Camp, the best week of the year! That’s how I remember my experience as a kid growing up attending basketball camps. I made new friends and played a game that I loved. I left camp feeling inspired every year. This was our hope for the 32 Greek-Cypriot and 32 Turkish-Cypriot youth attending our annual summer camp. We set out to inspire the youth as basketball players, while also inspiring them as individuals, to become proactive leaders in their own lives and within their respective communities. While the youth worked hard throughout the week on the basketball court, they were also challenged in the classroom.
Our Peace and Leadership Curriculum, developed in partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Arbinger Institute, is central to our goals of uniting, educating, and inspiring the youth in our program. Sessions on the court and in the classroom allow us to create a holistic approach to youth development, encouraging our kids to reach their full potential as basketball players and as individuals. Fellow Ashley Johnson and Board member Akis Christofides began the classroom sessions for the week with two leadership sessions. Ashley’s sessions began with the kids looking internally, talking about what leadership means, and determining how to cultivate the qualities of a positive leader within themselves. Akis’s session built off of their understanding of role models and leadership, and stressed the importance of seeking to create a life full of passion and purpose. He inspired the kids with video clips of superstars like Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong.
We then transitioned to another classroom session on service and volunteering. The participants saw photos and listened to stories about Ashley Johnson’s experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon. learning that serving others, whether across the world or in one’s own community, not only positively impacts those whom you serve, but also greatly develops one’s own character.
With the kids beginning to think about and see themselves as integral members of a greater community, PPI-CY Managing Director, Marina Vasilera and Board member Tarik Tekman took the lead in the next two sessions. The focus was on PPI’s signature peace-building curriculum, “The Anatomy of Peace.” Through the Anatomy of Peace sessions, the kids began to examine the way they view others, evaluate whether they see others as individuals or as objects, and realize the importance of seeing the humanity within all individuals.
With such rich experiences throughout the week on and off the court, there is no doubt the campers returned to their homes inspired and empowered. With their continued growth and development as PeacePlayers participants and leaders, it is our hope that youth will be able to positively shape the future of the island of Cyprus.