opportunity to re-join the PPI team revealed itself. I applied for the position for the Marketing and Fundraising Manager and it was successful. I am over ecstatic to join PPI-SA full time!

One can say this is a success story, but, I believe that my story is what PPI is all about. All the coaches training and mentorship I received, and the programmes I was a part of, because of PPI, played a major role in equipping me for me this position. No University textbook or lecture could teach me what the team at PPI did during my time with them. And for that, I am forever grateful.

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David Korang: Why I Enjoy Working for PeacePlayers

PPI's Technical Assistance Intern, David Korang

PPI’s Technical Assistance Intern, David Korang

Hello PeacePlayers! My is David Korang and I am the new Technical Assistant Intern here from Liberty University. I will be graduating in May with a bachelors in Sports Management and hope to begin a career in basketball operations after spending the summer overseas as a sports missionary.

This is a pivotal moment in the civil relations of the United States. The deaths and legal proceedings to end the year have led to protest, riots, and encouraged mistrust between the black community and law enforcement. From Ferguson, Missouri, to New York City, to Berkeley, California, a number of demonstrations have taken place in solidarity of those who have lost their lives and to evoke legal, social, and cultural reform.

America has unmistakably taken great strides to end racism and is often considered a beacon of equality around the world. In comparison to the social climate of 1860s, and 1960s, peace has been achieved but the reality is there is still work to be done. There are still racial differences and prejudices that shape our lives that need to openly be addressed if this country is to move forward. There are still instances where the color of my skin is a hazard to my health or at least influences my credibility regardless of my knowledge, experience, or merit pertaining to the situation.

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

It is important for us as a nation to open the lines of communication and listen to the experiences of both sides. Too often it seems we are quick to speak but slow to hear from those who may oppose our views and opinions. This is a time when America can begin to bridge racial divides again. Only after listening can we begin to understand and empathize with one another, then develop ways to resolve these issues and move forward as a nation.

Seeing people come together to end conflict is the reason why I enjoy working for PeacePlayers. I know the work we do will help others see past prejudices and other preconceived notions to reconcile relations for peace. We have the privilege to help youth around the world look past racial, ethnical, and religious differences to accomplish a goal on the court, which in return creates off the court trust, respect, and camaraderie. I am honored to be working with PeacePlayers International, and I hope to use the knowledge and approaches we use around the world to help my community grow closer right here in the states.

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Jerusalem Full of Charm, Diversity, and Adventure

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Coaches LaToya and Duha take a break from drills to take a selfie with one of the participants.

PeacePlayers newest addition to the Middle East team, LaToya Fisher, shares some insight on her first month as a Fellow.

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I first arrived in Israel!  There have been some very memorable moments and lots of basketball.  The day after my arrival I was fortunate enough to participate in a twinning and it was so amazing to see girls from two different communities coming together to learn about one another and play basketball.  I was also very relieved and grateful at how welcoming they were towards me and interested in learning more about me and speaking with me.  My favorite event so far was the WinterFest where children from all of the different schools we work with came together and got to do activities such as Kung Fu, juggling, coloring a mural, and a basketball obstacle course.  The event allowed me to interact a lot with the kids and hang out and work with some of the coaches and PPI-ME participants that I see less often.

One of the participants during the WinterFest at the Kung Fu station.

One of the participants during the WinterFest at the Kung Fu station.

One thing that has been very interesting to me is the weather here versus Maryland.  When I landed, it was after a snow storm and my roommate Heni told me that the snowfall was a big deal and people were driving to Jerusalem just to see it and the city had shut down for a while.  What made this so interesting was that the snow was a light dusting (little accumulation) and something that would not disrupt things back home.  Due to the snow that fell before I arrived, I also experienced some power issues, one of which was not having water…The day before I went to the main office to meet my other co-workers and boss.  Luckily I hadn’t done any exercising the day before so I didn’t smell too badly!  Thank goodness for bottled water and body spray.  Overall I prefer this winter, where there have been days I could wear shorts, to winter in Maryland.

I am adjusting fairly well and the language barrier has not been a huge issue.  Although, I will say that I have become even more aware of my surroundings and pay close attention to detail since I got lost when I first got here.  About a week or so after I arrived, I was introduced to a shawarma place (amazing!) close to where I was staying and decided to get some food by myself to take back to the house.  When I tried to find my way home I got terribly disoriented and wandered around for an hour.  I finally found my way home with the help of a really nice stranger and ate my wonderful cold shawarma and chips (fries).  It turns out I was literally around the corner from where I was staying.  That was my first and last time getting lost and now I’m basically an expert!

So far Jerusalem has proved to be full of charm, diversity, and adventure.  I feel like I’ve experienced a lot in just one month and can only imagine how this rest of this journey will go.  There is so much history, opportunity, and beauty around me in this country and I can’t wait to take it all in and see what the future holds.  Hopefully less shower-less nights and getting lost and more great food and basketball.

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Castlereigh Borough Council Project

PeacePlayers International-Norther Ireland Intern Will Massey shares his experience of working Castlereigh Borough Council Project.

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I recently discovered a difficult truth. Belvoir is inexplicably pronounced “beaver,” and nobody has been able to give account for why that would be. I have been in Belvoir twice now to lead community relations session for a program with the Castlereigh Borough Council. The three-week program gives a group of 30 children aged 8-11 an opportunity to play rugby, football, Gaelic, and basketball together and to experience PeacePlayers’ magnificent community relations seminars. You would be familiar with this idea of bringing deferent sports from the Game Of Three Halves (GO3H), where we invite our partners from Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby to assist us with coaching.

Most PPI – Northern Ireland programs deal explicitly with the divide between Protestant and Catholic communities, and for most groups of children this is a sensible approach. However, not all the kids we worked with in Belvoir  match the binary that characterizes most of Northern Ireland. For instance, children born in China and Sudan are participating, who cannot easily identify with the particulars of Catholic and Protestant relations. But the mission of PeacePlayers is not restricted to just one cultural division, and it is not hard to adjust session plans so that our activities and conversations are relatable for children who do not identify as Catholic or Protestant. PeacePlayers is about constructing a peaceful society, and all children need to feel that they belong in that conversation. Whether they be Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Buddhist, it is so important that we can be intentionally inclusive.

The work of changing perceptions can address historical conflicts but can also anticipate future conflicts. I cannot report any statistics, but the demographic landscape of Northern Ireland seems to be changing. The Castlereigh project demonstrates that. If Northern Ireland is anything like my country of origin, the United States, then children from minority backgrounds will occasionally be the victims of hurtful stereotypes and unfriendly words. As Northern Ireland becomes more diverse, the task of promoting diversity through sport becomes even more exciting and important.

It was really great to also get an opportunity to work with PPI – NI coach and Senior Champion4Peace, Michaela Thompson. Because I am mostly based in Ballymena, I hardly get time to work and interact with other coaches that are based in Belfast. It is always great to get these opportunities to work in these projects as it helps us to get more access to children that might not be in our programming already. Thank you to Castlereigh Borough Council Project for asking PPI-NI to assist in delivering this project.

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PPI-SA – Introducing Our Coaches: Samkelo Linda

Coach Samkelo leads his first basketball session for PeacePlayers International - South Africa

Coach Samkelo leads his first basketball session for PeacePlayers International – South Africa

Last week we heard from Thando Msweli, one of the most experienced coaches at PPI-SA. But we thought you should have the opportunity to meet ALL our coaches, so we are starting the series PPI-SA – Introducing Our Coaches. Every week you will hear from another of our 20 coaches making noise hear in Durban. Today, we hear from one of the newest additions to PPI-SA’s coaching staff – Samkelo Linda. Samkelo coached his first practice less than a week ago, and it’s very clear that he has a natural ability to relate to and teach youth. He’s quite a guy. Here’s his thoughts and reflections from his 2 weeks at PPI-SA.

Coach Samkelo taking advantage of the opportunity Coach Bryan presented to him.

Coach Samkelo taking advantage of the opportunity Coach Bryan presented to him.

My name is Samkelo Linda and I am an 18 year old male from Kwadabeka, South Africa. I matriculated from Sthokozile Sececondary School in 2014. I have been playing basketball since 2010 when I was in grade 8. It has been an amazing experience and I have gained a lot of knowledge and made a number of friends from different walks of life thanks to basketball.

I first got introduced to PeacePlayers by coach Bryan Franklin. He came into my township to check my old team, and when I saw him I just went straight to him. We talked about my team and he told me about PeacePlayers and that I will have an opportunity to coach young kids – I gladly accepted!

Last week I conducted my first try out session at Glenmore Primary School – a school where PeacePlayers has been working for several years. For the first time I was afraid of little kids, I was so nervous I did not know what to expect. But with help coming from coach Ben, coach Mdu, and the school and especially Ms Pillay, I managed to get my nerves away.

We played a lot of games and we taught fundamentals of basketball  like passing, dribbling, shooting and the jump stop. The kids were learning fast and there was progression. The experience was really fun because the kids had energy and they were excited for basketball.

Coach Samkelo's first tryout at Glenmore Primary School was fun because of the kids' energy and support from PPI-SA coaches and the School's staff.

Coach Samkelo’s first tryout at Glenmore Primary School was fun because of the kids’ energy and support from PPI-SA coaches and the School’s staff.

After the practice, kids came to me asking if they have made the team or not, which showed me that they really have love for basketball and they really want to be on the team. The selecting was very challenging because coach Mdu and I had to look for good character, teamwork, skills and the love of the game in the kids. It did not matter if a kid is black or white, because the main idea is to unite them and become one family. It was exciting to select the final team and it was sad at the same time because it is hard to decline a little kid but those that made the team were very excited and happy. Even though there were kids that did not get in the team, we ensured them that if they keep on working hard they will definitely make the team in the future.

Being a coach at Glenmore Primary School is a big step for me. I know PeacePlayers has a lot to teach us as young coaches and I am looking forward for it. This will completely change my behavior, I will have to learn to be a leader and one thing I like is I can apply my knowledge of being a leader somewhere else in life.

I have realized that as PPI-SA coaches we are really putting discipline in the kids while we on practice. They might have fun but at the same time there are rules like listening, no bullying, etc. These rules bring change in the kids mindset because in regular life the same rules apply. That is where I see the power of sport on someone’s life.

I am really looking forward for the future with PPI. I have a good feeling we will make history and change lives.

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Babson Hoops Earning Recognition

Babson's Men's Basketball Team

2015 Babson College Men’s Basketball Team

Today’s blog is written by Brian Kelley, a Freshman basketball player at Babson College. Brian has a passion for teaching, community service, and definitely basketball!

It is a special privilege to be on the Babson Men’s Basketball Team. Babson is a great school and being able to wear the green and white is an honor. Recently, the team has undergone a cultural shift these last 2 years. Now sitting 19-2 and recently ranked 11th in the country in division 3 basketball, we are receiving a lot of attention. However, it was not too long ago, the 2012-2013 campaign to be specific, where the team held just 8 players and struggled to float above .500.

Brian Kelly

Brian proudly showing off his Babson uniform

This year’s team has worked extremely hard every day physically. Coach Brennan has been pleased with our continuous great work ethic. With three senior captains leading the team, the underclassmen and I are learning from terrific models of the program. The new players, 6 freshmen and 2 transfers, have helped contribute to the team in a variety of ways, but ultimately it has been the team’s returning nucleus that has pushed us to this dream season. With the mindset of treating each game one at a time, we set a new standard each day during practice in preparation of the next challenge. Our belief is that each win is as important as the next.

Being a part of such a historical season has been awesome. This season is something I will never forget. Playing with such motivated teammates is just another example of how basketball brings people toward a common goal while creating lasting friendships.

 

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PeacePlayers Is MORE Than Basketball

The Hage brothers take in the sights during a short trip to Istanbul!

The Hage brothers take in the sights during a short trip to Istanbul!

Today’s blog is proudly brought to you by Jason Hage, brother of International Fellow Ryan Hage. Jason came to visit Cyprus for a week and got a first hand account of what PeacePlayers achieves on a daily basis. 

Peace is such a tricky thing because it means that we have to let go of a little bit of ourselves to let the other in.  Often times we can be so consumed with ourselves, with our own little world, that we cannot see the people standing right in front of us.  What we may think is the healthy task of maintaining personal boundaries actually can become a constricting behavior that results in trapping ourselves into an invisible prison where we do not allow ourselves to love or to be loved.

Jason taking part in a trust game with his trustworthy partner!

Jason taking part in a trust game with his trustworthy partner!

PeacePlayers is one such organization that aims at breaking down the barriers that keep one human person from acknowledging the humanity of another.  They do this most of all by fostering the gift of friendship by teaching the game of basketball.  After I experienced a “twinning” during my visit, which is when groups from all over the island join together in a basketball clinic, I was struck by how the PeacePlayers organization was not simply about bringing up future basketball stars.  No, it was first and foremost about creating an environment for friendship where one person could begin to discover the deep connection they have with the person in front of them.

As I watched a “twinning” unfold, I could not believe what was happening before my very eyes.  I observed children who knew nothing of the other move from tepid interaction to genuine interest and finally into acceptance and openness to the other.  I was watching friendship blossom before me, and I could not help but think about how without the dedicated coaches and staff who work tirelessly at making this program a success, none of which I was encountering that day would be a possibility.  Children, who at first were not sure how to interact, were soon playing and joking and laughing together in a most unlikely place at a most unlikely time.

Jason directs practice at Iskele!

Jason directs practice at Iskele!

Encountering this program first hand has given me renewed hope and encouragement that efforts at peace in this world are not only admirable, but also possible.  Peace is such a precious gift.  I believe that the gift of peace is itself the manifestation of the presence of God on earth.  I also believe that anyone who works toward fostering peace are signs of God’s activity in our world.  May the PeacePlayers organization remain steadfast in its all-important work of building peace in parts of our world where some think it impossible.  For where a little good will exists with a touch of grace the most unimaginable things can begin to take place.  I believe the unimaginable is happening through the PeacePlayers organization in Cyprus, and I am filled with such gratitude that I was able to witness it myself.

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An Insider’s Perspective: Former Participants Lead Peace Education Sessions in Middle East

A team from Ein Rafa (Jerusalem) working together during their Peace Education session

A team from Ein Rafa (Jerusalem) working together during their Peace Education session

An integral part of PeacePlayers-Middle East programing is the Peace Education Curriculum that was developed to meet the needs of the participants within a basketball setting. Through the Peace Education program, participants are learning important skills, which also compliment the Twinning topics. The underling theme that weaves the Peace Education topics together is the Arbinger motto of seeing people as people. By teaming up with the Arbinger Institute, PeacePlayers is making sure the youth are able to understand and deal with the dynamics of conflict.

Players from a team in Meiser-an Arab village- working together to accomplish a mission

Using basketball helps send these important messages to the players in an effective manner. Instead of hearing a lecture and losing attention, the youth engage in basketball and practice the lessons taught. By using the Arbinger concepts of seeing people as people, players are better able to dispel age-old stereotypes and build stronger relationships with each other. Having these sessions helps the players connect to each other in a safe environment and through an interactive basketball setting.

Before going out to the communities we work with and facilitating the Peace Education curriculum, the facilitating staff come together and asses the needs of each team to create sessions that meet each team’s needs. Back in December, seven facilitators came together and planned the skeleton model for each team. Five of the seven facilitators were once participants who then received Arbinger facilitation training. PeacePlayers attempts to include older participants in as much programing as possible, coaching or facilitating for example, because they have an insider perspective. They are closer in age to the younger participants and have been through the program themselves.

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Meiser team learning about the different PeacePlayer sites across the globe

The sessions so far have been a great success! “The participants are receptive and enjoy using basketball to learn,” says Duha, one of the facilitators. One of the sessions focused on understanding what PeacePlayers does as a global organization and learning about the different sites internationally. Each of theses international sites has something in common; there is conflict between communities. By exposing participants to the different traditions and cultures of the other sites, we are hoping to expand their abilities at looking at the big picture. Another facilitator commented on the dynamics of the sessions. “It’s amazing how much curiosity each team demonstrates when they are in theses sessions. They have plenty of questions and love to show what they learned”

 

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