This week’s PPI – SA blog is written by International Fellow, Kristin Degou. Kristin joined PPI – SA as a Fellow in February 2012. Prior to that, Kristin earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Keene State College, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and secretary of the Biology Honors Society.
It has been roughly around a year since I arrived in South Africa for my Fellowship with PeacePlayers International. It would be an impossible task to accurately express how truly life changing this experience has been. And to sum up one year in a blog is not easy, but there are certain aspects about PPI-SA that move to the forefront when reflecting on my first year.
The first thoughts that come to mind are the special people I have met within the PPI-SA organization, and how I have learned the importance of relationships and how they make us human. South Africa has a special philosophy followed by its people called “Ubuntu” which describes the sense of human connection with others and how it defines us. Nelson Mandela explains Ubuntu as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; if we are to accomplish anything in this life it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”
There is something to be said about the unselfishness of this idea and how it can impact an entire country and culture. It’s humbling to experience this idea first hand and to see it in action every day when I go to work. The PPI-SA Managing Director and Operations Manager, Marcel and Debby van der Heever, are like the mom and dad of our PPI-SA family, extending warmth and love to us all. My coworkers are unselfish and always willing to have a listening ear. PPI-SA coaches have a lot of love and pride for the areas that they coach in and I have had the pleasure of getting to know them on and off the court. Last but certainly not least, the participants of PPI-SA will never cease to amaze me. The lack of resources they encounter does not minimize the passion they have for sport, even though under their circumstances most kids would find it hard to continue on playing. They find enjoyment and happiness in each other, and in the game of basketball, not in the material possessions they own (although I have yet to see an unhappy face when we give t shirts and shorts for a job well done!)
PPI-SA has recently integrated Arbinger’s “Anatomy of Peace” into our curriculum, and it seamlessly fits into the Ubuntu philosophy, as the two are very congruent. The Anatomy of Peace is all about our relationships with other people and how we must see them as people and not objects. It focuses on community, and how we can learn to not only solve conflict but prevent it by finding an out of the box place, or more simply put, a place where we see the humanity of others and realize that the hopes, dreams, and fears of others are just as important as our own. Our goal in PPI-SA is to use the sport of basketball to teach these philosophies and we have been working diligently to do just that. The beautiful thing about sport is that it puts us all on an equal playing field. I have formed deep and meaningful relationships through playing basketball, and my hope is to help our participants develop those kinds of relationships through the PPI-SA family.
My time with PPI-SA has taught me lessons of acceptance, hope, and humanity. Sport has a unique and powerful way of teaching these ideas. Through basketball, I hope to continue to teach and inspire. PPI-SA has helped me discover that I will never be done learning and growing through sport.