Who better to introduce Claire Perry, our newest PeacePlayers International Fellow in South Africa, than herself? Please read Claire’s entry on her journey through basketball and non-profit work, which culminated last week with a PPI Fellowship.
Ask any one of my family or friends my goal in life and they will simply answer, “PeacePlayers.” For what seems like the longest time, I have wanted to be, and worked to be, a PeacePlayers International Fellow, and I finally can say all my unlikely decisions and choices have paid off. I am now a PPI Fellow for the next two years in Durban, South Africa. And it feels good!
Basketball was introduced to me at age four by my many siblings (youngest of five) and parents. Fortunately, after hundreds of hours of shooting and gaming in our backyard, and countless practices and tournaments within the nation (courtesy of my parents and siblings driving and supporting me during these endeavors), I played basketball throughout college at Cornell University. As an economics and business major, when fellow classmates were searching for finance internships and analyst positions post-graduation, I searched for non-profit positions within the sport-for-social change sector. PPI initially sparked my interest when my mom found an article in a national newspaper that highlighted PPI’s Northern Ireland program. What I found most amazing about PPI, and subsequently the following programs I would work for, is how sport was taught as more than a game. Since reading that article, my goal was to be involved in as many sport-for-social change programs as possible, leading eventually to a position within PPI.
Harlem RBI was my first introduction to this particular sector and my experiences only strengthened my desire to continue working with sport and youth. RBI’s positive influence within their beautiful community has strengthened the area by teaching a baseball-, life skills-, and literacy-based curriculum to elementary, middle, and high school youth. The results for RBI participants are clear: those involved in safe, stimulating activities during out-of-school and summer time score higher on tests, attend school more regularly, and matriculate high school on a higher percentage when compared to their classmates not involved in similar programs.
After graduation, I continued my involvement with sports as a volunteer coach for Keene State, a Division III school, while working full time as a business analyst within the wholesale grocery business. Always at the front of my mind, however, were my experiences at RBI and this constant desire to return to a similar RBI experience. Next came the unusual decision of leaving a very secure and comfortable job to volunteer with AmeriCorps. Similar to the RBI curriculum, I taught tennis, literacy, and life skills to Boston, Dorchester, and Roxbury middle school youth with Tenacity, another sport-for-social change non-profit organization. After a brief time coaching area youth in my hometown after AmeriCorps year, I am now working for PPI.
I have talked and dreamt about PeacePlayers for so long now, of the program’s unmatched ability to bridge racial, religious, and ethnic barriers and teach awareness of HIV/AIDS and differing cultures through the medium of basketball, that to say I am actually working for PPI seems unreal. I used to read through this very blog, wondering what it would be like to be the one writing, to experience the Fellowship instead of just talking about the program. And now here I am, introducing myself as South Africa’s new PPI Fellow. Very surreal, indeed.
I am excited for the next two years as I serve under and with the most welcoming and amazing SA staff, coaches, and players. I’m no longer hoping and wishing; I’m living my dream. Thank you PeacePlayers!
P.S. Want to take a simple action to support Claire and PeacePlayers International? PPI is now eligible for inclusion in the latest edition of CauseWorld, a mobile app that lets you earn “karmas” – badges backed up by donations from Citi and Kraft – for your favorite causes just by visiting your own local hangouts. Vote for PPI to be one of three new Causes included in this round. (You can find us fourth from the bottom of the list on the right.) There’s no registration required and, with just a few seconds of your time, you’ll help Claire and others like her continue working to improve the lives of children in divided communities all over the world!