As October 2012 draws to a close, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) can be assured of this much: our Leadership Development Program changes future realities for our kids.
The idea is that our programs should at least have the potential to run seamlessly into each other. From P6 twinning to P7 with the same set of pupils. From primary school twinnings into cross-community leagues in community centers across the city or maybe into OCN courses at a residential facility. From those programs maybe into our part-time coaching program and if the situation is right, maybe even employment on the local staff. It’s pretty ambitious.
And yet, the evidence all around us tells us that it works. In this past month alone, Tony McGaharan–a local and former coach in our program–took on a full-time role as Senior Project Coordinator.
Shortly after, Mary Braniff chose to complete her school’s required work placement with us at PPI-NI. We’ve known her for many years, first as a pupil at Holy Cross Girls’ Primary School and then again as a participant in our OCN course and as a volunteer coach. It’s pretty powerful to go that far into knowing and working with a person, and glimpsing, with excitement, who that person is becoming at least in part because of our programming.
But it takes a lot of work to get there. A couple weekends ago we spent a weekend with several kids from 174 Trust. The residential culminated a five-week diversity-through-sport program. We did not know most of the kids at the start of the program, and so it was frustratingly difficult to find enough common ground for a conversation. But by the end of the residential, after spending basically 48 uninterrupted hours together, there we were, talking seriously about discrimination, Protestants and Catholics, what it’s like to get confronted by a police offer at a parade, and even the different ways people get treated based on sexual orientation. It felt like a beginning. On the bus ride home, one of the excited kids asked Leadership Development Program Coordinator Darryl Petticrew, “When are we going to have another residential?”
There is much work left to do, but seeing these glimpses makes it that much easier to go to work that next day.