Palestinian and Israeli Kids Gear up for an “Egg-Citing” Year!

“We are . . . PEACEPLAYERS!”  The group after finishing their scavenger hunt challenges at National Park.

Recently participants of the PeacePlayers International – Middle East program attended a retreat in Kfar Maccabiah, PeacePlayers International has developed youth basketball programs in regions affected by conflict and uses sport to breakdown old-standing divides.  Activities on and off the court strengthen relationships between our young participants and their communities.  This retreat was a great way to excite everyone on a new year!

The retreat focused on teamwork, communication, responsibility, and problem solving, all important skills in PeacePlayers, basketball, and youth development.  Responsibility and communication were the main focus of day one.  In five small groups the participants worked together to decorate an egg and use materials such as yarn, tape, and cardboard to create a safe place for their egg.  Each team was responsible for taking their egg with them wherever they went during the retreat.  The activity went so well that some of the participants even slept with their beloved egg!

KidsOn the second day the main activity was a scavenger hunt at the nearby National Park.  The participants worked together on the same small teams and had to complete trivia (regarding health, geography, exercise, sports, and teamwork) and missions.  The missions included getting through ropes without touching them, posing like a statue, and getting from one place to another using “lily pad” plates.  One popular task was collecting trash in the park.  Others passing by commended the group on a job well done!

In addition to teamwork, it took serious focus and concentration to make it through the ropes course!

In addition to teamwork, it took serious focus and concentration to make it through the ropes course!

The last part of the scavenger hunt was testing if the “safe” egg would survive a hard toss from the top of a jungle gym.  Most of the eggs survived but there were a few casualties.  The group took some time to reflect and discuss the retreat and the lessons learned.  Overall it was an EGG-cellent way to spend the weekend!

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PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland Has Successful Coaches Training Weekend

coaches 3

PeacePlayers-NI coaches bonded last weekend during productive training sessions

Last weekend, PPI-NI held their coaches training in West Belfast at Farset International. Organised by International Fellow Casey Tryon and other PeacePlayers staff, the weekend brought veteran coaches and new faces together in order to learn more about PPI-NI programs and what their role in these programs will be during the year.

After getting to know each other a bit on the first day, the coaches broke into teams to work on presentations that covered topics such as facilitation, risk management, the “PPI-NI Way”, sectarianism, and ideas and concepts from the Arbinger Institute. These presentations included activities and games that promoted discussion and critical thinking throughout the day. A lot of the activities related to ones that coaches would be using with their participants during their respective programs. By taking part in each presentation, coaches could discover the best ways to implement each activity and how to relate that activity to themes like conflict and collaboration.

coaches 2

The second day started with a brief recap, followed by a brainstorming session where teams were meant to come up with new ideas that could be implemented into the program. Coaches were not only asked to come up with activities, but to relate each activity to the different themes that PeacePlayers will use. These new games were great for learning more about the community relations aspect of the PeacePlayers program.  Later, teams met at the Stranmillis University College basketball court, where they went through some fundamentals of coaching basketball with International Fellows Joe and Nasiphi. The basics of passing, shooting, and playing defense came easy to some, but this training focused on key aspects of each basketball skill. Phrases such as “Triple Threat” and “B.E.E.F.” were core parts of what to do and how to teach basketball. These tips helped the coaches to understand these skills and teach them to children and young people.

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As the end of the coaches training drew near and participants started to make their way home, a few PPI members stayed around to play some pick-up basketball. With new coaches and experienced coaches playing on the same teams, each person could focus on either learning more about the game of basketball or learning more about how to teach the game of basketball. It was a great way to end the weekend and to pick up on how the game of basketball actually works.

The staff at PPI-NI heard a lot of great feedback from the participants. New coach Oisín said he “really enjoyed the training weekend” stating, “it was a great opportunity to bond with the other coaches and also learn in depth about the PeacePlayers organisation.” PPI-NI looks forward to another great year of programming and the coaches seem more than ready to take on the challenge of teaching kids about community relations and the game of basketball.

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Filed under Global, Northern Ireland

From Boys to Men

The boys prepare for a team building competition, first up - paintballing

The boys prepare for a team building competition at CAST’s Boys II Men Camp

Over this past weekend PeacePlayers International – South Africa fellow Bryan Franklin volunteered as a mentor at program partner CAST’s Boys II Men Camp. Over the past year PPI-SA has worked with CAST to grow the game of basketball and to bring different communities together.  Read Bryan’s take on the weekend below.

The Boys II Men camp is a four day camp for young boys growing up without fathers at home.  The camp’s goal is to challenge the attendees to break the cycle of “fatherlessness” in South Africa.  The annual camp is led by male volunteer who act as fathers for the duration of camp.  Boys are later matched with mentors for ongoing mentoring.  When Sport and Youth Development Manager George Mwaura asked me to volunteer as a mentor for his upcoming Boys II Men camp, I was thrilled.  I’m incredibly passionate about spending time in nature and working with young people.

PPI-SA fellow teaches some of the boys baseball (or something close to it)

A PPI-SA fellow teach some of the boys baseball

The highlight of the camp was spending time with my five mentees, and specifically one of the boys named Caleb.  Caleb stood out from the rest of the sixty or so participants in one very distinct way – he was Indian.  Caleb and the other boys did not let that stop them from eating breakfast, playing sports, and sharing stories together.  In fact, Caleb won the dance competition at the camp talent show, opening up a lot of eyes in the process.

PPI-SA fellow Bryan with participants Caleb and Sifiso

PPI-SA fellow Bryan with participants Caleb and Sifiso


The moment of Caleb dancing his heart out and being embraced by the other boys as he was announced the winner will go down as one of the many special memories I have experienced in Durban.  This camp, and the work of PeacePlayers International, proves that kids who play together can learn to live together and when it comes down to it, we are not so different.  At PeacePlayers we see longstanding divides broken down and friendships built through youth basketball programs.

Most of the CAST Boys II Men campers participated because of their love for sport.  As the days progressed and they were challenged beyond what they thought themselves capable – physically, spiritually, or independently – many walked out no longer boys, but men.

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Why Do You Play?

Israel, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus participants have fun after a practice

Israel, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus participants have fun after a practice!

Today’s blog is written by PeacePlayers-International Development and Communications Intern Ruth Logan.  She writes about athletes’ motivation to play their sport.

Why do athletes play their sport?  Why do they keep practicing day in and day out?  In the first few years of starting a sport, the focus is on fun and technique.  Games are played on the field and in the pool to build self-confidence and strong friendships.  Once a kid is in their pre-teens and teens, the emphasis often changes.  Athletes develop measurable goals such as faster times, heavier weights, and more assists.  Some athletes stay in the sport for fun while others for greater goals.

Studies have shown that sustained participation in sport is related to an ongoing positive experience, which includes having fun, improving skills, and having positive interactions with peers and adults.  As a competitive swimmer for twelve years, I swam because I loved the water and four strokes.  I kept with the sport for my deep passion of swimming.  I also loved making new friendships on and off the pool deck.  Working hard and supporting each other through hard practices creates strong bonds.  I have made some of my best friends through swimming.  Additionally, I had a strong and fun support system of my family, friends, and coaches.

Friendships made on the court in the Middle East

Friendships made on the court in the Middle East.

At PeacePlayers International, participants stay for both the fun and larger goals.  Our motto is “bridging divides, developing leaders, and changing perceptions.”  Youth in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the Middle East have the chance to bridge long-standing divides, formed through identity differences and recent or ongoing conflict.  On the basketball court Irish Catholics play with Protestants, Palestinian Arabs with Jews, Greek Cypriots with Turkish Cypriots.  Friendships are formed across these divides and the children see each other outside of PeacePlayers.  Families and neighborhoods gradually change.  The PPI participants across the world can achieve high scores, assists, and plays, but their most worthwhile accomplishment is forging friendships on a level playing field.

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PPI-CY Plays for Peace with Cyprus Youth Council

cover picPeacePlayers Cyprus participates in event with Cyprus Youth Council. Anticipation and excitement builds as our participants and staff begin practices and plan for new events, including the Fall LDP retreat.

We’re so excited to jump right into this new programming year. After a very successful year filled with bi-communal basketball, teamwork, learning and fun, we can’t wait for practices to get into full swing as we head into October!

PeacePlayers-Cyprus celebrated community, teamwork and sport last week with the Cyprus Youth Council at Ledra palace. Teams from both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities came together and were joined by some local basketball enthusiasts at Ledra palace.  The Cyprus Youth Council promoted the importance of active, healthy lifestyles through sport and our PeacePlayers demonstrated how basketball is a wonderful tool for bi-communal cooperation.

October also marks the official start of our basketball season. As teams are beginning to gather together for training all of us here at the PPI-CY office are preparing and planning for our new activities, community events, Twinnings and tournaments. We are also really excited for our upcoming Leadership Development Retreat this November. We will continue to teach our young leaders about the importance of using their PPI skills and knowledge within their own communities. It is always such a pleasure hosting these events and we are looking forward to updating all of our blog readers.

So be sure to continue to check our blogs as we update you on our progress!

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PPI – Middle East Gearing Up for Another Successful Year


Jump for Joy!  PPI-ME has started yet another season!

September marks a new season for PeacePlayers International – Middle East.  The month has passed and we’re off to a strong start.  PeacePlayers teams have started their practices and are eagerly waiting to start the joint activities, Twinnings, with their partner communities.  This year will be packed with retreats, Twinnings, cool new projects, and All-Star games. We are excited to share all of this progress!


Our strong LDP girls camping at their last retreat.

Already we have had two great retreats: one for the Leadership Development Program participants (LDP) and another for one of our Jerusalem All-Star teams.  Tomorrow we will have our third retreat for the Junior Leadership Development Program (LDP Jr.). This retreat will be the kickoff event for the LDP Jr. program.  The youth in this program, coming from East and West Jerusalem, are the next generation of PeacePlayers youth leadership. They are in for a fun, action-packed weekend.


Some of the Tamra/Nahariya All-Stars gather after a successful practice.

PeacePlayers prides itself on sustainable impact with its programming aimed at keeping participants in the program from childhood to young adulthood. PPI does this by creating programs fit for the needs of the participants.  The LDP program is just that.  It was created to meet the leadership potential and equip the participants with practical skills for the PeacePlayers community and for personal achievement.

The same is done on the basketball level with the All-Stars teams.  After “graduating” from Twinnings, some players are ready for higher-level basketball.  With the All-Stars program, a team becomes fully integrated, Palestinian Arab and Jewish, and competes in leagues.  In Jerusalem, PeacePlayers-ME has three All Star teams and one in the North with players from Nahariya/Tamra.  This year, PPI-ME started a new All Star team in Tamra/Nahariya for the 12-14 age group.  We wish all of our All Star teams great success as they compete with unaffiliated teams in the Israel Basketball Association youth league!

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PPI – South Africa Coach Reflects on United Nations Camp in Sweden


South African participants sing their national anthem at the UNOSDP camp.

Earlier this month PPI – South Africa coaches Siyanda “Billtong” Nxumalo and Thando Msweli took part in a United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) camp.  Hear about Siyand’s experience below.

Two weeks ago I went on a journey of a lifetime, to a United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) camp in Stockholm, Sweden.  During the camp we received both theoretical and practical training from some of the world’s leading organizations in sport for development such as The Power of Sport Foundation, Youth Sport Trust, International Paralympic Committee, and the United Nations.  I was a representative of PeacePlayers International, which develops youth basketball programs in communities affected by conflict.


UNOSDP camp participants enjoy new friendships.

I was a little nervous because it was my first time flying and the flight to Sweden was over twelve hours; thankfully, PeacePlayers International – South Africa Coach Thando Msweli traveled with me.  When we arrived at the Swedish airport we met other South African participants and Jamie Laflamme, the head of international programs of The Power of Sport Foundation.  When we arrived at the Boson Sport Facility we met the other 21 participants from over ten countries.


Siyand in his UNOSDP apparel

Through workshops we learned from different organizations on how to use education and sport to tackle the world’s most pressing issues.  I also enjoyed trying other sports these organizations used:  boxing, table tennis, rugby, and soccer. The sports that took me most out of my comfort zone were boxing and rugby because of the violence involved.  I understood the self-discipline needed to play these sports, when you take a hit and need to keep your composure.

During the UNOSDP camp, I learned the importance of PeacePlayers International and my job as a coach to teach young people important skills of leadership, communication, and peacebuilding.  I learned that all the great leaders first have to learn how to follow.  I learned that taking calculated risks and having a growing mindset are important for growth.  The experience showed me that sports can span across any culture to be a tool for change.  I am looking forward to bringing these lessons back to PPI-SA as I continue to grow as a coach and leader.

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Michigan Wide Receiver Amara Darboh has Memorable First Game as an American Citizen

Amara Darboh’s impressive catch from Saturday’s game against BYU

On Saturday, University of Michigan wide receiver Amara Darboh made a spectacular one handed catch that went viral, largely for similarities to a famous catch made by New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last year. Darboh’s theatrics on his highlight reel catch were a small part of Michigan’s upset victory over BYU this weekend. And that exciting victory was only one highlight from what Darboh is now calling the greatest week of his life.

Darboh waves an American flag at Thursday's ceremony in Detroit

Darboh waves an American flag at Thursday’s ceremony in Detroit

Two days before Michigan’s Saturday afternoon game in Ann Arbor, Darboh was in Detroit for a ceremony where he officially became a citizen of the United States. He arrived to America 14 years ago as a young boy after he was forced to flee Sierra Leone in the midst of a civil war that took both of his parent’s lives when he was 2 years old. After escaping Sierra Leone,Darboh and family members sought refuge in Gambia and Senegal before finally being sponsored to come to America. He arrived in Des Moines, Iowa as a 7 year old struggling to find his way through grade school where he remembers sticking out like a sore thumb. However, his athletic gifts quickly became apparent and he was able to use sport to begin forming lasting relationships in this foreign land. He is now in his senior year at Michigan playing under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh and may have just had his most memorable game thus far.

Despite a tumultuous start to his life Amara Darboh has now added many bright spots to his incredible journey, and largely has sport to thank. At PeacePlayers we are strong believers in the power of sport. Whether you focus on Darboh using athletics to form lasting relationships and receive an education at one of America’s top universities, or youth playing to break down walls in divided societies around the world, sport clearly has the ability to foster both individual and communal growth.

Follow this link for a more detailed account of Amara Darboh’s journey from Sierra Leone: Ann Arbor Times

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Public Enemy’s Chuck D Sings Happy Birthday and Signs the Peace Wall with PeacePlayers in Belfast

Chuck D pic

Chuck D with PPI-NI board member Jim Fitzpatrick, managing director Gareth Harper and the Junior Champions 4 Peace at the Peace Wall on Cupar Way.


This weekend was the first ever Icons festival in Belfast. Icons is a global event where the icons of today can come together to inspire the icons of tomorrow. It takes place over four days and combines all elements of the creative industries (tech, music and screen). PPI-NI board member Jim Fitzpatrick is the co-founder and organiser of the festival, that helped more than 50 startups introduce themselves to a larger audience and expand their brand. One of the themes of the weekend was encouraging entrepreneurship and progress in the tech world, to help move the country forward. A multitude of domestic and international speakers took the stage to speak about the industry’s ability to impact social change by providing education opportunities, inspiration for innovation and most importantly, jobs.


PPI-NI’s Junior C4P’s Ryan and Jay-mee sign the                     Peace Wall with Chuck D.

One of the keynote speakers at the festival was Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Known for his socially and politically conscious hip-hop music in the 1980’s and 90’s, he brought elements of his music to the festival, and applied it to his speeches and presence throughout the weekend. During his time in Belfast, he wanted to learn more about the history of the city, and spend time with youth from different communities. What better organisation to turn to than PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland! Last Thursday, Chuck D met the Junior Champions 4 Peace, project coordinator, Joanne Fitzpatrick and managing director, Gareth Harper at The Peace Wall on Cupar Way in West Belfast. During the meeting, Chuck told the kids how proud he was of their courage to challenge social norms, how special it was for them to come together as a group, and even sang 6 year member of PeacePlayers Anna Hinchcliffe a birthday tune!

Throughout the weekend, PeacePlayers continued to engage with local businesses both new and old, and conversed about each of their roles in moving the society forward. At PeacePlayers, our goal is to create societal assets that will provide the path to a more united community. This is a goal that was shared by many of the companies at the Icons festival. When you invest in people, there is no limit to the success that is possible, which was without a doubt shown this weekend at the festival!


International Fellow Nasiphi Khafu takes a selfie with some local startups and participants at the                                            festival.

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Filed under Global, Northern Ireland

PeacePlayers’ New Intern Quinlan Reflects On His First Week In Northern Ireland

uin and his father outside of his school, the University of New Hampshire

Quin and his father outside of his school, the University of New Hampshire

While getting ready on the morning of my first full day at PeacePlayers, I did not know what to expect. I had visited Ireland many times before to see family and friends, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. My grandfather had moved to Boston when he was just a teenager. He had previously lived in County Kerry, in the town of Tralee. He had 21 brothers and sisters, which is a creative way of stating that I still have a lot of family down in County Kerry. My grandmother on the other hand grew up in Portrush. She moved to the states to meet her uncle, a bachelor living in Charlestown, a neighborhood within Boston. I still have plenty of family in Northern Ireland that I visit every now and then, but being here in Belfast for the next three months will be a lot different than visiting for a few days.

Over the summer I was constantly in contact with Casey Tryon, an international Fellow at PPI-NI. She had helped me prepare for the journey to Belfast and gave me loads of advice on what I would be doing at PeacePlayers. I had previously researched a lot about what PeacePlayers does before accepting the internship. Their mission and visions of bringing peace to youth through the sport of basketball aligned with my goals of creating a better future for youth around the world. Going through the website, operations plan, and the blog gave me a better understanding of the organisation, but it was not until I arrived that I understood exactly who they were and what they did.

The Charlestown Boys and Girls Club, where Quin works as a lifeguard and adult staff

The Charlestown Boys and Girls Club, where Quin works as a lifeguard and adult staff

Previously I had worked for the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club, a youth organisation in Boston. I have seven years of experience working with youth there, and I have loved every minute. I also have experience coaching Baseball for the local teenagers’ team. These skills may be beneficial to my time in Belfast, although I did not know yet if I would be able to use them as much as I would like as an intern at the PeacePlayers office.

A stereotypical intern is at the bottom of the hierarchy in the office. When first applying for internships, I thought I would be running small errands and getting coffee for everyone. PeacePlayers, on the other hand, offered so much more than just an internship. During our first meetings and trainings I found out that I was going to gain experience with each of the office staff doing things such as grant-writing, coaching assistance, and social media. The staff immediately made me part of the team, and after only a week I am already very comfortable working with each of them.

I cannot wait to get involved with programmes such as primary school twinning’s and Champions4Peace. Reading and hearing about the positive outcomes that PeacePlayers brings to the community is exciting, especially when I know that I will be involved in creating those outcomes. It is not every day that one has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. I am hoping to make the best of my time at PeacePlayers by meeting lots of new people and working my hardest to create a better future for Northern Ireland.

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Filed under Northern Ireland