Adidas is a key partner of PeacePlayers International, helping to serve tens of thousands of children through a variety of projects around the world. This past month, 3 members of adidas, PPI Board Member and Vice President of Global Basketball, Lawrence Norman, Global Director of Basketball, Greg Marron, and Global Category Manager, Jack Gray, visited PPI’s Middle East program to see first-hand how we use basketball with a unique Peace Education Curriculum to bridge divides between Israel’s Jewish and Arab youth. In Israel, where most Arab and Jewish youth lack any opportunities for positive interaction, PPI gives over 500 children annually the unique opportunity to play sport together in a fun and inclusive environment.
The visitors spent their morning with PPI coaches and staff touring the Old City, learning about the ancient and complex history of the region. After a special tour of the Western Wall Tunnels, everyone headed to the Hand in Hand School to participate in a PeacePlayers Leadership Development Program (LDP) practice. Each year 24 specially selected LDP participants engage in a variety of athletic, community service and professional development activities so that they may become leaders for social change and the next generation of PPI coaches.
After introductions were made, coach Vito Gilic and curriculum facilitator Nissreen Najjar led the kids and the adidas representatives through a series of different basketball drills that demonstrated PPI’s peace education principles. For Lawrence, who also serves on PPI’s Board of Directors, this was not his first time seeing PPI’s programming in action. “I have now attended four events in the Middle East over the past five years, and watching the kids grow up in the program to become future leaders reminds me how lucky I am to be part of PPI.”
Once this activity was finished, the kids were split into three teams and each adidas guest had a chance to coach them in some competitive games. Things got intense as all the games were very close. There were even a few buzzer beaters! LDP participant, Hadas Prawer, said after the practice, “I had such a great time meeting the adidas guys. They were very nice and it was so much fun to play with them during the practice and also have them as our coaches at the end of the day. Overall it was a great day and I am so happy that they came to meet us.”
Before the guests departed they stuck around for pictures and even stayed to play a few games of one-on-one with the kids. The event was not only memorable for the kids, it made a huge impact on the guests as well. After returning home and hearing the shocking news out of Boston, Lawrence wrote to the PPI staff: “Seeing what happened in Boston (my hometown) this week is yet another reminder of the hatred that exists in all corners of the globe. And the horrific event at the Marathon brought flashbacks to the three years I lived in Tel Aviv—a time when the sound of detonating bombs was part of the routine. However, what PeacePlayers is doing in the Middle East paints such a different picture…one of teamwork, warmth and optimism. There is plenty of good out there, and seeing the kids’ smiling faces this week reminded me of this again.”
PPI is grateful for adidas’ generosity and commitment to supporting our peacebuilding efforts, and looking forward to continuing our partnership. Upcoming events include a session with adidas staff at the US headquarters in Portland and then this summer in DC, when some of the same youth from the LDP practice in Jerusalem will be traveling to US for two weeks of leadership training and cultural exchange supported by the US Department of State Sport United Program.