PPI-SA Introducing Our Coaches: Archange Kalonji

Coach Archange in action.

My Name is Archange Mickelange Kaniki Kalonji born on the 14th May 1997 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Mbuji Mayi) a very small village in the heart of Congo. I am currently living in South Africa (Durban).

I moved to South Africa in 2003 due to political unrest in Congo and the war between rebels and soldier but my father had moved here before us (2002) he fled Congo because he was working for the government and someone had hired a hit man to take kill him, so he left Congo and moved to South Africa leaving us in Congo.

One year later we followed him to South Africa, and joined my father in Johannesburg. I was a soccer lover at that time and attended Yoeville boys Primary school not knowing a single word of English expect “hello”.

In 2004 my father died from Meningitis and from then my love for sport ended because he was the only one that kept pushing me. In 2007 we moved to Durban seeking for a better easier life.

When we arrived in Durban I got with the wrong crew and started shoplifting and surrounding myself with older guys who did and sold drugs(eg.tik,cocaine,Heroin,marijuana ). After a while I saw kids playing basketball at a church next to my building.I used to hate basketball till I was introduced to it by my cousin Oliver Amisi in 2009 at Christ Church Addington and from then the love for basketball just grew. I ended up attending the trials for the junior team at my primary school (Addington Primary School) in which I made the team and provincial U13 team. It was there that I was introduced to an organization called Peaceplayers International SA. I participated in the Primary School Program (PSP) for all of my Primary school years and got a great opportunity to further my studies at Durban High School.

I carried on working hard, that hard work did pay off when I earned a full scholarship to attend Durban High School which is the best basketball school in the southern hemisphere it felt like a dream cause just yesterday I ran away from death in my country to this upcoming basketball player with a bright future. At DHS I excelled in basketball because now I had something that made me feel alive again and played for every top side in each age group till I made it on the first team at age 14, making me the youngest player on the team.

Archange with other PPI-SA coaches at a team building camp.

Played for 4 years on the 1st team and captained it twice, during that 5 years of high school I made the provincial (junior and senior) basketball team as well as grabbing attention from great varsities in south African and one of them being Vaal University of technology.

I grew up with PPI-SA and never lost contact with this amazing organization, even when I went on to DHS. When I completed my matric, I knew I wanted to give back to the organization that gave me so much. So I applied to be a coach, and now I mentor and coach 24 amazing children from Gardenia Primary School in Wentworth. I can not wait to see what my future awaits but I know with hard work and discipline, I will continue to succeed.

“Lets The Games Begin!”- PPI-SA Starts Term 2!

This past week, at PeacePlayers International South Africa, saw the beginning of term 2. After a short break from school, it was evident at the games that were hosted this past Friday, that the participants were re-energized and ready for the term ahead.

Adington and Gardenia Primary School Girls at DHS.

The games this week, were two separate extravaganzas. One was hosted at Durban High School, an affluent high school in Musgrave, and the other in Umlazi Sports Complex, in the township of Umlazi. The extravaganzas are a great opportunity for more than 2/3 schools to travel outside of their community and experience a new community. At DHS, the schools that participated there were:

  • Bantuvukani Primary School – from Lamontville
  • Gardenia Primary School- from Wentworth
  • Sekelani Primary School – from Umlazi
  • Addington Primary School- from City

The games amongst these schools were exciting and full of loud cheering from their teammates. Bantuvakani Primary School girls team proved to be the strongest team there, as they won all the games. The Addington Primary School boys teams also won all their games, and were always cheered on by a improving girls teams.

In Umlazi, the schools that participated there were:

  • Sukuma Primary School – from Umlazi
  • Excelsior Primary School- from Lamontville
  • Carrington Primary School- from Umbilo
  • Collingwood Primary School – from Wenworth

    Coach Sma coaching Carrington Primary Boys.

This extravaganza was also nothing short of exciting. The games started with fun icebreakers that got all the participants cheering and singing, whilst making new friends. The competition was tight and games ended with close scores.

Overall the extravaganzas were a great success, and have really set the tone for the year.

More upcoming events that will take place this term are as follows:

  1. The 28th City Wide Tournament – 3 June 2017
  2. Six participants from PPI-SA will be travelling to Cyprus for the Lead4Peace Camp.
  3. Leadership Development Programme Career Day

Be sure to look out for upcoming events on the South Africa Facebook page!!

Northern Champions!

It has been an exciting time for PPI-ME in Northern Israel! The 16-and-under Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars team just won the league championship, and in very decisive fashion: the girls finished the regular season undefeated (20-0).


The team after their last regular season game

For every girl on the team, it was the first time winning a championship; the fact that it was with this team made it even more special. “We worked so hard all season. Every practice and every game we were pushed by one another and our coach (Dor Dayan). It’s an amazing feeling to have it end in a championship,” says May Zinger (15, Nahariya). “For most of the season we knew we were doing well and we felt it on the court, but none of us really thought about winning the league. We all just wanted to get better individually and as a team during practices and games,” explains Dafna Blianski (16, Nahariya).

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Coach Dor Dayan huddling the team during a time out

The fact that this team of players and coaches tirelessly worked to keep getting better, despite being undefeated, is the reason they finished the regular season in the top spot in the league. Coach Dor Dayan never let the girls get complacent about the championship and constantly looked for ways to keep their mind off it. Every person on this team continued coming to practice and working hard individually so that they could be a better team.

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Ruti cutting the cake after making a short speech

On Sunday, April 30, 2017, the team came together for what they thought was a normal practice to get ready for playoffs, which start in a few weeks. What they didn’t know is that Ruti (chairman of the club) and Dor had a surprise for them. The girls had already finished first in the league, but it had not been acknowledged or celebrated. So, with 30 minutes left in practice, Ruti walked in with an enormous chocolate cake, to congratulate the girls on winning the championship!

Everyone was surprised and excited – who doesn’t love chocolate cake? Ruti made a short speech saying how proud she was of the girls and what the team meant to PPI – ME and to the club. Dor also added a few short words about their commitment and dedication to the team all season. And of course, he reminded the girls (in typical coach Dor fashion) that the season isn’t over yet. They have worked all year for the opportunity to compete in the playoffs, which are fast approaching, and they must continue to work hard. “I am so proud of this team and what they have accomplished all year. The girls worked hard for one another and that is what is most important to me. But, it isn’t over yet. We will see how far we have come as a team once playoffs start. That will be the real test!” says Coach Dor Dayan.

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What a cake! Yummmmmmmmy

If there is anything I have learned from working with this team, it is that they are never satisfied and they always keep working…for one another and with one another.


PPI-NI LDP’s Lead Their First Multi-Sports Camp

PPI-NI Coaches Development Programme (CDP) participants have been taking part in a series of trainings on positive youth coaching and Coaching the PeacePlayers Way. Recently, we partnered with Belfast Community Sports Development Network (BCSDN) to deliver a 3-day multi-sports camp over Easter break. The idea behind the camp was to train our senior LDP participants to plan and deliver the sport sessions while weaving in cross-community themes into their coaching. Nora & AJ who are part of the CDP programme share their experience leading up to and coaching in the camp.


CDP Youth Coaches & BCSDN Young Leaders with a lovely bunch 🙂


Over Easter break, I had the opportunity to coach in a multi-sports camp for young children, ages 7-11. The camp was led by my fellow participants involved in the Coaches Development Program (CDP) and young leaders from the Belfast Community Sports Development Network (BCSDN).  Between the trainings leading up to the camp, and coaching in the camp, the whole experience was definitely worthwhile.

The Friday before the camp was set to begin, all the CDP youth coaches came together to prepare for the camp.  The training gave us the opportunity to bond with the other young leaders leaders from BCSDN, who we had never met before. The day was filled with fun activities, and the coaches from PeacePlayers and BCDSN taught us the skills we needed to coach the young participants in the different sports that the camp had to offer.  To give you an idea, we coached Olympic handball, basketball, rugby, Gaelic football, soccer, and rounders (a variation of baseball).


Getting ready for football

Each day of the camp  was packed with games and drills for different sports. The participants arrived each morning full of energy, with smiles on their faces and made it easy for us to deliver each session. During our debrief at the end of each session, we found ways to tie in a cross-community theme to the games. Themes like teamwork and communication came through in a lot of the activities that we did.  This opportunity helped us develop our confidence when leading a session, and gave us knowledge on how to organise and plan for a session the PeacePlayers way. From teaching the young participants the basics of rugby, gaelic football, soccer, basketball and handball, to hanging out with them during breaks, I really enjoyed the whole experience.


I was given a lovely hand drawn card from one of the participants I had been coaching throughout the camp! The camp, especially the last day was filled with high energy as participants seemed to get more excited and get into the games! As the camp began to come to a close, everyone came together to play a game of rounders. I loved playing this as we got to spend the last few minutes of camp together with everyone! It was sad to see camp come to a close but it was an amazing which I will be grateful for!


That’s me (AJ), getting drowned in hugs on the last day of camp 🙂

However, this not the end of my coaching experience as every Wednesday night at BIL (Belfast Interface League, PeacePlayers-NI after-school cross-community basketball programme), I am an assistant coach for North Belfast Junior Boys! So far, I have had an amazing experience coaching these boys, and it has been fulfilling watching them improve each week. I’m so proud of how much their basketball has improved and how open they are to building relationships with their fellow teammates who they wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for PeacePlayers! I’m excited to see what the next few weeks of BIL holds, and what fun I will have with the Junior Boys!

We would like to thank PeacePlayers for providing us with these amazing coaching opportunities!

The End of an Era Known as “Big Friday”


The Squad known as “Big Friday”

This week’s blog is written by American Fellow, LaToya Fisher, and talks about the “Big Friday” twinnings. A twinning is a joint activity between Arab and Jewish teams where they come together to do fun basketball drills and get to know each other. 

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The participants focusing on balancing the ball

Last Friday, April 21st marked the end of an epic era known as “Big Friday” at Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem. “Big Friday” is special because unlike a typical twinning that usually brings just two teams together, one Arab and one Jewish, a “Big Friday” twinning brings together four teams: two from Keshet (a Jewish school in Jerusalem), a team from Beit Safafa (an Arab village in Jerusalem), and a team from the West Bank.

Aside from all of the participants being ridiculously cute, the energy and enthusiasm they brought to every twinning was contagious. No matter what competition we did or how simple the warm up was, the kids and the coaches were cheering. So much of the energy and atmosphere was because of the amazing Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants who volunteered at every twinning and really encouraged the kids to cheer, dance, laugh, and made them feel comfortable.

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Having fun at the dribbling station

Some might speculate that “Big Friday” twinnings were dear to my heart because there was usually at least one team that incorporated my name, LaToya, into their chosen team name or big competitions (e.g. Mama LaToya, Princess LaToya, Grandma LaToya), but I’m sure that’s purely coincidental. The energy was always great at “Big Fridays” and the LDP seemed to have just as much fun as the kids.

While I’m sad that the “Big Friday” twinnings have come to an end, I’m glad they ended well — with lots of cheering, a little dancing, and tons of smiles. I will miss seeing all of my little buddies once a month on Friday, but I will cherish the awesome memories we made over the seven Fridays we came together during this programming cycle.

PPI-ME in High Gear During the Passover Holiday


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A leadership workshop led by PPI Organizational Learning Specialist, Joe Smith.

This week’s blog post is written by American Fellow, LaToya Fisher, and shares some of the fun activities that PPI-ME participants did during the Passover holiday break.

Most people in Israel spend the Passover holiday with their families, traveling, and of course, missing bread and other grain products. For PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) participants, this year’s holiday meant all of those things and more — it also meant becoming better leaders, working on basketball skills, and uncovering hidden talents.


The participants having a little fun during a break

PPI-ME kicked off the holiday break with a two-day leadership workshop in Jerusalem led by PPI Organizational Learning Specialist, Joe Smith, who was visiting from PPI’s Washington, D.C. office. The first day of the workshop was intended for PPI-ME coaches and focused on how to teach life skills alongside basketball skills. Currently, an American fellow or other facilitator drops into basketball practices and uses valuable practice time to speak with participants about topics, such as trust, teamwork, communication, and other themes in PPI-ME’s curriculum. However, Joe showed the coaches how easy it is for them to incorporate these themes into their coaching. Having the coaches deliver life skills training and facilitate discussions while coaching is effective because they have already established a strong bond with the players.

The second day of the workshop was for the Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants. The theme of the workshop was the impact that sport has on their daily lives. Participants discussed the lessons they learn from playing sports and came up with fun drills based on different themes, such as overcoming a disadvantage and teamwork.

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Participants at the end of the three-day basketball skills camp with retired professional basketball player, Edniesha Curry

During the second half of the holiday break, PPI-ME hosted a three-day basketball skills camp, also in Jerusalem. The camp was led by PPI-ME’s Under-18 All-Star team coach, Rebecca Ross, and former PPI-ME fellow and retired professional basketball player, Edniesha Curry. The camp focused on strengthening the players’ fundamental basketball skills, such as lay-ups, dribbling, and jump shots. During the last 30 minutes of each day, there was a scrimmage and you could clearly see that the players’ skills had improved each day.

Breaks during the three-day camp seemed to turn into mini talent shows, with players showing off the their hidden talents, such as tumbling, dancing, and being double-jointed — and then challenging me to see if I could complete the task. I am happy to say that I can still nail a cartwheel, back bend and round-off like it’s my job after, but I definitely cannot bend backwards like a seal and make my feet touch my head.

Ironically, the holiday break ended up being busier than our usual work days, but there was so much laughter and joy, it didn’t feel like work.

Visiting the Nahariya Twinning, I Discovered a New Nahariya


Some of the participants from Tamra and Nahariya strike a pose

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) blog post was written by Yossi Levin, PPI – ME’s Director of Strategic Partnerships.

In a small gym in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, I witnessed an amazing site last month – one that I was not expecting.


Some of the girls watching their teammates play

I grew up in Nahariya and have seen it grow from a tiny community in the 1970s and 80s to an expanse of Mediterranean seaside family complexes today. When I grew up in Nahariya, it felt like I was growing up on the wrong “side” of Israeli society – it was a neglected periphery – but on that Thursday last month, I saw Nahariya shine in a way that I never expected.

I joined PeacePlayers five months ago and this was the first “twinning” I attended. I am a long-time veteran of Middle East peace initiatives, however, and thought I’d seen it all. But when I stepped into the small gym where the twinning was taking place to film part of the activity, I was taken back. I grew up only about two blocks away from the gym where the activity was being held, but it was nothing like any activity that took place there when I was a kid growing up in Nahariya. Jewish kids from Nahariya and Arab kids from Tamra, a nearby Arab village, practiced basketball drills together, all the while chatting and laughing. Following the drills, the teams sat together in a circle with their local coaches, Shady (Tamra’s coach) and Courtney (Nahariya’s coach), along with PPI – ME facilitator, Githa, to translate the basketball skills into life skills. The kids were encouraged to speak about their experiences, to reach out and touch each other through games, and many hugged at the end of the session.


The girls sharing some laughs

I watched the activity from the bleachers and what I saw should make every parent of that group proud and every participant even prouder. It all seemed beautifully natural to the kids. Twenty years ago, I sat in that very place and never saw or spoke to Arabs, and certainly never touched one, even though I grew up surrounded by Arab villages.

It all seemed so natural to the kids – seamless and easy – but to me it looked like magic.