How PeacePlayers International Made Me a Better Person

Victor coaching a young Norwegian camper!

Victor coaching a young Norwegian camper!

Today’s blog is brought to you by Leadership Development Program participant, Victor Petrov! 

Hey guys…This week I just wanted to share with you a few things about myself, tell you about PeacePlayers, and why I love it so much! So my name is Victor “Vic” Petrov, I’m 16 years old, and I’m from Bulgaria. I have been participating in this organization for 3 years now. I’m practicing in Kiti and it is awesome! When I first started at PeacePlayers, I didn’t know much about the organization. I joined only for the love of basketball, but now I’ve learned the real meaning of PeacePlayers, which is respect, team work, friendship, and peace between two different worlds with separate cultures, religions, and ways of life.

Intense game of 1 vs 1

Intense game of 1 vs 1

I have learned a lot with the help of PeacePlayers International-Cyprus and the support of my coaches and friends. I participated in twinnings and tournaments where I met new people, made new friends, and learned so much from them. At the meetings, we would discuss different themes such as, peace, respect, friendship, and lots of other things that will help us in the future. One great experience I had was when some of us went to Norway. The first time I was there it was a all boys team made up of Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots. We took part in the Norway Basketball Tournament and won the silver medal. The second time, it was a mixture of  boys and girls from both sides of the island who went to help coach a basketball camp. It was just an amazing trip!

My favorite thing to do happens at the end of the year when we have a summer camp and some of the program members and

NBA legend Pat Garrity coaches Vic and the boys at camp

NBA legend Pat Garrity coaches Vic and the boys at camp

coaches go to the  Argos mountains. We participate in a week program and also fun stuff like movie night, disco night, peace building, and story sharing. Another great thing is that every year PeacePlayers lets us meet coaches from America that were in the NBA or WNBA and we learn so much from them. They not only teach us basketball skills, but also some important life lessons!

The reason that I participate in this program and love it so much is because it helps me learn new things while playing my favorite sport. I have made so many new friends, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, that I can call “brothers” and “sisters”. They have taught me so much about their countries and cultures. I even learned a little bit of their languages. One of the most important things I have learned is that every person is the same no matter where they are from. We are humans and we all need the same thing, which is love and respect from each other. So really, without PeacePlayers, I would be a different person. Special thanks to all the PeacePlayers International- Cyprus members and coaches!

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An Young Adult Volunteer Shares his PPI-NI Experience!

Meet Will Massey PPI-NI Volunteer from YAV

Meet Will Massey who is currently in the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. Since September, he has been volunteering at PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland.

My name is Will Massey and I am 21 years old from Iowa. I studied Physics and Religion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I love dogs, rock n’roll, and the Chicago cubs.

When I tell people in Belfast that I coach basketball in Ballymena on Wednesdays and Thursdays, they almost always say, “Och, I bet you have had a hard time with that Ballymena accent,” but to American ears a Belfast accent and a Ballymena accent are not so different especially when coming from a child’s mouth.

I came to Northern Ireland with the Young Adult Volunteer Program (YAV) of the Presbyterian

Will with Other Volunteers form YAV

Will with other volunteers from the YAV program.

Church U.S.A. YAV sends volunteers all over the world to partner with local organizations engaged in missions. To my delight, I was placed with PeacePlayers, as well as the Whitehouse Presbyterian in Newtownabbey. Four other YAVs are serving in Belfast this year with other congregations and community programs. Reconciliation is one of the key goals of the church, as articulated by the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Peace Players is committed to this ministry, and how they operate really impresses me.

In Ballymena, I coach three twinning sessions, which excites me, although it strains my voice and my patience. At 9-years-old I may have been just as eager to learn basketball as these children, although it is hard to imagine. Our challenges as coaches are to direct this energy towards learning basketball skills and community relations activities, which ask kids to think critically about identity and prejudice. Coming in as an outsider, I am counting on PeacePlayers to provide me with the right questions to ask, and on the kids to be honest in answering. The answers I get are often encouraging and I like to ask my fellow coaches about the responses I get from the kids on the drive home. I am learning a lot through my partnership with PeacePlayers.  I hope that I am making a positive contribution to the PeacePlayers mission in Northern Ireland by coaching, playing, and educating.

Aside from my work at PeacePlayers, I spend a great deal of my time with the various ministries of the Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, including Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Brigade, Youth Fellowship, and 50+ lunch club.

My PPI-NI experience is more than just about a t-shirt, it is about the impact that I can make in children’s lives.

We would like to thank  Rev. Doug Baker, who is the Regional Liaison for the Presbyterian Church of USA in Ireland and the United Kingdom. He coordinates the YAV placements in NI and has been responsible for inviting PPI-NI to formally host Will. We previously had a informal relationship with the YAV programme. We met with the group and gave briefings on the works of PPI-NI and we also had another YAV, Patrick Harley, volunteer with us two years ago.

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Shaping Brains Through Basketball

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Coaching can create a happier, healthier and more successful adult through basketball

Picture this, you have four hours a week to work with fifteen kids. Each kid has it rough; poor socioeconomic backgrounds, their saintly teachers are overloaded with class sizes and work, and their parents (if present) are fighting an uphill battle between finding work and navigating the complex world of adolescence. So we have four hours to combat twelve years of disadvantages. What do you focus on to give them the best possible chance? Catherine Woulfe, who writes for The Listener delivered a pretty compelling answer in her recent article ‘The age of opportunity’: The exciting discovery of the plasticity of adolescent brains reveals a make-or-break chance to create a happier, healthier and more successful adult. She essentially summarizes the ground breaking work of leading developmental psychologist and Temple University Professor Laurence Steinberg.

When it comes to impacting kids’ lives, the rule is, the earlier the better. If you read to your child between the ages of 0-3, that will have a much more profound effect on the child’s education  than if that was done later in life. In general, that applies to all experiences. As Woulfe puts it “between the ages of zero to three, our brains are exquisitely sensitive to experience. What happens to us during that time has a profound lifetime effect.” It’s widely known that children who experience abuse at a young age will have a permanent echo of that experience throughout their life.  As Dr. Dipesh Navsaria of the University of Wisconsin puts it “If we get the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life right, we’re really going to save a lot of trouble later on.”

As much as Steinberg agrees with this, his research also shows that when children hit adolescence, a similar opportunity arises to deeply impact their futures. With over 40 years of studying tens of thousands of adolescents, Steinberg has developed a new model that suggests adolescence is also a time where the brain is significantly shaped by experiences. If you think of the brain as clay and the hands that shape the clay as the environment, adolescence is the time that the clay is ripe for molding (if you want to know more about the neuroscience behind it, read Woulfe’s article or google neuroplasticity). How the brain will be molded at the end of adolescence is a good indicator on the shape it will stay in.

So what needs to happen in order to mold these flexible brains into happy, intelligent, and creative forms? The answer is exceptionally complex and requires master craftspeople from all angles – parents, teachers, learning specialists, and etc. Experts such as Steinberg have been able to flesh out the dominant features in order to give some very clear answers as to where to focus. Steinberg’s research reveals that mastering self-control, or in more colloquial terms, “their capacity for self-regulation” is the largest predictor of  one’s future success.

The capacity for self-regulation is probably the single most important contributor to achievement, mental health and social success. In study after study of adolescents, and in samples of young people ranging from privileged suburban youth to destitute inner city teenagers, those who score high on measures of self-regulation invariably fare best… This makes developing self-regulation the central task of adolescence and the goal that we should be pursuing.

To illustrate this, Steinberg often references a famous study conducted in New Zealand that measured the self control of one thousand children at age three. The researchers followed the individuals for forty years and self control at the age of three strongly predicted their levels of health, wealth, and happiness regardless of socioeconomic background.

Remember that marshmallow test that went viral with those cute kids that were told they can have one

A child participating in a marshmallow test

Toying with of self-control in the marshmallow test

treat now or two in ten minutes when the adult gets back?

Guess what, the kids that showed self control are much more likely to be happier later in life and although the ones that smashed the marshmallow may have been super cute, intervention was definitely good advice.

So how do you teach an adolescence self control?

Steinberg states,  “the most important environmental contributor to self-regulation is the family.” The people who predominantly shape the environment of the youth are their parents. “Parents practice authoritative parenting. Be warm, be firm, and be supportive.”

Research has also shown that Autocratic parents (ones that rule with iron fists) teach obedience. “There’s no evidence that it’s good for kids. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s not good for kids.” Permissive parents (ones that get walked over or “just want to see their children happy”) tend to raise children that have little understanding of boundaries.

You’re probably thinking, that’s great but how the heck does that help an organization like PeacePlayers International? People often over simplify it by saying “these kids are missing life skill x, y and z” or “teachers are not being held accountable.” When you try and change the course of someone’s life, you’re fighting years and years of poor development. That’s massively difficult to address with a few hours a week of coaching basketball Or even six hours a day of classroom time.

You can definitely provide a strong mentor/support figure in the form of a coach. Especially, if the coach has a

Coach Ben helping mold the minds of our PeacePlayers International participants.

Molding the minds of our PeacePlayers International participants.

strong understanding of principles such as how to enforce self-control. If the coach is really good they can even create drills that are microcosms of self-control. It’s beautiful watching a coach warmly, but firmly, explain to a player why taking that 3 pointer 5 seconds into the shot clock showed poor self-control:
“It was an ambitious shot, but you could have used a lot more self-control. That’s what’s truly valuable. Think about the other options you had. Sam in the corner had an open 15 footer. The point guard was right behind you and could have organized the team. Did they have a higher chance of creating a better shot for the team?”

Social change is HARD and it requires a reshaping of a youth’s environment that is guided by reason and research. Basketball may not be able to change the whole environment, but for four hours a week, it does make a difference.

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My Rewarding Experience at PeacePlayers International!

Inside the Washington Wizards locker room during the ECA exchange.

Inside the Washington Wizards locker room during the ECA exchange.

Communications and Development Intern Lauren Rogers reflects on her time with PeacePlayers and tells how the organization has impacted her life.

I have to work there!

That was my first thought as I left my interview last spring for an internship position at PeacePlayers International. Fortunately, several days later, I got a call offering me the job.

These past five months working with PPI have been incredible. As a student of Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University, I was drawn to PeacePlayers because of its creative use of sport in areas of conflict and post-conflict. The organization is completely innovative, even boasting its own unique curriculum for participants and working with other organizations across the globe through PPI-SPIN.

I began in May as a Communications and Development Intern. My responsibilities included, but were not limited to, increasing our social media presence, drafting and editing grant proposals, and working on communications pieces. I loved coming into the office to hear people talking about the basketball game last night or arguing over which star baseball player is better. I loved the camaraderie between staff members, whether it was those located in our office in Washington, D.C. or thousands of miles away in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, South Africa, and the Middle East. I loved getting to know participants of the program through videos, pictures, and blog posts. I also loved being a part of an organization that was making a visible difference, and  everyone was proud of the work they accomplish. Towards the end of the summer, I was asked to stay on with PPI for a couple more months to help out with the ECA exchange funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department. I overwhelmingly accepted, as I knew I was not yet ready to leave this awesome place.

I’ve spent the past couple months working as the ECA Project Coordinator, which was a challenging but extremely fulfilling position. We planned a two-week trip to the United States for nearly 30 of our Middle East Leadership Development Program participants. The exchange involved meeting with PPI supporters, playing basketball, experiencing a new culture, and so much more. After reading and posting blogs about these wonderful young leaders throughout the summer, as well as hearing stories from fellow staff members, it was a privilege to finally meet them in person when they first arrived in D.C. in early October. While I had fun accompanying them around the city, going on tours and meeting new people, the most rewarding experience was simply talking to them. Hearing firsthand accounts about how their membership with PeacePlayers changed their parents’ and friends’ perceptions of “the other side,” how experiences with PeacePlayers have shaped their future career paths, and how friendships developed through PeacePlayers helped them stay strong this past summer during countless waves of violence…it was something I will never forget.

I learned so much through my time at PeacePlayers, such as new computer skills, how to become a better writer, and the ins and outs of working at an international non-profit. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge from the people I worked alongside these past five months, who go far above and beyond what their job titles entail. Their passion for this work and belief in the mission of PPI is evident through their actions; every day I came into the office, I was motivated by their hard work ethic and love for the job. While I am sad to be leaving PeacePlayers in this capacity, I know I will stay in touch and keep up with the continuing success of the programs. As I’ve heard from many, “Once a member of the PPI family, always a member of the PPI family.”

I want to say thank you to the PPI staff for providing me this opportunity and helping me along the way. Thank you to my friends and family for their support not just of me, but also of the organization. Most of all, thank you to the participants of PeacePlayers International who continue to transform their communities and inspire us all through their unwavering enthusiasm, bravery, and dedication.

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It was all about Hoops and Suits as PPI-NI attended the Study USA 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner and the One Young World Summit!

Joe Smith and Laura Agnew coordinating the fund raising ruffle at the Study USA 20th Anniversary Dinner

Joe Smith and Laura Agnew coordinating the fund raising raffle at the Study USA 20th Anniversary Dinner!

Last Friday morning, PPI-NI Business Development Officer Keith Mitchel along with PPI-NI assistant project coordinators Laura Agnew, and Ryan Stewart, hot-tailed it to Dublin to facilitate a break out session at the One Young World Summit. The annual event held at Emerald Isle, attracted over 1,400 people from ages 18-30 from 190 countries. At this event delegates heard from a wide range of leaders from around the world. PPI-NI helped to deliver a breakout session entitled “The Sporting Life – Breaking Down Barriers”, which took place at Na Fianna GAA Club in North Dublin. The team showcased PPI-NI’s community relations through sport curricula to a large group of summit delegates. A “fourth half” session facilitated by PPI-NI was complimented by sports instruction (hurling and soccer) provided by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Keith, Ryan and Laura did a great job in encouraging delegates to explore stereotypes and prejudice through a sporting lens by engaging them in our “Not On My Team” exercise.

From the left: Michael Morrow, chairman of the Alumni Association, Trevor Ringland, chairman of PPI-NI Board, Gregory Burton, US Consulate, Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy chief of mission at the Us Embassy in London, Gareth Harper, PPI-NI Managing Director, Rachel McDonnell, Study USA Alumni Association, Ryan Murphy,Study USA Alumni Association.

From the left: Michael Morrow, chairman of the Alumni Association, Trevor Ringland, chairman of PPI-NI Board, Gregory Burton, US Consulate, Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy chief of mission at the Us Embassy in London, Gareth Harper, PPI-NI Managing Director, Rachel McDonnell, Study USA Alumni Association, Ryan Murphy,Study USA Alumni Association.

In the evening, PPI-NI Chairman Trevor Ringland and Managing Director Gareth Harper got suited and booted to attend the Study USA 20th Anniversary Dinner.  The Study USA alumni team has chosen PPI-NI as its partner charity for 2014/15. The event held at Titanic Belfast, was attended by over 200 guests including Dr. Stephen Farry (MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning) and representatives from the US Consulate, British Council, stakeholders from US and NI colleges, programme alumni and this year’s Study USA graduating class. PPI-NI coaches were on hand to support fundraising efforts as they ran the “Hoops in the Hall” basketball challenge. Tuxedos, evening gowns and heels didn’t interfere too much with the competitors’ jump shots..! The prizes all had an American theme and the main raffle prize of the night was a pair of round trip tickets to London to see the NFL at Wembley, which was sponsored by Oasis Travel in Lisburn. Prizes for the basketball competition run by PPI-NI were donated by PRM Group Lisburn, Belfast Harley Davidson and local restaurants, Tony Romas, Spurs, Nandos and Boojum. PPI-NI would like to thank all contributors for their kind donations.

As a result of fundraising, the Study USA alumni were able to present PPI-NI with a cheque for £1050. PPI-NI would like to thank the Study USA Alumni Association, in the first instance for selecting PPI-NI as the Association’s charity of choice for 2014/15, for their fundraising efforts to date, and for inviting us to be a part of the 20th Anniversary Dinner celebrations.

Congratulations to the Study USA alumni on an excellent event.

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Meet PPI-CY’s New Coordinator, Sureyya!

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Meet PeacePlayers International Cyprus’s new Turkish-Cypriot Coordinator, Sureyya Deger

This week we interviewed PeacePlayer International Cyprus’s new Turkish-Cypriot Coordinator, Sureyya Deger! She joined the team last week and has already become an integral part of the team. Below she answers some questions about her first week in the office and a little bit of background about herself. 

What drew you to PeacePlayers?

Well, at one point in your life you stop and look at what you are doing. I realized that I wasn’t at the right place, and I was seeking something more. I was looking for a new career in CSOs, as I have been a civil society and peace activist for more than 10 years now. Anyway, I was looking for a job and now I am doing what I believe in and serving for peace.

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

I was trying to understand everything, like who is responsible for what. When you apply for a job, you just

Coach Steph with PeacePlayers International-Cyprus participants.

Coach Steph with PeacePlayers International-Cyprus participants.

have a general idea of the organization, as I had for PeacePlayers. I was trying to fit in and find myself in the organization, luckily the atmosphere and the team members really helped me feel at home. I am glad to be part of such a dedicated team.

What is your vision for PeacePlayers as you begin your position as Turkish-Cypriot Coordinator?

I hope that my position will affect the organization in a lot of ways. I will try to bring my effectiveness and connections to PeacePlayers, but I also hope that I will help with the coordination with the Turkish-Cypriot community.

Sureyya and her lovely son!

Sureyya and her lovely son!

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

Hmmm… To be honest, the family and work friendly environment. I dislike a work place when you have no “work”and you just sit there and wait for the end of the day. Mostly, I am very productive during the nights when I am comfortable, and my son is asleep. PeacePlayers gives me that flexibility. I really don’t know how, but I can sit there and work for hours without noticing the time. I am so glad that PeacePlayers has this atmosphere and flexibility.

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Palestinian and Israelis Take the U.S. by Storm

National Security Advisor Susan Rice shows our kids that she's got game at the White House

National Security Adviser Susan Rice shows our kids that she’s got game at the White House

PPI – Middle East’s 24 Palestinian and Israeli youth leaders have just returned from their action-packed two weeks in the United States. We are excited to have our players back and to be able to share some of their highlights from the trip.

The goal of the trip was to broaden the participants’ view of the American culture, provide them the opportunities to improve their basketball skills and leadership capacity, and give them the chance to share what they have learned with the rest of us at PPI. The young leaders were afforded the chance to speak to community leaders, sports executives, and politicians. Throughout their trip – whether kicking back on a farm or playing basketball at the White House with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the young leaders inspired the people they met.

On their visit to the States, the youth got first-hand experiences with American culture and also

Mussa takes a swing at the plate while volunteering with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

Mussa takes a swing at the plate while volunteering with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

showcased the importance of sports in America. “People love playing sports of any kind,” said Mussa, a member of PPI since 2008. One of the sports that Mussa is talking about is baseball. During the trip, the youth had their first  experience with baseball, a classic American pastime that is largely unknown in the Middle East, as they volunteered with the National Youth Baseball Academy.

While they experienced many American trends and traditions, Neta, a member of PPI since 2010, noticed the similarities both cultures shared. “We are not that different culturally.” Yet, for her and many others on the trip they noticed how their environments at home impacts their life. “We have different issues and problems in our daily lives because of the conflict,” says Neta.

Traveling sometimes puts things into prospective for us. This definitely happened on the exchange. The young leaders realized how special and rare their work is with PPI. Going to the White House to met Susan Rice as she hosted them for a basketball game showed them the value of their work. “It was an experience of a lifetime to meet such an important person. Most Americans don’t get to play basketball at the White House,” says Mussa.

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Another highlight of the trip, youth got to go to a Brooklyn Nets pre-season game and meet center Brook Lopez.

Even though, for Neta, participating in PPI is a normal part of her schedule, going to the White House, meeting politicians and community leaders helped her understand how big and important her role is in PPI. Susan Rice was impressed and inspired by the young leaders’ involvement with PPI. Witnessing the close friendships and teamwork on the court highlighted the similarities of hopes and aspirations of young people across the globe. Seeing the PPI members on the basketball court demonstrated “that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible, and within reach.”

Thank you to SportsUnited of the United Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.

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Different Colors

Bryan and Candace getting ready to dig into the must eat meal for any visitor to Durban, the Bunny Chow.

Bryan and Candace getting ready to dig into the must eat meal for any visitor to Durban, the Bunny Chow.

In today’s blog, International Fellow Bryan Franklin reflects on a visit from his girlfriend, Candace. Candace got to experience how PeacePlayers work first hand by attending a LDP practice in Wentworth and an LDP all girls extravaganza over the weekend.

“You two can’t date!”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because you’re different colors!”

Those words hit me like a fire truck. Candace and I met in New Jersey, where she still currently lives, but she is originally from a small little Island in the Caribbean called St. Christopher or St. Kitts. Throughout her visit she was consistently asked if she was or assumed to be Zulu.

Like any good girlfriend, Candace was adamant on not only vacationing while down here, but also getting a better idea of what I do on a daily basis. Thus, she attended a practice with myself and Coach Yamkela (Yam) last week in the township of Wentworth. Wentworth is one of two colored townships in the Durban area, and is known for its high crime rates and violence.

Candace not only attended a practice, but also participated in the all girls LDP Extravaganza, and can be seen here far left during the girls campus tour of Howard College

Candace not only attended a practice, but also participated in the all girls LDP Extravaganza, and can be seen here far left during the girls campus tour of Howard College

Yam coaches both the Assegai Primary School team and the Wentworth Community high school teams. So while this was officially a high school practice, many of the primary school kids stayed after school to watch the high school kids in action. It was a primary student that just recently entered our programme, who Candace found herself having a conversation with during practice.

It wasn’t until afterwards, when practice was over and we were getting ready to leave, that our primary student noticed that Candace was my girlfriend. She wasted no time in addressing the situation.

You two can’t date!”

Why is that?” I asked.

“Because you’re different colors!”

And then before I could even say anything, a response that had more meaning than anything I could have ever said.

“You don’t date someone based on their color. You date someone based on their personality”

A second primary student entered the picture and came to my rescue. Unlike her friend, who she had actually invited to join the programme, she had been with PeacePlayers for a few months. She traveled to play games against primary schools from the communities of Umlazi, Lamontville, Durban City and Waterloo. She had memorized the PeacePlayers Pledge, and performed it multiple times with those who were different colors.

 I will play hard;

 I will play fair;

 I will trust in my teammates and coaches and;

 I will respect my opponents;

 Because we are PeacePlayers;

 And for the Love of the Game we play!

 South Africa is still an incredibly young democracy. It’s a country where for many years, those who were “different colors” were taught to despise one another. That’s an attitude that still hangs over the country, but there is still  hope. Organizations like PeacePlayers who are working tirelessly to bridge divides, change perceptions and develop leaders, creates hope in this country. There is also hope in our coaches who aren’t using the past as an excuse and who are on the front lines working to break down racial barriers. Most importantly, there’s hope in our primary school participants who are learning on a weekly basis that we are all people first, and anything and everything else second.

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Finding What Motivates You in Life

PPI's Intern Desiree Snyder biking through Alaska.

PPI’s Intern, Desiree Snyder biking through Alaska.

PPI’s Development and Communications Intern, Desiree Snyder shares her remarkable experience of meeting with some of PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program participants.

Have you ever really taken a step back and thought about what really drives you? Is it your family, the sport you play, or maybe even a small thing like fashion? Whatever it is, we all have that little thing that makes us feel like we’re living.

For me, traveling the world has always made me feel complete. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a new place. Now I am not talking about the lost where you are in a scary place and don’t know what direction to turn, but the misplaced feeling where you can really soak up everything around you. I have always felt the people you meet in those far away places are the true memories you keep close to your heart. Venturing so far away will not only teach you so much about yourself, but it can give you a glance into other people’s lives.

When I was on my way to meet with PeacePlayers International- Middle East Leadership Development Program

PPI-ME's LDP members practicing baseball drills at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

PPI-ME’s LDP members practicing baseball drills at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

members for the first time, I was so excited. I didn’t know what to expect and was gifted one of the best opportunities that I have experienced in a long time. These young leaders were some of the most amazing people I have ever come in contact with. They traveled from a place half way across the world that deals with conflict on a day-to-day basis and you wouldn’t even know it. They approach everyone with so much joy and get so excited about basketball; it is truly amazing to see them interact with so many different people.

When you see how driven these participants have become, you really understand why a program like PeacePlayers is so important in this world today. Everyone who has a hand in the program is so driven by impacting lives and is very passionate about what they do. I am sure  PPI-ME’s cultural exchange will have a large impact on the participants lives, but it will most definitely have a larger impact on all the lives they will come in contact with.

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How PeacePlayers Became an Important Part of My Life!

Nursu with one of her PPI-CY coaches.

Nursu with former WNBA player, Evan Unrau, at the 2014 PeacePlayers Summer Camp.

Hello to everybody who is reading this post. Before I start, I just want to introduce myself as PPI-CY Lead4Peace member Nursu, I am a Turkish-Cypriot who’s dream is to play professional basketball. My friends always call me fox because they think I am skinny and crafty. I’m 15 years old and have been playing basketball for about 10 years. I joined PeacePlayers-Cyprus when I was 13 and I am still participating in the program.

Nursu playing basketball.

Nursu playing basketball.

PeacePlayers is a very important part of my life because it makes me happy when I play basketball. I also enjoy meeting new friends from both communities. I first wanted to join when coaches from PeacePlayers came to our school and presented a taster-session of basketball to us. I was really excited to be a part of this event because I felt it could be very beneficial for me and I was right.

At first, I didn’t know that it was a bi-communal organization. When I

Nursu (in the middle) with her long-time PPI friends

Nursu (in the middle) with her long-time PPI friends

attended the first event I was surprised that there were a lot of people from both communities. We were all aiming to be professional basketball players. All of the participants were really nice and friendly.

PeacePlayers has taught me lots of important things, like how to be a good person, a good friend, and a good leader. One of the most important things it has taught me is how to educate the younger generations. The best thing about PeacePlayers is taking part in basketball activities with my Greek-Cypriot friends. Today, I am really happy to be a PeacePlayer International-Cyprus participant and  just as Thomas Jefferson said,
“Difference of opinion was never, with me, a motive of separation from a friend.”

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