One hundred years after the birth of the world’s most famous ship, Titanic Belfast has become a major new tourist attraction for Northern Ireland.
With the recent opening of Titanic Belfast in Northern Ireland, everyone from local politicians to primary school children to tourists have embraced the centenary anniversary of the building of one of the world’s most famous ships. While most of the world associates the RMS Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio and icebergs, Belfast is commemorating all of the hard work, pride, and engineering greatness associated with Titanic’s beginning instead of the despair and depression associated with its demise. The building of the Titanic is celebrated throughout Northern Ireland as one of the proudest accomplishments of its historic ship-building past. Many a time during my tenure here in Belfast people have talked glowingly about the Titanic stating quite humorously: “Hey, she was in perfect condition when she left here!”
Last week, PPI-NI hosted a P5 twinning in Lurgan with pupils from King’s Park and Lurgan Model primary schools. The event was held at King’s Park and on our way into the session, PPI-NI coaches were treated to an entire cafeteria’s worth of Titanic models done by the entire school at King’s Park. In the spirit of the anniversary of the building of the Titanic, we would like to share with you some of the creative work behind one’s of PPI-NI’s schools. Enjoy!
Students from Holy Cross Girls' and Wheatfield Primary Schools competed against students from Our Lady's and Victoria Park Primary Schools last spring. The students will reunite with their Twinning partners this term for the P7 Twinning.
Today’s Twinnings between Victoria Park and Our Lady’s Primary Schools this morning, and Holy Cross Girls’ and Wheatfield Primary Schools this afternoon, mark the first Twinnings of the term. The P7 classes that will come together today worked together last autumn as P6 classes, and, coincidentally, competed against each other in the first annual Super Twinnings Tournament in June. The Victoria Park/Our Lady’s Twinning emerged the champion of the tournament, but all of the students are eager and excited to reunite with their cross-community teams. In the first classroom session in each school, students from both Holy Cross Girls’ and Wheatfield shared that they’ve been keeping in touch with their teammates from the other school, even exchanging messages on Facebook in anticipation!
Students from Holy Cross Girls' and Wheatfield participated in team-building activities as P6 students in the Autumn of 2010.
In addition to the two Twinnings that begin today, PPI-NI will host five more Twinnings in Belfast, two in Lurgan, and two in Antrim – 18 primary schools in total! Twinning participants in North Belfast will also be invited to participate in the junior Cross-Community League, which will commence in March, as well as a Cross-Community league for Antrim participants. The P7 Community Relations curriculum will revisit the topics of similarities and differences and will explore the topics of diversity; identity and symbols; stereotypes and prejudice; sectarianism and racism; and how sport can be promote diversity in a positive way. It will be a very busy term, but we’re all excited to get started!
When I joined PeacePlayers as Managing Director in 2009, I asked then Director of Operations with PPI Andrew Gordon for his top tips for success in this job. He said, “keep as connected as possible to the work on the ground – don’t get caught up in a suit back in the office.” Whilst the suit was never going to be an issue for me, finding the time to get out into the field has been a little more challenging. As Andrew advised, however, taking the time to get to know our programs first-hand through coaching at sessions has been and continues to be extremely rewarding on both a personal and professional level.
This semester, I have been lucky enough to coach at one of PPI-NI’s Lurgan twinnings. Uniquely, this twinning involves the pairing of two controlled primary schools, which are typically attended by young people from Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist backgrounds. However, due to the location of Lurgan Model, its students are from predominantly Catholic/Nationalist/Republican backgrounds.
It’s session four this week, and my team, the ‘Awesome Athletes’, will be playing and competing alongside Coach Shannon’s ‘Zombies’, Coach Mairead’s ‘Team Dynamite’, and Coach Declan’s ‘Disco Dudes’. Following two really impressive school visits and presentations in sessions two and three (see video link below), I’m really looking forward to this week’s session which will take place at the Jethro Centre. The theme for the session is ‘identity,’ so in addition to untangling their human knots, learning BEEF and proper shooting form and dribbling techniques, participants will explore those aspects of their lives that help make them unique. Roll on Wednesday, sweet to the beat!
In an effort to further expand our primary school twinning program, this autum, PPI-NI has offered introductory sessions to the P4 and P5 classes (7 – 9 year olds) at all sixteen of our participating schools. These single sessions, which will be held again in the spring, aim to share the mission of PeacePlayers during an hour and a half session of fun-filled basketball and team-building exercises.
Participants eagerly wait for a pass from their teammate.
On Monday, November 15, PPI-NI traveled to Lurgan, where the P4 class from Drumgor Primary School hosted the P4/5 class from neighboring Tullygally. Below is a video of the Drumgor/Tullygally twinning, showing a clip of one of our favorite games – dribble relays, complete with some sweet dance moves!
The month of August has seen a rise in sectarian violence across Northern Ireland, and on the 14th of August, the town of Lurgan became the focal point of media attention when a bomb intended to harm police officers injured three young children.
A young Summer Scheme participant, Hannah, tells Meghan about her new basketball skills.
Amidst these heightened tensions, on Thursday 19th August PPI-NI made the 20-mile trip from Belfast to Lurgan to host a summer scheme at the Craigavon Leisure Centre. The half-day event brought together twenty-three Protestant and Catholic children from Lurgan and the surrounding area, including participants from King’s Park and Drumgor Primary Schools, two of the schools that participate in PPI-NI’s twinning programme.
“I was a bit nervous about the event occurring on the heels of some pretty disheartening news,” commented Meghan Houlihan, one of PPI-NI’s International Fellows, “but in the end, it was a huge success. I am continually impressed by the resiliency of those most affected by the conflict and their willingness to come together during times like these.”
Darryl and Elijah
Sponsored by the Southern Education Library Board (SELB) through their Peace III programme, funded by Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB), the day of basketball and team-building activities served as an opportunity to unite children from one of Northern Ireland’s most volatile areas.
For many participants, it was their first session with PeacePlayers, as well as their first time playing basketball.