PPI-NI Attends One Young World Summit Event!

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 on 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 on the night 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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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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How Will You Spread Peace?

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 was awarded to two campaigners for children's rights, Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzay of Pakistan.Credit N. Elmehed, Nobel Media 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 was awarded to two campaigners for children’s rights, Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzay of Pakistan.Credit N. Elmehed, Nobel Media 2014

I hear a lot of people say that peace is a great idea, but an impossible one. I believe that world peace is extremely feasible. However, to achieve this, it will take hard work, flexibility, and a great deal of open-mindedness. I personally see peace as a celebration of our co-existence, a necessity in our collective struggle to survive and flourish, and an acknowledgement of our inter-connections and mutual needs. The Peace Players International mission is to unite, educate, and inspire young people in divided communities through basketball, and is doing just that all over the world. The organization has  more than 65,000 participants and has trained more than 1,100 youth leaders. Today, however, we want to congratulate two individuals who are doing their part to promote peace in the world. They are Nobel Peace Prize 2014 awardees Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzay of Pakistan.

On Oct. 9, 2012, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she

Ms. Yousafzai in Birmingham, England, Sept. 2013.

Ms. Yousafzai in Birmingham, England, Sept. 2013.

returned from school. She had been campaigning for girls education in Pakistan’s Swat valley. Two years later, Ms. Yousafzai became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described her as “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”

 

Kailash Satyarthi at his office in New Delhi.

Kailash Satyarthi at his office in New Delhi.

The life and work of Mr. Kailash Satyarthi is synonymous to the never-ending crusade against child slavery. While teaching as a professor in a college in Bhopal, Mr. Satyarthi decided to work more actively for social change. Along with a set of friends, he founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in 1980. BBA (Save the Childhood Movement in English) symbolizes the struggle against child labor and child servitude. The organization is also the initiator of the first regional South Asian people’s movement, and the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), a conglomeration of more than 750 civil society organizations. It was nearly 30 years ago that he left a promising career as an electrical engineer to set up Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) and since then, by his own count, he has rescued more than 80,000 children.

Napoleon Boneparte once noted that “those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people.” Peace Players International is currently inspiring youths to live in peace through their many programs worldwide.

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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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PPI-NI Introduces New International Fellow Joe Smith!

While at St. Mary's, the Seahawks won 3 conference championships and made 3 appearances in the Division III NCAA Tournament.

While at St. Mary’s, the Seahawks won 3 conference championships and made 3 appearances in the Division III NCAA Tournament.

For the second time in three months PPI-NI is welcoming a new International Fellow to the team. Joe Smith, who originally hails from College Park, MD, replaces Megan Lynch who returned back to the States in July. Joe brings a wealth of coaching experience as well as a passion for working with young people. In this week’s blog we get to know Joe!

Name: Joe Smith

From: College Park, Maryland

College: St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Basketball Achievements/Accomplishments:

Co-Captain of back-to-back Capital Athletic Champions St. Mary’s Seahawks

Overall coaching record of 35-6 in 2 years coaching freshman and JV basketball teams at DeMatha Catholic High School

Favorite Basketball memory/experience?

My favorite experience as a player was winning our conference championship my freshman year and gaining a bid into the NCAA Tournament. We were one of the last teams to make it in and were able to knock off  Guilford College in the competition.

As a coach, my favorite experience came during one of my practice sessions at DeMatha High School. Before practice began, I usually gave my team a quote to think about. At the end, I would ask one of the guys if they remembered that quote, with the possibility of there being less running should they get it correct. During a practice session, a group of my players turned the screws on me and had given me a quote at the beginning of practice.  After practice ended they asked me to repeat it, or I would have to run an extra separator. Even though it was small, this interaction gave me great joy and reminded me of what I loved about coaching.

 Favorite Basketball player:

Steve Nash

Who is one of your role models and why?

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a loving household that taught me how to lead a good life and be myself.

Joe with his family at St. Bernadette's Parish in Silver Spring, MD

Joe with his family at St. Bernadette’s Parish in Silver Spring, MD

 

I am the oldest of six children, with two sets of twins, and an eight year old. My mom and dad have dedicated their lives to the service of others through Catholic Education. My brother Sean (23) is in the process of attaining his Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland. His twin Maria (23) has completed her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland and is currently working for Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. Maria was also an MLK scholar at St. Louis University. Nathan (20) currently attends Elon University and is majoring in Journalism. He has been featured on three websites and is in the process of co-founding another. Matthew (20) attends Holy Cross University and is currently studying abroad in El Salvador where he has continued the Jesuit tradition of “Men for Others.” Daniel (8) is in 3rd grade at St. Bernadette’s in Silver Spring, MD and has just started participating in club soccer.

I feel that the best way to introduce myself is to introduce my family. They are who I look to for inspiration and guidance. Clearly with this crew, I am just trying to keep up.

Favorite Book?

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

What interested you about this position?

Throughout my coaching career I have always felt that you can teach so much with just a game of basketball. PeacePlayers gives you the opportunity to ignite change with a sport that I am passionate about. In Northern Ireland, basketball is not nearly as popular as soccer and rugby. There is the potential to help grow the game of basketball here and that is something I want to be a part of.

What are you most looking forward to over your time in NI?

Getting to work with the young people here and helping to create peace in a society that was impacted significantly by conflict.

Favorite inspirational quote?

 “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

-Jackie Robinson

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Changes of Perception: From Then to Now

PPI's Israeli and Palestinian youth basketball coaches at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

PPI’s Israeli and Palestinian youth basketball coaches at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi share stories from some current participants’ about first joining PPI-ME.

As I am writing this, 24 young leaders are in the United States changing perceptions by sharing their narratives and experiences as PPI-ME members. During the next two weeks, the youth will be participating in a cultural exchange funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

As a new member, I’m fascinated by all of the unique experiences each PPI-ME basketball player brings to the table.  Learning about all their backgrounds and narratives helps me articulate to others the importance of PPI-ME. People I meet always ask me what brings me to the region. I love being asked this question because it gives me the chance to share the stories of the youth and shed some light on the importance of PPI’s work. Amidst the negativity portrayed by the media and general unknown knowledge, it’s great to inform people of the positive work PeacePlayers does.

I of course, get a plethora of responses after I give the background introduction of PPI-ME. So far, most people want to understand what the reactions are of the surrounding communities when the youth become associated with PPI-ME. The answer to that question varies depending on the different stories and communities of the players. Joining PeacePlayers is not easy for some, but for others it’s nothing out of the norm. There is, of course, a spectrum of reactions from the community when their members join PeacePlayers. Here are some of the responses that resonated with me.

One of our participants hosting a BBQ at her home

For our first highlight, we have an 18-year-old Israeli Jew from Jerusalem who joined PeacePlayers years ago and had experience being out of her comfort zone. She was nervous to interact with the players coming from the Palestinian-Arab side. Her family, too were worried and apprehensive about her joining and participating. Yet, through her commitment with PeacePlayers, she has both impacted her family and her community. Just a few months ago, she and her family hosted a large get together at her home and invited both Palestinians and Jews from PeacePlayers to the gathering. A collective gathering like this in one’s home is something almost unheard of in this region.

Our next story is of a 20-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem who has been with PeacePlayers for nine years. She had to confront two norms associated with PeacePlayers: playing with Jews and playing sports. In her community, girls’ participation in sports is very uncommon and often received with push back. Now she is one of the front-runners for women playing sports and a certified coach.

Next, we have a participant who joined PeacePlayers four years ago. A 17-year-old Israeli Jew who received a lot of negativity from her classmates. At first, she did not know the best way to respond to the remarks. After being with PeacePlayers for some time, she now feels comfortable addressing the prejudices and questions she receives from her classmates. More of her classmates are now more open to the idea of her being with a coexistence program.

Young leaders sharing their communities’ reactions to them joining PPI

Our last highlight comes from a 19 year old Palestinian from Jerusalem who joined PeacePlayers and also felt the push back from his community and his classmates. His intermediate family supported his decision, but his community made remarks about him playing with Jews. This did not deter him from continuing his participation with PPI. He has been a part of PeacePlayers for nine years now.

This shows all members have their own experiences, yet PeacePlayers embraces all who come from different backgrounds.

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From Practice to Games; From Basketball to Life

PPI-SA participants working and playing together

PPI-SA participants working and playing together

“Today’s blog was written by PPI-SA International Fellow Bryan Franklin and was originally posted on the Fast Break Blog website on October 2, 2014.”

Have you ever tried to teach basketball to someone who has never played the game before? A challenge, no matter where you are, to be sure, but it’s one that’s made a little easier if you’re in the States, where even those who completely despise sports are bound to have seen a game on TV at some point. What about a country where there has been no professional basketball up until eight months ago, in a community where most residents wouldn’t have the resources to watch a game on TV anyways?

That’s the challenge I found myself thrown in to as I began my two year fellowship with PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Durban, South Africa. PeacePlayers is a sport for development organization that uses the game of basketball to change perceptions, bridge divides and develop leaders. It was founded in 2001 under the premise that children who play together can learn to live together. We have four different locations around the world including: Northern Ireland, Greece, The Middle East and South Africa.

Now to clarify, it’s not like I was thrown into the jungle with a basketball to work with a bunch of kids who had never played or heard of the game before. The sport is certainly on the rise across South Africa, especially with the recent launch of the professional league (The Basketball National League). Unlike in the States however, where if you get your hands on a ball, chances are it won’t be too hard to find somewhere to play, the resources and facilities aren’t in place here in South Africa. In fact I wrote a blog for PPI earlier in the year about the need for a playground basketball culture for this exact reason. Many of the kids have never played or at the very least have never received coaching in the sport before joining our Primary School Program.

So here I was, a 25 year old, who has been dribbling a basketball for nearly as many years as I’d been alive, feeling completely inadequate to teach others how to do so. It took coming to the realization that I was going to have to throw out nearly every skill I had learned throughout my 20 years of basketball, and re-learn the game all over again.

Whether we realize it or not, the more we do something, the more natural it becomes. So for me, dribbling a basketball is second nature. It has become so natural that I don’t have to consciously think about it (until perhaps you put a good defender on me who is forcing me left in a full court press, but hey, that’s why we have point guards right?). It’s the same thing when shooting a lay up. In fact, my primary school kids are more likely to correctly tell you the sequence of footwork for a right handed lay up (right, left, jump, shoot) than me, because the sequence is so programmed into my brain that zero thought goes into it. I remember back to my high school playing days where I actually had to learn to “just play,” or shut my brain off in a sense, and just let the sub-conscious and my reactions take over. It was this realization and challenge that piqued my interest in how the brain works, especially in the subject of sports.

As the years have gone on, and the sports psychology field has grown, so has the interest in athlete’s brain activity. Players like Lebron James, Peyton Manning and Lionel Messi are lauded not only for their athletic prowess, but for their ability to understand the game and to think one, two or even three plays ahead of other peak performance athletes.

Neymar, the Brazillian soccer star, was the subject in a most recent study. After studying him, and a few of his Barcelona teammates, researchers found that Neymar’s brain activity is less than 10 percent of that of an amateur player.

“Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows (the player) to perform many complex movements at once.”- Eiichi Naito, a neurologist from Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology.

So most likely, if you were to put Lebron James, myself and one of our primary school participants through a range of basketball drills, our corresponding brain activity would range from nearly zero to off the charts. This is where the idea of practice was founded—to see if a player can train and discipline the body enough, that come game time, he or she won’t have to think about how to dribble that basketball or shoot that lay up. More importantly, you’ll have the confidence and the belief in yourself to do so. These lessons of discipline, self-confidence and hard work are ones that we teach here everyday at PPI, because when it comes down to it, these lessons go way beyond sports. They’re lessons that will help you whether you’re in the boardroom or the classroom, whether you are a banker on Wall Street or a primary school student in Durban, South Africa. These are lessons in the game of life.

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PPI Attends the Forever Young Foundation’s Nonprofit Institute Training

Today’s blog is written by PPI’s Director of Finance, Human Resource and Administration, Taylor Brown. Taylor was granted the opportunity to attend a 3 day workshop that focused on setting up a successful future for nonprofit organizations.

Last month, the Forever Young Foundation (NFL’s 2-time MVP and Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young’s Family Foundation), in partnership with the Arbinger Institute and the City of West Jordan, Utah, put on a Nonprofit Institute Training, which focused on implementing the Arbinger Institute’s philosophies and methodologies in a nonprofit setting.

Michael Merchant, an Arbinger Consultant and the Executive Director of the Anasazi Foundation (the organization for which Arbinger’s novel “Anatomy of Peace” was based off of), facilitated the training. Training attendees included Taylor Rippy (the Conflict Consultant for the Arbinger Institute), the head of the police department, fire department and public works department of West Jordan Utah, social venture capitalists, nonprofit consultants, and nonprofit leaders who run programs all over the globe.

The first two days of the workshop focused on three main questions pertaining to the topic of self-deception: 1.) How am I a problem for others? 2.) How can I be more helpful to others? and 3.) How can I help things go right? The latter two days of the workshop focused on Revolutionizing Organizational Performance using the Arbinger’s principles/topics which concentrate on teamwork, collaboration, aligning individual along with team goals, and measuring performances.

PPI looks forward to applying these lessons throughout the organization over the coming months, and would like to thank everyone that attended the workshop for their participation and contributions! The group will have monthly calls moving forward to help hold each other accountable for their implementations while sharing thoughts, ideas, and lessons learned when putting things into effect.

Finally, a huge thank you to Michael for his incredible facilitation skills and sharing information that will be valuable for all of us working in the nonprofit sector, both in our personal and professional lives.

 

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Be the Change You Want to See!

Young Lauren, now...

Meet PeacePlayers International Northern Ireland Champions4Peace participant Lauren Bracken!

PPI-NI International Fellow Nasiphi Khafu from South Africa interviews Lauren Bracken and asks her what International Peace Day means to her.

Lauren is a graduate of PPI-NI’s Cross Community League and is now an active participant in PPI-NI’s Champions4Peace programme. Lauren has also just started working with PeacePlayers as a coach in training who’s supporting PPI-NI’s work with younger participants.

NK: Lauren, tell me a little bit about yourself.

“My name is Lauren Bracken, I am a student at Workforce Training Centre and I study childcare. I started my

Lauren (in red tights) participating in 2010 spring jam.

Lauren (in red tights) participating in 2010 spring jam.

involvement with PeacePlayers International- Northern Ireland 8 years ago, when I was 11 years old.

NK: Lauren why did you want to get involved with PeacePlayers?

I chose to be part of PeacePlayers because I looked up to the people who coached me when I was younger and always thought it would be fun to be a PeacePlayers coach one day. PeacePlayers has thought me that everyone is equal regardless of their differences and I’ve become more open minded to those around me.

NK: What does international Peace Day mean to you?

PPI-NI Coaches and Champions4Peace participants forming body shapes to commemorate "Peace Day"

PPI-NI Coaches and Champions4Peace participants forming body shapes to commemorate “Peace Day”

International Peace Day to me means a day for everyone to put aside their differences and get along with one another. To contribute to peace in Northern Ireland, I joined PeacePlayers in order to give back and promote the organization in my community.  I would love to see more organizations in Northern Ireland creating more peace by bringing Protestants and Catholics together just like PeacePlayers.

International Day of Peace is annually celebrated around the world on the 21st of September and marked its 30th anniversary this year. The theme of this year’s Day of Peace was the “Right of Peoples to Peace”. In recognition of International Day of Peace this past weekend served as part of PPI-NI’s ongoing coaches training programme, where we played one of our favorite games at PeacePlayers – “Body Shapes”. After having spent some time with our coaches going over our curricula for the year and making sure they are ready for the Twinning and Belfast Interface League (BIL) Programmes, we felt inspired to create some human art. We made a “basketball” and a “peace sign” with our bodies.

We were delighted and privileged to be joined by some Junior Champions4Peace (C4P). The training as well as the

Participants having fun while creating  signs with their bodies.

Participants having fun while creating signs with their bodies.

celebration of the International Day of Peace provided us with an opportunity to show them what they can become while allowing them to be inspired by our senior C4P’s and coaches like Lauren. The senior coaches really enjoyed having these future leaders around. They were more than willing to share with them their experiences at PeacePlayers and to show them how things are done.

Hearing everything that Lauren had to say has reminded me of my three heroes; Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of these inspirational leaders contributed and dedicated their lives to peace building. There is so much being done by various organizations to build peace in Northern Ireland, and after my first few short months here, I can already sense that there is definitively hope for a more peaceful future for Northern Ireland. I am convinced the young people that we work with will have an important contribution to making this place even better.

Lauren along with her friends, peers, and colleagues at PeacePlayers are doing what Mahatma Gandhi said; “To be the change you want to see in the world”.

Meet our new coach Lauren!

Meet our new coach Lauren!

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