From Mini to Mighty All-Star: Meet Sireen!

Sireen Jay Wright

Sireen with Villanova University’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jay Wright.


This week’s blog is about an emerging player’s transition from a PeacePlayers International – Middle East local team to a competitive, mixed Palestinian-Israeli All-Star team.  

Eleven-year-old Sireen has been playing basketball with PeacePlayers International – Middle East for the past four years.  She was inspired to join after seeing how happy her older sister was whenever she came back from a PPI practice or event.  Today, both Sireen and her sister play on All-Star teams, which are mixed Palestinian-Israeli teams that compete together in the Israel Basketball Association’s elite youth league.


Sireen practices a Twinning drill designed to build closeness between Palestinian and Israeli players

At first, Sireen practiced with the Beit Safafa “Minis” Team, comprised of other grade school boys and girls from her Palestinian community.  The team practiced a few times a week and participated in Twinnings (joint activities with an Israeli team) monthly.  The joint activities with the Israeli team prepared her for meeting and competing against different types of players.

The Minis are older now and have moved on to new PPI teams.  At the age of 11, Sireen is in her first year of playing on an All-Star team.  Fearlessness and desire to compete has helped her transition quite nicely.  While it is still early on, she enjoys her new team and can feel herself improving.


Sireen’s All-Star team practicing a drill

Sireen enjoys having teammates that are both Palestinian and Israeli. Due to her participation in PeacePlayers, Israelis have had a continuing presence in her life and she feels very comfortable talking and interacting with them.  To her, everyone is a human being and should be judged by their character and nothing more.

PeacePlayers wishes Sireen the best of luck and looks forward to seeing her continue to grow as a leader and player!

Mixed emotions at PPI-NI in the run up to Christmas…

PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland Managing Director Gareth Harper writes about the mixed emotions at PPI-NI in the run up to Christmas as they are expecting a new fellow Sally Nnamani and letting go of the current fellow Nasiphi Khafu.

Sally Coaching

Sally Nnamani Coaching

On Monday of next week (30th of November) PPI will welcome the latest addition to its international staff as Sally Nnamani joins the team in Northern Ireland. Sally who is originally from Nigeria, but who has lived in New York since she was 10 years old, comes to PPI-NI with a background in sports and international development. Whilst we are obviously excited to have Sally join us, the run up to Chritsmas this term will be one of mixed emotions. As we welcome Sally we are also preparing ourselves to say goodbye to Nasiphi Khafu. Nasiphi has been with us for just a short 18 months, but in that time her bubbly personality, energy, passion and enthusiasm for her work and the mission of PeacePlayers have left an indelible mark on all of us.

Welcome to PPI-NI Sally Nnamani

Welcome to PPI-NI Sally

The relationships Nasiphi has helped to develop and nurture with and between principals, teachers, community workers and of course the kids in South Belfast will be a lasting legacy of her contribution to the programme. It is the Senior Champions for Peace (her beloved C4P family) that will perhaps miss her most. In her short time with PPI-NI Nasiphi has nurtured the establishment of a strong and confident team of young leaders worthy certainly of the title PeacePlayers Champions for Peace. Her positive influence and great example has helped them to realize their potential and given them the confidence to start to play their part in making NI even better. This solid foundation is Nasiphi’s parting gift to PPI-NI and indeed to Sally as she will pick up where Nasiphi has lead to date.

Nasiphi with South Belfast BIL participants

Nasiphi with South Belfast BIL participants

Though change can be tough is also inevitable and can be extremely positive. Indeed every two years PeacePlayers programmes around the globe transition one-group of international fellows out and another new group in. This transition whilst emotional for all concerned facilitates a constant flow of talent, energy and ideas that helps keep all of us fresh. Our ‘hashtag’ strapline at PPI is #onceapeaceplayeralwaysapeaceplayer. This implies that a departure from PPI is less of a goodbye and more of a ‘au revior’. This rings particularly true for Nasiphi as our loss in Northern Ireland is PPI-SA’s gain. Nasiphi will be returning to her native South Africa to take up a leadership position as a Strategy and Operations Manager in the PeacePlayers programme there. Thank you Nasiphi for all that you have brought to the programme in NI. We have no doubt your infectious personality, professionalism and passion will help take the programme in SA to the next level.

Nasiphi at Belvior Park and Holy Rosary Primary twinning

Nasiphi at Belvior Park and Holy Rosary Primary twinning


What are YOU #thankful for?


This PPI-South Africa participant is #thankful for “The ability to play basketball”

This Thursday, Thanksgiving will give American families an opportunity to reflect and express gratitude at dinner tables around the country.  In an effort to extend this tradition we have been asking PeacePlayers participants and staff from around the world what they are #thankful for and will begin posting their incredible responses on all of our social media sites.  Simply sharing a peaceful meal in the presence of healthy loved ones may create additional appreciation this Thanksgiving in the wake of discomforting international news.  It is our hope that any recent negativity will be transformed into a powerful reminder of all there is to be grateful for through the holiday season and beyond.

Posts will also feature prominent athletes and other noteworthy advocates of peace who have been kind enough to take the time to come up with some great responses for us! Our plan is to continue posting the content we receive through the end of the year as a constant reminder of the countless things to be #thankful for.  Make sure to follow PeacePlayers International on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up with all of our posts and share them with your friends to spread the positivity!

Ray #thankful

I’m #thankful for the ability to connect with friends and family around the world

On top of connecting more people with PeacePlayers’ mission to unite, educate and inspire young people in divided communities through basketball, we simply hope this campaign will provide easy opportunities to remind each other everything there is to be #thankful for!


We would also love to hear from you!  Make sure to use #thankful and tag PeacePlayers in posts so we can connect with supporters through the duration of this campaign!





Excited PPI-NI staff and participants


Last week 18 members of the PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) family volunteered their time to participate in the first annual Call-a-Thon.

The main purpose of the evening was to engage more with the parents of PPI-NI participants, making sure that they know what it is we are doing in the divided communities of Northern Ireland. During the evening we also got to hear some of the great anecdotes our participants had told their parents after a PeacePlayers session. One parent said “my boy doesn’t play sports, or get excited about anything really. However, when it comes to PeacePlayers, he’s bouncing around the house and can’t wait to get out the door to go play basketball with his new friends”. In Northern Ireland, we call that a “so what” moment; moment when you realise just what it is we’re doing and reaffirms why we do it, a moment that really makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Speaking to the parents of over 600 participants, PPI-NI staff, coaches and Champions4Peace all got their fair share of “so what” moments too. In total we spent 4 hours and 30 minutes talking to the parents of our programme, listening to their stories and sharing a few of our own. Our programme participants and senior Champions4Peace shared their stories of why they got involved with PeacePlayers with the parents, making this event more special than we could have imagined.

Behind the scenes look at this year’s call-a-thon!

Ben from East Belfast, who has been involved in the programme for four years also picked up some skills along the way “It was challenging at first, but when you’re with your friends and seeing them do it, I quickly gained the confidence to speak to people over the phone, people I’ve never talked to before.”

PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland’s First Annual Call-a-Thon Huge Success

Women in Sports – Weekly Update


UFC Fight

On Sunday, Holly Holm surprisingly defeated Rousey in Mixed Martial Arts match-up. 


In September, Development and Communications Intern Ruth Logan wrote on the importance of strong female athletes.  As a follow-up, every two weeks Ruth will report on women’s sports.  Because athletes deserve equal coverage.

Mixed Martial Arts – On Sunday, former world boxing champion Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey by a second-round knockout at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia.  Fifty-nine seconds into the second round, as Rousey ducked, Holm broke off at an angle and delivered a left head kick to the jawline, rendering Rousey unconscious.  Rousey was taken to the hospital and later pronounced physically healthy.  This was Rousey’s first lost in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Fed Cup 2015

Petra Kvitova, left, of the Czech Republic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, right, of Russia pose after the draw for the Fed Cup Final.

Tennis – Over the weekend in Prague, defending champion Czech Republic won its fourth Fed Cup title. In the decider, Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic went 4-6 6-3 6-2 to secure a 3-2 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina of Russia.  The match lasted over two hours, with Russia gaining an early advantage before the Czech team fought back for the victory.


Basketball – This week marks the start of the 2015-2016 NCAA women’s basketball season. Last Friday the second-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks and sixth-ranked Ohio State University Buckeyes started the season on a fast-paced note.  The lead went back and forth for most of the game.  Then at 2:38 the Gamecocks broke from a 78-78 tie by simply taking over the paint.  A’ja Wilson broke the tie with a jumper and then added three inside scores to end the game with a 88-80 South Carolina win.  Both teams proved that they are strong contenders for the 2016 NCAA Championship Final Four.


Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot playing together at the PeacePlayers International Summer Camp

PeacePlayers International – Cyprus participants practice a drill.

PeacePlayers International continues to support the development of young female athletes in basketball and peacebuilding clinics. In Israel and the West Bank, where only 25% of participants in competitive sports are women, more than 70% of PPI’s program participants are female.  A chance to play basketball has given PPI participants, male and female, a brighter future.


New Beginnings with PPI-CY’s Sophia Georgiou


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophia with Coach Steph

Sophia with Coach Steph

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

PPI and USAID launch Two New Programs


PeacePlayers:  bringing kids together through joint basketball and leadership activities!

PeacePlayers International – Middle East is committed to providing important, exciting opportunities for participants. Thanks to our continued partnership with USAID, this year we are implementing two new projects, Sports Diplomats for Peace and Youth Entrepreneurship Programs.  We will also continue our regular programming with Joint Activities (Twinnings), All Star Teams (mixed league teams), and Peace Education (conflict transformation programming).

USAIDimagePeacePlayers will continue to empower participants through the Youth Entrepreneurship Program.  Six graduates from the Leadership Development and Conflict for Reconciliation programs will work in mixed Palestinian-Israeli pairs to build their own peacebuilding initiatives.  There will be two components over the span of two years.  In the first year the participants will attend lectures offering them hands-on training and a deeper understanding of project management and public advocacy.  By the end of the first year, the mixed pairs will have completed a project concept and budget.  In the second year, the pairs will receive a budget to actuate their projects with the help of PPI staff and mentors.  It will be a great experience for the youth to build a project from the ground up! This project is being generously sponsored by LinkedIn for Good as co-funders with a larger USAID project.


Jamie Walsh (far right) was a fellow and is now managing the two new projects

Project Manager Jamie Walsh, who previously was a fellow for PPI-ME,  is “excited to see what the participants in the Youth Entrepreneurship program come up with for their projects.”  She is interested to see PeacePlayer participants incorporate the skills they’ve learned through PPI into the new programming.


PPI participants are learning new skills at a basketball clinic.

With our new programming, Sports Diplomats for Peace, PeacePlayers is planning on engaging well-known American athletes, coaches, and conflict mitigation specialists to help lead activities for both PPI participants and unaffiliated youth from Israel and the West Bank.  These activities will include retreats, camps, and conflict resolution sessions.  Walsh is looking forward to “reaching out to non-PPI participants and showing them what we are all about.”  We are excited to continue engaging with the larger community in the PeacePlayer way thanks to the support of USAID and LinkedIn For Good!