How Will You Prepare for This Upcoming Season?

Coach Ryan coaching our youngest future leaders!

Coach Ryan training our youngest future leaders.

International Fellow, Ryan Hage, gives us an update on the PeacePlayers-Cyprus team as of October 1st and shares his excitement fort the upcoming 2014-2015 season. 

Summer is officially over and there are a lot of mixed emotions among all of our current players and coaches. Of

First practice of the year at English School of Kyrenia

First practice of the year at English School of Kyrenia

course, no one wants to see the great summer weather end, but that bad feeling is immediately replaced with a sense of excitement for the upcoming season! Some of the teams have already begun practicing for upcoming games, while others will start training next week.

Coaches have already met to go over last year’s programs. We always want to observe what worked well for us last season and what improvements we can make to the program for the new upcoming season. These amazing coaches are the reason we have such a successful program year in, year out, and we are extremely lucky to have them.

Our newest intern, Rebecca, hard at work!

Our newest intern, Rebecca, hard at work!

In other news, we had a new intern join us this week, Rebecca Clay! Rebecca comes all the way from Norway and is a part of our Lead4Peace program that started back in March with our friends from the Norwegian Nesodden Basketball Club. She had a break from school and chose to spend her time with her new Cypriot friends. She also has been volunteering her time during the day in the PeacePlayers International- Cyprus office helping out in any way possible. Thanks for your help Rebecca!

Rebecca is a great example of what PeacePlayers is all about, making friendships with people from different cultures that speak different languages. It truly shows that basketball is a language that everyone in the world speaks fluently.

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From the Court’s of South Africa to the Island of Cuba

Anele presently located in Cuba to study medicine.

Anele currently located in Cuba to study medicine.

In 2007, a youthful Anele Nyadi joined PPI-South Africa’s programme. Since then she hasn’t looked back. Although she’s traded in the basketball for a stethoscope, and the concrete courts of South Africa for Cuba, she still looks back at the lessons she gained from PPI. Here’s a short memoir from Anele Nyadi describing her time with PPI and the influence it had on her.

I became a part of PeacePlayers International in 2007 when I was in the 6th grade at Tobi. At the time the program was called Playing for Peace (PFP) and I played for the Leadership Development Program until 2010. I remember my first game with the team like it was yesterday. I was in the 7th grade and my sister’s team was short on girls. We ended up playing against the Umlazi team and it wasn’t a walk in the park. At that point, my friends Andile, Mancane, and Sbahle made me fall in love with the game of basketball. Go team Tiger!

Andele back in 2009 with team Tiger after a LDP life skills session.

Anele back in 2009 with team Tiger after a LDP life skills session.

This program groomed me into being a responsible, innovative, respectful, and humble girl. It also had a very positive effect on the way I think about myself. It taught me to love and value myself. The life skill lessons we interacted with every week taught me how to be a good person, care for others, become a leader, and share my knowledge with others. The coaches we had dedicated themselves to what they were doing and this wasn’t just a job to them. They weren’t only our coaches, but they were also our friends, uncles, and fathers. They loved us even though we were a lot of trouble sometimes. This alone taught me not to just do things because I have the ability to, but I need to have a love and passion for everything I do.

I am currently in Cuba practicing medicine. I love what I am doing even though it gets tough from time to time (Kuhlehla Ufudu), but the passion I have for my career is what gets me through those tough times. Most of the instructions are in Spanish, which is not a simple language at all, but I manage to pass every time. I’m at a stage where I know Africa needs me and putting on this white lab coat every morning brings me hope that in due time I will be there for Africa. Nothing brings me more joy than that.

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What PPI-CY Continues to Teach Me

Lead4Peace Participant, Helen Partakki, has been a part of PPI-CY for more than 4 years

Lead4Peace Participant, Helen Partakki, representing PPI-CY at a NGO fair in Nicosia

Today’s blog is written by Helen Partakki, one of PPI-Cyprus’ Lead 4 Peace participants. Helen, a Greek-Cypriot from Nicosia, has been with PeacePlayers for over 4 years and has become a great mentor and role model for younger participants of the program

Hello ladies and gents who have just started to read this blog post and let me just say this is my first blog post ever! Isn’t this awesome?  Oh well, before I get into why I am part of all this and my story, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Eleni Partakki, but people do tend to call me Helen. I am a 15 year old gal in the island of Cyprus with a love for basketball, reading, and volunteering. I’ve been called social junkie by day and book junkie by night. Throughout my life I genuinely loved learning about people and different cultures. I think life enthusiast describes me best.

PeacePlayers builds friendships

Helen (far right) building friendships through PeacePlayers.

I have been attending PPI-CY events since I was 11, but I officially joined last March. I remember sending a Facebook message asking one of the coaches if I could attend. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, considering I heard negative and positive feedback about PPI-CY. I decided what better way to find out than just going to experience it myself? I really do live by the quote, “Don’t believe everything you hear. Real eyes, realize, real lies.”

Why did I join? Simple, it gave me purpose and it made me happy. It gave me the feeling of belonging somewhere. It was a place where your goals and hobbies harmonize with the goals of an organization. Being a part of that is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

Helen with her new friends from Norway!

Helen with fellow Lead4Peace Participants traveled to Norway together for an international sport and culture exchange.

Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. I participate in PPI-CY because playing basketball together can be such an incredible experience when you start to understand that you are a human being just like the person on the other side of the border. Also, once you take the time to talk to your teammate about their culture, that is when you really start to become great. In that moment you learn to respect every single individual, and for me, that is the best thing PPI-CY has taught me.

People outside the community of the PeacePlayers often ask me what my favorite experience is. Many expect me to include the word basketball in my answer, but sorry, not this time. What I cherish the most are the smiles that are being exchanged amongst the youngest of our kind, who even don’t speak a common language. They are so innocent and haven’t been bombarded with negative information yet.

At the end of the day, when you are all alone left with your thoughts, it is your decision what you really want to believe. Take a leap of faith. Do not let the ideas given to you by others affect the choices and actions you make. If I would have allowed that, I wouldn’t be a participant today.

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Study USA Alumni Association Partners with PPI-NI to Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

SUSA logo

PPI-NI is the Study USA Alumni Association’s chosen charity over the next twelve months.

The alumni of Study USA have chosen to support the charity PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland for the next twelve months. This support is given due to their shared belief that “children who play together can learn to live together.” The two groups will work together to raise funds and awareness for various PeacePlayers initiatives, including its primary school Twinning programme, the Belfast Interface League, the Game of Three Halves, and Champions4Peace programme.

Study USA Alumni are the beneficiaries of a one year scholarship to study business at a US university or college. PeacePlayers will also provide participants the opportunity to complete Open College Network Qualifications. With this shared commitment to improve the quality of life and education of people living in Northern Ireland, this is a natural partnership. Both groups also focus on leadership development programmes for their participants. Study USA Alumni has received many benefits from numerous opportunities to learn from businesses and government leaders, while PeacePlayers provides young people in Northern Ireland with leadership development via its Champions4Peace programme.

Patrick Black, Product Delivery Manager at Study USA said,“We are very excited to work with PeacePlayers this year. They have an excellent track record in Northern Ireland and have been active here for over 12 years. This is an excellent opportunity for our alumni to give back to the community and help improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland.”

Both organizations look forward to the 17th of October 2014, when over 200 alumni of Study USA will come together for the 20th anniversary of the programme. Representatives of PeacePlayers will also be in attendance to promote their new partnership and increase awareness of their valuable work.

“We look forward to partnering with the Study USA Alumni Association over the next 12 months. There is a significant amount of overlap, as both groups seek to build tomorrow’s leaders,” said Gareth Harper, Managing Director of PeacePlayers. “This kind of leadership development will benefit our wee island tremendously.”

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PPI-ME Extending their Experience Abroad

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PPI-ME future leaders practice giving speeches before their big trip.

PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi gives us a glimpse on how these young leaders are preparing for the Social Change Program.

PeacePlayers Middle East is gearing up for a trip to the United States! On October 6th, Palestinian and Israeli youth will be crossing the Atlantic for a two week intensive trip covering four States and multiple cities.

The theme of this trip is a cultural exchange for future leaders. During the exchange, youth will have the unique chance to meet with experts in the field of sports management, athletes, and coaches. They will also meet political, conflict resolution, and business leaders in the community to expand their scope on leadership and community involvement. They will also learn to articulate their narratives and experiences within PeacePlayers with discussion panels.

Palestinian and Israeli participants practicing English exercises

Palestinian and Israeli participants practicing English exercises

Modeling the exchange theme, Jamie Walsh, our International Fellow from last year, will reunite with PeacePlayers while accompanying the youth on the trip. While Jamie was here, she had the opportunity to experience the society and culture these players come from. This time around, the youth will encounter Jamie’s culture and visit her home.

This past weekend, trip participants had a pre-departure retreat to prepare them on what to expect and how to present one’s self through speech. We conducted mock panels to stimulate the topics and environments the youth may face. Mainly the youth spoke about their leadership roles, basketball, social change, and their experiences with the conflict. The players encouraged and supported each other by giving constructive feedback. As a new addition to the PeacePlayers team I was impressed by how the young Palestinian and Israelis conducted themselves in their responses. Each individual came with a unique perspective and background, and as they were granted the appropriate environment to express themselves openly, many felt respected and became more comfortable in voicing their opinions.

Knowing that most of the interactions in the States will be conducted in English, the participants pushed

PPI-ME youth acting as mock panel audience

PPI-ME holding activities demonstrating events that will take place abroad.

themselves to respond in English during mock panels. Some of the youth had near native levels while others had introductory skills. Nonetheless, those with beginner level English challenged themselves to speak in a language they were not fully knowledgeable in. This showed their commitment to improve their language skills. Overall, the youth were impressed and appreciated the opportunity to hear their peers’ narratives and personal experiences with PeacePlayers.

Thank you to the U. S. Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs for supporting the Youth Coaches for Social Change program.

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South African Girls Inspired By Their First Game of Basketball

Coach Thobani gathers his team combined Lamontville and Umlazi female LDP team together before tip-off against New Forest High School

Coach Thobani gathers his combined Lamontville and Umlazi female LDP team together before tip-off against New Forest High School

Last week we took a look into the PPI-SA’s Leadership Development Programme (LDP) and an event the males participated in that pertained to basketball and setting goals for the future. This week PPI-SA International Fellow Bryan Franklin gives us a glimpse into what the female LDP teams have been up to over the last two weeks.

The stage was set. After a grueling pre-season where both our female LDP teams spent the month of August and first two weeks of September practicing, the time had arrived to play their first game. For some of the girls, this would be their first formal basketball game ever.

PPI (in white) takes on New Forest High School

PPI (in white) takes on New Forest High School

It began Friday afternoon with a combined Lamontville and Umlazi team.  Umlazi is the single largest township in South Africa with about 750,000 residents within about 25 kilometers. PPI-SA established a Leadership Development Programme (LDP) in these areas to give students grades 8 through 12 (ages 14-18) more in-depth basketball and life skills training so that they may become positive leaders and role models within their communities.

As the taxi wound through Umlazi, making pick-ups at three different high schools before stopping in Lamontville to grab the remainder of the girls (who themselves had gathered from 4 different schools), a unique energy filled the taxi. It was a energy unseen in the LDP over the last few years. An energy and a bond over all these faces coming together to represent PPI-SA. In fact, the moment I saw these girls step out of the taxi at New Forest High School, interacting as one team and not 14 girls from different parts of two communities, I knew that we had already won.

As for the game itself, it was a hard fought battle. PPI was up early and often taking a 9-6 halftime lead. As the game wore on however, an experienced New Forest team refused to go away. With a little less than one minute left, New Forest went ahead 14-12, and did not relinquish the lead, hanging on to the win by two.

The fun didn’t stop there. The following Tuesday, PPI’s Wentworth female LDP had their first game at Grosvenor Girls High School. Unlike the Lamontvile, and Umlazi teams, this is the first time a female LDP team has been active in Wentworth. In fact for 5 of the 7 participants, this was their first formal game.

The effort and passion was there throughout the game for the PPI team, unfortunately as was the inexperience. PPI lost in what ended up being a less lopsided battle than the score suggested, 20-4. As the team huddled up after the game however,

Coach Yamkela, and the Wentworth female LDP team pose for a picture with Grosvenor Girls High School after the game

Coach Yamkella (far right), and the Wentworth female LDP team pose for a picture with Grosvenor Girls High School after the game

we were reminded once again that victories come in more forms than one. The questions came out at a rapid fire pace:

“Coach, can we have extra practices?”

“Coach, I need to get into better shape, can you help me with that?”

Coach Yamkella had this to say about the game:

 “It was a great start for my basketball players, who never had a chance to play before. Playing against Grosvoner opened up a great opportunity for them and for me. It showed us where improvement is needed and motivated us to keep moving forward.”

Needless to say, the last two weeks have been an exciting time for LDP. The benefits of these games went beyond just the basketball played. It presented an amazing opportunity for all PPI participants to meet and interact with girls from different backgrounds. Check in on our Facebook page this Saturday, as all of our boys and girls LDP teams gather for an Extravaganza.

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Running the Same Course in a Different Language

Mike Petty track and field course where events were held in Japan.

Today’s blog is written by PPI’s new Development and Communication Intern, Desiree Snyder. Desiree is a graduate student in the Sport Industry Management School at Georgetown University.

There it was, that feeling that everyone talked about, but I never really grasped. No, I’m not talking about the rush you get before the gun goes off and the adrenaline starts pumping through your veins. Nor am I talking about the feeling of butterflies in your tummy when you have to bow in the opening track ceremony and you swear you’re going to mess up. It was the feeling of the sport that I loved connecting me to people from all parts of the world.

As a teenager being raised in Okinawa, Japan, I found myself loving track with not a whole lot of schools to compete with. To be honest, it was either fly to the country located closest to you to compete or compete with the school next door that was half your size and had three people on the team. I remember my school was authorized to compete against schools in Hong Kong, so my junior year I packed my bags and hopped on a four hour flight to a destination that would impact my life forever.

Hong Kong marketplace where vendors sell fried bugs.

Hong Kong marketplace where vendors sell fried bugs.

As we approached the field we went to our assigned events to compete against athletes from Korea, Thailand, Northern Japan, China, and Taiwan. We were people from all different ethnicities, languages, and cultures with a common passion for running. This took us on a course leading into each others lives, whether it was Maymi swearing she was better than me at Sudoku, which I promise you she isn’t, me trying to convince Sayaka that Japanese bed mats are way better than Taiwan’s, or Iris laughing at me as I tried a fried beetle from the market place. This was our sport giving us a new family without even speaking the same language.
This track meet supplied me with an experience that sports continue to give people from all over the world. Brendan and Sean Tuohey believed in that feeling when they created PeacePlayers International in 2001. PeacePlayers International is providing individuals with that same impact of unity using basketball while also giving them a sense of family, overcoming conflicts, and helping them find themselves. Nasiphi Khafu, a former PPI-South Africa participant and current International Fellow for PPI-Northern Ireland said, “Sports fed me and I just want to show kids that nothing is impossible.” Alexis Gorgiou, a graduate of PPI’s Leadership Development Program in Cyprus, stated, “Through PPI I got over my fears and the stereotypes that were taught in school.”
Everyday PPI’s players and coaches are showing us how sport has no language. Sport is continuously changing my life and the lives of so many people who speak all types of languages while running the same course in life.

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Coaches Prepare for Another Successful Season

PPI - ME coaches scrimmage after a day of hard work.

PPI – ME coaches scrimmage after a day of hard work.

Today’s blog is written by new PPI-ME International Fellow Heba El-Hendi.

September is a special time for PPI – ME because it is when participants and staff come back together for the start of another season. The 2014-2015 season officially kicked off with the annual Professional Development Retreat, which brought together coaches from Tamra, Nahariya, and Jerusalem. The retreat aimed to help coaches refresh and diversify drills and to boost their capacities in leading activities while simultaneously bonding the players and coaches. With the opportunity to work with Vito Gilic, PPI – ME’s Basketball Operations Manager, coaches refined their drills and left rejuvenated and encouraged to begin this next season. In addition to the coaches, the retreat also included participants from the brand new All Star team from Nahariya and Tamra along with Leadership Development Program (LDP) youth from Jerusalem who helped demonstrate drills on the court.

LDP get ready to demonstrate new drills for coaches.

LDP get ready to demonstrate new drills for coaches.

For the Tamra and Nahariya All Stars, the coaches’ retreat also provided the chance for team members to bond and work on practical skills. Last year, Nahariya and Tamra began twinning together, and because of their cohesion and potential, PPI – ME worked with both communities to create a new All Stars team in the north of Israel that would serve the twinned team. This year, the Nahariya/Tamra All Star team will begin competing against unaffiliated teams in the Israel Basketball Association youth league, and we wish them great success!

On the second day of the retreat, coaches demonstrated their coaching skills by leading a practice on their own using some of the new drills. The coaches themselves were paired up in an attempt to improve lead coach and assistant coach cohesion. Vito gave each coach constructive feedback following the practice sessions so they could finesse their skills.

Some of the coaches, including Aysha, Noi, Khaled and Duha, are actually the products of the LDP, having earned their coaches’ training and certification through PPI – ME. The majority of LDP graduate coaches have been a part of PeacePlayers for numerous years. As a new member of the PeacePlayers family, it was thrilling to see this long-term impact the program is making. I witnessed the support and fluidity of friendship the LDP and LDP graduate coaches had with each other.


Karen and Githa offer closing remarks at the end of two intense but fun-filled days.

A PeacePlayer’s retreat wouldn’t be complete without a basketball game. During the evening, the coaches, LDP, and All Starts split into teams and used their skills on the court. The players ran up and down the court with energy and competitive spirit.

This was my first experience with PPI -ME. It was a full emersion orientation that helped me better understand how PeacePlayers works. I had the opportunity to meet and connect with the Nahariya/Tamra All Stars by helping lead group challenge activities. As with almost any group challenge activity, the girls became frustrated as they tried to solve the given task, but with time and new communication strategies, they were able to complete the task and celebrated their victory together. This year, I’ll primarily be working with teams in the North, so I’m excited I had the chance to meet some of the players in a setting as welcoming as the Professional Development Retreat.

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PPI-Cyprus Reveals the Keys to Success

Coaches Sevki, Hasmet, and Orhun

Coaches Sevki, Hasmet, and Orhun

Fellow Ryan Hage recounts some wise advice he received alongside all the PPI-CY participants at this year’s summer camp – PeacePlayers veteran coach Orhun Mevlit gave three very important keys not only to having a successful camp experience, but to leading a successful life. 


Respect each other. Respect yourselves. Respect all that you encounter in your daily lives. This is a very important key to being a PeacePlayer. The first step to overcoming prejudice and differences is respecting one another. This can be achieved simply by being polite and representing PeacePlayers honorably. Respect not only pertains to the people around you, but you can respect the court you play on by taking care of it and not littering.

PPI-CY participants working together during a scavenger hunt at summer camp

PPI-CY participants working together during a scavenger hunt at summer camp.


Participation is absolutely necessary to being a PeacePlayer. You have to get out of yourself and into the team. In basketball, and in life, it is imperative to actively participate. Being ‘too cool for school’ or choosing to sit out of an activity does not build team chemistry and create relationships. If one has the choice to sit it out or to play, PeacePlayers should play!


This is by far the most important key to being a PeacePlayer. Being the best basketball player or scoring the most points is not the goal – it is to make friends and enjoy the game with one another. Whether it’s basketball or an ice-breaker activity, having fun is what it’s all about. If everyone is having fun, then what we’re doing at PeacePlayers is working.

Learning about these three keys may seem simple, but following them can help anyone live a better, more fulfilling life. This is the foundation of what PeacePlayers is.

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What does it take to be a Champion4Peace?

PPI-NI original Ambassadors group

Donal Hegarty (front left) and the original PPI-NI Ambassadors group

Who are your champions? Team USA, for winning the FIBA World Cup? Germany, for winning the FIFA World Cup? Maybe even Northern Ireland’s own Carl Frampton, world super-bantamweight champion? At PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) we have our own champions we call Champions4Peace.

A little over two years ago, Joanne and a former International Fellow, Meghan Houlihan, established the “ambassador” programme. The ambassador programme was a steering group, a youth council of sorts, that provided feedback on our current programming. The goal is to develop young leaders that can help bridge divide between Catholics and Protestants in their communities.

Early last year the programme began to evolve and the Champions4Peace (C4P) programme was introduced. We had between 15 and 20 young people, aged 11-18, in the one group. At Summer Jam 2013, Donal Hegarty received the C4P of the Year award for his dedication and participation in meetings.

In the Fall of 2013, we split the group and created Junior C4Ps (11- 14yrs) and Senior C4Ps (15-20yrs). Throughout the ’13-’14 term, we seen the participants from both groups complete leadership training, attend monthly meetings and get away on some fun trips, such as the Clare exchange and watching the Northern Ireland women’s world cup qualifier. At the Summer Jam 2014, Brooklyn O’Hare was crowned C4P of the Year, for her upbeat energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the programme.

Brooklyn O’Hare winning the C4P of the Year Awards

Brooklyn O’Hare winning the C4P of the Year Awards

This year the Junior C4Ps have grown as a group with 20 members from all sides of Belfast City. Our monthly meetings have been focused on arranging fundraisers, training in our three pillars (community relations, basketball and sport4change),  and organizing social gatherings and group discussions on the current issues in Northern Ireland. This group of young people have been working incredibly hard to fundraise for our upcoming Belfast2Brooklyn trip. In just under 3 months, they will have raised a total of £1,100. They have accomplished this by through running a Car Wash4Peace, a Sponsored Onesy Dribble Walk, Shoot Out Sweep, and Pie4Peace Challenge.

Junior C4Ps in Belfast’s Victoria Square during the Sponsored Dribble Walk

Junior C4Ps in Belfast’s Victoria Square during the Sponsored Dribble Walk

This past weekend we had two great sessions with our junior C4Ps, a meeting on Saturday in which we discussed Community Relations, and a social night with the Senior C4Ps on Sunday. On Saturday we had a great conversation about the Peace Walls in Belfast, how they felt about them, what they imagined it would be like without them, and if they wanted them to come down.

On Sunday night, 21 C4Ps both junior and senior gathered in Peace House to watch USA vs Serbia in the FIBA World Cup Final. They shared pizza, conversation, and support for Team USA. The Junior C4Ps continue to form bonds that cannot be replicated in any other programme. These kids have now made friends for life during this programme. Including friends that they would never have had the opportunity to meet if it wasn’t for Junior C4Ps and PeacePlayers. As a group they will continue to fundraise together for the aforementioned Belfast to Brooklyn trip. This trip of a lifetime will see the Junior C4Ps putting what they have learned through the programme into good practice, by running a Game of 3 Halves event for their partner organization and partaking in a cultural exchange.

Both Junior and Senior C4Ps watching the FIBA World Cup Final

Both Junior and Senior C4Ps watching the FIBA World Cup Final

 Joanne says that “I admire these kids, everything they do together, the opinions they have formed, the friendships they’ve been willing to have and the leadership qualities that are beginning to show. This is the next generation of PeacePlayers coaches and community leaders. I feel so privileged to be part of this programme and I know that coaches like Michaela Thompson and Ryan Stewart, who have been helping me with the Junior C4P group, certainly feel the same.”


Filed under Northern Ireland