PPI-NI C4P Gary Duffy Talks About His #Lead4Peace Experience in Norway!

Hello! My name is Gary Duffy, I am 15 years old, I live in Northern Ireland and I’m here to tell you about my time in Norway as part of the PeacePlayers Champions4Peace Lead4Peace exchange. It’s a long but savoury ready so sit back and enjoy! 

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Me and my new friends from the Middle East Malak and Liraz

Leading up to the trip, I had all sorts of butterflies, nerves, and excitement all at the same time. I wondered what the people would be like, would they like me and would I fit in. The next six days turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with PeacePlayers.

The first day we arrived to Norway, I was so excited as we waited for the Middle East group to arrive. It was exciting for me as I was going to meet new friends from different parts of the world. Once the Middle East arrived, the participants from the previous exchange all met up and said hello, giving each other hugs. I had to make myself known and introduced myself. We then got on the bus to go to our host families homes and that was when I met the first person on the exchange and that person was Yuval from the Middle East. When we started talking, Yuval had told me about his first time playing Gaelic football in the Middle East exchange last October. We had a laugh on the bus and was amazing getting to know him. On our journey to our host families, we had a party on the bus or what we came to call a PeacePlayers ride.  We were blasting music, introducing ourselves and chatting with all the new people we had yet to meet.

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The NI Squad at the airport waiting for the Middle East group to arrive!

After about an hour on the bus, we arrived to Nesodden and I finally got to meet Edvard who I had been chatting with before the trip and I was so excited to finally get to meet him and it was amazing. Me and Eoin (Lead4Peace participant from NI) were driven up to our host families house where we were introduced to Edvard’s family.

On the first day of the camp, I didn’t get to meet many new people. So my goal was to not sit with people I knew so I can begin to make new friends and to get myself known to everyone on the exchange. Edvard’s dad dropped us off at Nesodden High School. This was where we met the coaches from the other sites – Gøril, Roar, Jamie, Nicos, Ståle, Sissel, Latoya, Bahar, and Sean. The coaches introduced themselves and shared something interesting about themselves, they were all a laugh and I knew I was going to get on well with them.

After all the introductions, we were split up into our teams. This was when I met my teammates – Thilde, Jinan, Christain, Martin, Gur, Serife, Ayanda, Anne, & Beth and Anna. We called ourselves Team Fire Ball to match our team colour, red!  Later that day after we all played basketball, it was time to lead our session on Trust & Communication. I wasn’t as confident at the start but when I saw Beth and Anna do an amazing job, I said to myself it can’t be that bad and went on and led my activity and I did a good job.

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Beth, me, & Anna leading our session on Trust & Communication

After that session, it was time for dinner and that’s where I finally got to talk to the new people. That night was my favourite night in Norway because I made everyone laugh and made myself more recognised by everyone. Later that night, Edvard and William set up a Norwegian food taster for me, Eoin, Max, Tahir from Cyprus & Ryan.  We all sat at the table and began tasting Norwegian food which was amazing and very tasty. The third day was the day we all went to the hotel and did the fun in the snow the first activity we all did was ice hockey.

The third day, we headed off to Sormarka which was about an hour drive from where we staying in Nesodden. The first activity my team did was ice hocky, it was an amazing experience and I enjoyed it so much even though I got warm pretty fast becaue of all the

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Lovin’ life on the snowboard!

layers I was wearing. Our next activity was snowboarding and just having fun in the snow. This was the first time I ever went on the snowboard and I fell many times. But nonetheless, I still had an amazing time. After all the fun in the snow, we went to a little area and had hotdogs for lunch. Later on that day, we continued with our classroom sessions on social action led by the Cyprus coaches.

That morning I woke up and got my heavy clothing on and brought my bags down to the hotel reception as we were all going back to our host families in Nesodden. This was the day we all went dog sledding and it such an amazing experience. I’ve never seen such peaceful dogs before, the dogs were just so adorable and they were the cutest dogs I’ve seen my life.  Later on that day, we took the ferry boat back to Nesodden, the boat was the best transport for me as I love boats.

We arrived in Nesodden and we watched a match. Edvard and William play for the Nesodden club and they had a game that night. We also helped with making waffles which we gave out to the fans. Me, Jinan, Brooklyn, Malak, and Nagham all made the waffles and they were amazing. The basketball game was so intense and it was very exciting to experience. Unfortunately, Edvard’s team lost that game but it was a fun match to watch.

After the match, we were split into two teams and played basketball until we had to go home. The next day was all about school visits! I got to coach in two basketball sessions which was amazing, I had such a laugh with all the kids. After coaching I got to do a classroom session with 15-16 year olds  where I shared how I was introduced to PeacePlayers, I also told them about the conflict in Northen Ireland. I was so nervous at first but when it came to it, I did a pretty good job and I was proud of myself.

After all that was done, me, Edvard, Eoin Thetha, Nitzan, Nagham and Maria all walked home to Edvard’s. We had free time so we decided to rest and get our energy back up. After the rest, we all got our gear and headed to the ferry. We got to the ferry and met up with everyone else. The ferry is so cool, I was in love with it. We got to our destination and had to get a bus to Kolbotn where we played more basketball.  We got a lot of basketball time and was a lot of fun. When our matches were over we all had a big game of knockout and the winner was Ryan who’s also from Northern Ireland. After all that we all went home. The last day for us all to be together which struck me but

The next day was last day for us all to be together which struck me but I made the best of that time and made such great memories. So, the first thing we did was get on the ferry. After the ferry, we all met up and did a bit of sightseeing around Norway and the view was so pretty. We all went to the parliament where we had a member of Parliament talk to us about Norwegian politics and the king of Norway. It was so interesting and fun to learn about.  After the Parliament, we took the underground (subway) to visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This was also where me and coach Joanne recreated the heel kick photo and we all had such fun. We then visited the Nobel Peace Centre where we had a lovely tour of the 2017 exhibition.

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Coach Joane and me heel kicking!

We came back to Nesodden and played in a 3 on 3 tournament. My team made it to the finals but we lost. After the tournament, we all went into the lunch hall and had our final time together. I was sitting down with everyone getting food before the awards were given out. After dinner, the awards were presented and I won the Spirit Award. The Spirit award is given to someone who takes part in everything with a positive attitude while cheering everyone else on. I was so proud to be gifted that award. After the awards were given out, I completely broke down as this was the final time I’d be with everyone before saying goodbye. I went around hugging everyone and spending my final hour with everyone but we didn’t let that bother us as we all had a ball. We were all singing and dancing even the coaches joined in!

 

 

So you might ask what has this exchange done for me, it has made me more confident in leading sessions an16807022_1200989770022113_942240450499203875_nd in being a coach. It has made me a better leader, I made new friends and it might have even made me famous! I was featured in the in the local paper! And what I am looking forward to the most is seeing everyone again when they visit Northern Ireland in July!

 

Senior Fellow Sarah Frazier Reflects on Her Trip to Norway with Lead4Peace

Sarah with Nomfundo, Ayanda, Thetha and Meagan in the snow.

Sarah with Nomfundo, Ayanda, Thetha and Meagan in the snow.

Today’s blog is written by Senior International Fellow, Sarah Frazier, who recently traveled to Norway with four PPI-SA LDP Participants for the Lead4Peace Leadership Camp. She shares about her time in Norway attending the camp.

What a way to start of the year! This past week I traveled to Norway with four PPI-SA participants for the Erasmus+ Lead4Peace Camp. I am no stranger to travel, but I must say, this trip stands out as one of my favorites.This was a highly anticipated trip, for the participants ( Nomfundo, Ayanda, Meagan and Thetha) because they were going to be reunited with friends they met in Cyprus, during phase one of the Erasmus+ LeadPeace Camp last year. A huge thank you to Nesodden IF Basket club and the community who raised money to cover costs that allowed me and the participants to take part!

It was so great to watch the PPI-SA participants reunited with their friends from other PPI sites, as well as seeing them experiencing the snow and activities like dog sledding for the first time. Another highlight was seeing how close the participants became with their host families. This is what made this camp really unique and memorable. Now, the participants can say they have another family in Norway.

The participants also got to give presentations to groups of students about South African culture, history, and what it is like to be a young person growing up in South Africa.  It was a great opportunity for our participants to share information about South Africa, their culture, language, and represent themselves, their communities, KZN, and the Republic of South Africa as a whole.

PPI-SA participants making their presentation about South Africa.

PPI-SA participants making their presentation about South Africa.

To end,on behalf of PPI-SA, the participants and their parents, I really want to thank the Nesodden IF Basket club, parents and community for EVERYTHING! This trip would have not been possible without you all.

THANK YOU. SIYABONGA. BAIE DANKIE.

 

My Final Days As A Fellow: Jessica Walton Says Goodbye to PPI-Cyprus

This week’s blog was written by former Cyprus Fellow Jessica Walton about her amazing 2 years working at PeacePlayers-Cyprus.

My fellowship with PeacePlayers has come to an end. I’m struggling to fully accept that sentence. It doesn’t feel real. My final days in Cyprus have come all too quickly and I am basically in denial – I haven’t packed a single bag yet. 16651424_10208176464433211_965766958_o

I know everyone says it, but I swear it feels like I just sat down for lunch at “The Old Lady” for the very first time. Fast forward two years later and I’ve basically become the queen of meze and kebab and developed a second stomach when it comes to making room for halloumi or baklava. But in all seriousness, PeacePlayers has changed my life. I will always consider myself grateful to these wonderful people and this amazing program.

When I applied for the fellowship in the winter of 2014 I was working a typical desk job and knew that I was looking for something so much more. I crossed my fingers after submitting my application – hoped it would work out and tried to picture what life would be like as a fellow, thousands of miles away from home. Lucky for me these two years have exceeded my expectations in every way.

16593555_10208176464953224_1139523284_o  Let’s start with the job itself. I think it’s safe to say most of us would be hard pressed to find a better job description than using the game of basketball to foster peace and friendships between kids in conflict communities (especially on an insanely beautiful Mediterranean island). Mix that with some of the most compassionate, funny, intelligent, kids and the most dedicated and passionate coaches/staff I’ve come across and you have a pretty unbeatable combination.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to express enough thanks to people like Ryan and Sean (my amazing partners in crime) or Nicos, Mike and Andreas for showing me the ropes and introducing me to the world of Cyprus basketball. I can’t describe how grateful I am to coaches like Sevki and Bahar who were always willing to invite me into their homes, make me a home cooked me and treat me like a member of their own family. Special thanks to Steph (and her Dad) for ALWAYS being there when I locked myself out, had a problem with the car or needed to find a new place for the fellows to live. Shout outs to all the inspirational coaches and staff I’ve had a chance to get to know and work with during the exchange trips and summer camps. I’m lucky to have had a chance to learn from your unique PPI experiences and call you guy’s friends! Last but not least – Jale! We always tell you but just in case you haven’t truly heard us, you’re definitely going down in the books as the best boss! 16593385_10208176465353234_65073808_o

To my PPI-CY kids – I am so incredibly proud of all of you guys! You are some of the most fantastic humans I have ever met. It’s been a complete privilege to watch you develop and grow over the past two years. I remember my first LDP and how impressed I was with you all. Visiting Lapta girl’s practice and laughing non-stop with you guys as we played 5v5. Victor – your enthusiasm for everything is contagious! You’ll make a fantastic coach someday. Singing Beyonce songs with Mush and Sophia in the back of the bus on our way to my first camp. Now those two crazy kids coach their own team J I’m going to miss the survivor obstacle course with my little guys in Iskele! Sevilay, my summer camp hairstylist, you’ll make it to New York before you know it! And Cetin, watch out for Ali – I think he’s going to be dunking soon! Andriana! Captain of the TuneSquad and my 3v3 teammate – I know you’re going to do some incredible things on the court!

I’m not quite sure the best way to close out my last blog. I am truly blessed to have witnessed just how effective PeacePlayers programming is, not only here in Cyprus but around the world. I will always consider Cyprus a home away from home. These people will always hold a special place in my heart. Saying goodbye seems way too final. Instead, I’ll let a pro do the talking for me:

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the longitudes and the latitudes.” – Henry David Thoreau

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PeacePlayers Jet Off to Norway to build Bridges

This weeks blog includes a insert from The Mercury newspaper written about four PPI-SA participants who traveled to Norway on the 9th of February 2017 and will return on the 16 February 2016. The Mercury newspaper is Durban’s morning newspaper, providing coverage of local, South African and international news and sport. This article was written by Given Majola.

FOUR Durban teenage basketball players will rub shoulders with 60 of their global counterparts as part of the PeacePlayers South Africa basketball programme in Norway, starting today.

(From left to right) Meagan, Thetha, Ayanda & Nomfundo.

Durban teenagers Meegan Montiere, Thetha Nxumalo, Ayanda Dlamini and Nomfundo Ngcobo showed off their basketball talent yesterday before flying to Norway for the Lead For Peace Camp, where they will share their leadership skills with teenagers from around the world.Ayanda Dlamini,14, Meegan Montiere, 15, Nomfundo Ngcobo, 18, and Thetha Nxumalo, 18, flew to Norway last night where they will attend the Lead for Peace Camp that runs until February 16.

Peace Players South Africa Marketing and Fund-raising manager Sbahle Mkhize said the players had made their mark during the programme, which was started 16 years ago to bridge the divide between Durban communities.

“We saw there was a need for our young people from different communities of townships, suburbs and more rural areas to be brought together through sports to learn, have fun and make new friends.

Aspirations

“The most important thing is to give them aspirations that there can be something beyond the communities they come from, where there are drugs, alcohol abuse and violence,” Mkhize said.

“We create safe spaces where the children can grow and become leaders in their communities.”

Mkhize said the programme had developed relationships with schools across the city where they introduce the sport and provide equipment and coaches, and life and leadership skills.

“They are taught discipline, respect, teamwork and communication skills,” she said.

Mkhize said the four players had traveled to Cyprus last year and would now be showcasing their leadership skills in Norway.

Ayanda, who attends Ogwini Comprehensive High School in Umlazi, said she had gained valuable life experience on the programme.

“It has helped me understand others from different backgrounds and their cultures. I look forward to being exposed to the lives of others in Norway,” she said.

Meegan, of Wentworth, who attends Aquadene Secondary School in Richards Bay, said the programme had helped her lead her peers.

“I look forward to finishing school and playing basketball,” Montiere said.

Ngcobo, who attends Mowat Park High School in Montclair, said the programme had exposed her to many new opportunities.

She said: “Going to Norway, I look forward to meeting others I do not know, as opposed to just hearing about them.”

Nxumalo, of Lamontville, said the trip would be a learning experience. “This teaches one to live with those from different backgrounds and come up with solutions to common problems,” he said.

 

Youth Entrepreneurship Program Is Up and Running!

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Some of the participants of Peacestagram, one of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program initiatives, after attending a photography exhibit together

In November 2015, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) announced two new programs (view original post here). One of these is the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP), in which six graduates of the Leadership Development Program work in mixed Palestinian and Israeli pairs to create their own peace building initiatives. Here’s an update on the progress of the program.

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An Israeli and Palestinian participant from GGG

The first year of YEP was spent arming participants with the tools to create and successfully run a peace organization. Participants attended lectures about grant writing and budget-making, and presented their ideas in front of a panel modeled on the show “Shark Tank,” where they requested money to fund their initiative. Thinking through the logistics of creating a new organization was challenging and, at times, intimidating for YEP participants. One of the Palestinian participants, Duha, says she felt uneasy because her project used a medium she had little experience with: art. This is the first time any of the participants have been involved in starting an organization and they wanted their projects to be unique. With the help of mentors and Project Manager, Jamie Walsh, the participants created three special projects.

Duha (Palestinian) and Liraz (Israeli) created Girls Gone Green (GGG), an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through art. The participants tell stories about their cultures, families and other topics through traditional art forms, such as pottery and painting, as well as using gathered recycled material. The participants will display their creations at an exhibit the girls will host for friends and family.

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The first Peacestagram meeting

Participants Aysha (Palestinian) and Neta (Israeli) created Peacestagram, an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through photography. The participants will learn different photography techniques with the goal of producing high quality photos covering topics such as religion, food, sports and other personal issues. The participants will display their work on social media and in an exhibit this spring.

The last initiative was created by participants Ibrahim (Palestinian) and Ofir (Israeli). They will host an event this spring that pairs able-bodied kids with kids with disabilities for a sports activity in Jerusalem. While interaction between Palestinians and Israelis in often limited, there is an even larger gap when it comes to interaction between Palestinians and Israelis with disabilities.

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Traditional Moroccan slipper key chains made by GGG participants

Implementation of the three YEP initiatives has just started and is going well. The participants of Peacestagram have already taken a trip to a photography exhibit and the participants of GGG have started tapping into their creativity by making traditional Moroccan slipper key chains. Stay tuned for more updates as these initiatives progress!

Training the Trainers: PPI-NI Ballymena

This week’s blog was written by Ryan McGarry, Local Fellow at PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland. 

bmenaThis year was the first time I became involved in a PeacePlayers Twinning that took place outside of Belfast. I was tasked to take the lead on our programming in Ballymena, a town about 30 minutes outside the city (famous for being the birthplace of Liam Neeson!), within which we have been running Twinnings for 4 years. Having established ourselves here working in conjunction with the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, we have recently began taking steps to further develop our work in the area. Specifically, we are aiming to train and increase the capacity of locally based coaches, to transition our work there to becoming completely locally-led. (As much as I love my weekly pilgrimage up there!)

This approach fits into part of our overarching plan, which is to create and develop local PeacePlayers sites in every council area in the country. Recently, a partnership with the Ballymena Northern Regional College enabled us to take initial steps in this direction. This partnership has given young to volunteer as assistant coaches at our weekly sessions in the area.

 

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Local student Paige leads a discussion on ‘Respect’

While this has only begun in January, these students have already shown their coaching abilities, and their willingness to develop themselves further. While jumping into a coaching role isn’t easy (especially in a high energy environment like a PPI Twinning!) The assistant coaches have been great at quickly adapting to our particular style of coaching, and leading activities not only in Basketball, but also in our Community Relations curriculum.

This has been evident not just to myself and the other PeacePlayers coaches, but also to their own teachers, and also to staff from the participating schools. They impressed the latter so much so that a few of the assistant coaches have been invited to the schools to help out in other ways, and meet back up with their team members!

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Coaches Paige & Rebecca pose with their team’s completed ‘Respect Wall’

With the potential to bring some of these prospective coaches to our coaches’ trainings throughout the year – we could be seeing the establishment of a very important foundation for PPI’s planned expansion into the six ‘Super Councils’ of Northern Ireland.

If our efforts to create and develop a bank of local coaches in Ballymena is successful, it could well be used as a template for our work in other areas, and with a great group of potential future PeacePlayers at our disposal, I feel personally responsible to ensure that this becomes a reality!

 

Coach’s Corner: Interview with Dor Dayan

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Coach Dor Dayan has shown incredible commitment and passion working with PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) over the past two years

 

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) blog post is about 27-year-old Israeli coach Dor Dayan. Dayan played basketball in the top professional league in Israel, before deciding to become a coach five years ago. He has been working with PPI – ME for the past two seasons and is the head coach of two of our mixed (Arab and Jewish) All-Star teams in Northern Israel. Here Dor talks about his experience as a coach and the impact that PeacePlayers has had on him.

 

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Dor speaking with the girls during a timeout in their win against Iblin

How did you get into coaching?

My mother encouraged me to become a coach. She thought I would really be good at it. At first I just did it for fun, but then I loved it so much that I wanted to do it professionally as a full time job.

Is there a coach that you look up to or that has influenced how you view the game and your own coaching?

David Blatt (Former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) because he is very intelligent, knows the game very well, and knows how to speak with his players.

What is your favorite team to watch?

In Israel, it’s Maccabi Tel Aviv (former team that David Blatt coached – the most popular team in Israel). In America, it was the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan played on the team and now it is the Golden State Warriors.

How are your teams doing so far this season?

This season is going really well so far. I think the All-Star Yeladot team (14-and-under mixed team) will continue to get better. Our team is successful when we play aggressively and together as a team. The All-Star Naharot team (16-and-under mixed team) is also doing really well. We are 11-0 in the league and we can only hope that this will continue for the rest of the season.

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Dayan pushing the girls during a pre-season beach workout in Nahariya

 How did you find out about PPI – ME?

I learned about PPI – ME from another basketball coach in Nahariya. I saw the Arab and Jewish girls playing together and it seemed like something I would be interested in. The next season the chairman of our club informed me that I would be coaching two PPI – ME teams and so far, I am really enjoying it.

How has PPI – ME impacted you?

I am now able to see the other side of the conflict. I think we can live together, but there is still a lot to work on. I think if Arabs and Jews spend time together from a young age, as they do with PPI – ME, that it would really help them as they become adults. I sincerely hope that the girls can build a connection with one another. I think that if our teams can continue to play together it will really help them in the future.

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Dayan (second from the right), the Nahariya Naharot players and other PPI – ME Staff after a team win

What is the most important thing you have gained from your experience with PPI – ME?

The project has given me a broader perspective on the Middle East conflict and has shown me that not everyone from “the other side” is a bad person. Through PPI – ME, I have met great people and built relationships and connections that I never would have made otherwise. It has also given me the opportunity to coach a group of girls and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives.