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.


“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!


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.


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.


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.


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.



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!


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


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.






PPI-SA Coaches Are Ready For 2017!!

PPI-SA 2017 Coaches

PPI-SA 2017 Coaches after a successful orientation!

This past week, PPI-SA inducted the newly selected 2017 coaches for the programme. The induction took place at Shongweni Spirt of Adventure Camp site as well as in the PPI-SA offices. The week started at the camp site, with all 23 coaches for 2017 as well as PPI-SA staff. An exciting addition to the camp was Joe Smith, PPI Global Organizational Learning Specialist. With the support and funding from Laureus Global, PPI-SA was able to host this week long training with Joe assisting the PPI-SA staff with the training and induction.


PPI-SA Coaches at Spirit of Adventure.

Programming in schools is set to start on the 13 of February, with this week being used to make introductions of coaches to schools and school representatives.


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

Another highlight for the month of February is the 4 participants travelling to Norway this week.later this week. Nomfundo Ngcobo (18), Thetha  Nxumalo (18), Meagan Montiere(15) and Ayanda Dlamini(14) were selected to represent PPI-SA at the Erasmus+Lead4Peace (youth leadership development programme) camp in Norway from the 10th of February – 16th of February 2016.

The teenagers are no strangers to travel since they already visited the Eastern Mediterranean Island of Cyprus where they represented PPI-SA last year.  The Cyprus camp resulted in the young leaders being invited by Nesodden IF Basket, a subsidiary of Nesodden Idrettsforening, to attend the follow up LEAD4PEACE camp, all expenses paid. We want to extend a HUGE thank you to the Nesodden IF Basket players and their family members, for making this opportunity a reality for our participants.


Dinner in the Old City of Jerusalem

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) blog is written by American Fellow James Levine.


Some people go to the Old City to see Jesus’ tomb. I prefer to play basketball.


The Old City in Jerusalem is a fascinating place. It is thousands of years old and home to some of the most sacred sites in the Abrahamic religions. Another amazing thing about the Old City is that people still live there, and they live regular, modern lives. Near the tomb of Jesus Christ, one can find restaurants and cafes. Down the road from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, there are people working out at a local gym. Across from the Western Wall one can find regular K-12 schools.

I have been working out a player who lives in the Old City over the past couple weeks and I was excited when he invited me to have dinner at his house. This isn’t something that I’m accustomed to in the United States, but the warmth and openness of people in Jerusalem is unparalleled. In Jerusalem, it’s not unusual to receive an invitation for Shabbat dinner from a stranger or to have tea with a taxi driver.


Always bring a local when navigating the Old City’s windy corridors!

Obviously I accepted my player’s family’s invitation. Eating at someone’s house in the Old City is a really cool experience. The area has a palpable energy at night and, especially at dusk, you feel like you have been transported to another time. When I arrived at my player’s house, I entered through what seemed like a secret door leading down a narrow hallway that opened up into a beautiful terrace. Inside, the house had a modern kitchen and furniture, but the ceiling and parts of the walls were curved and made of Old City stone.

Dinner itself was even better than expected. I love Arab food and food culture; it is incredibly relaxed and welcoming. Guests are encouraged to eat and the food is delicious. My player insisted that his mom’s maklouba, an Arab dish consisting of chicken and rice, was the best in Jerusalem. Little did he know that I’ve tried maklouba before, and I’m well-aware that everyone claims that his or her mom makes the best maklouba in Jerusalem.

After lots of talking, eating, and unsuccessfully searching for a sports channel broadcasting a game between the Jordanian and Palestinian national basketball teams, I went on my way, with a belly full of maklouba, through the winding alleys of the Old City back to my apartment.



Thank you, Jessica!

This week’s blog was written by Cyprus Fellow Sean Wright thanking his friend and Fellow Jessica Walton for her awesome time in Cyprus.


Jess and some of her friends from Summer Camp in CY

Where to begin. Last March, I boarded a plane from America to the island of Cyprus to join the PeacePlayers family for the next 2 years. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. As I landed in Cyprus, I grabbed my bags and as I went through the doors of no return, the first person I saw was Jessica Walton. She gave me a big hug, and from that moment she was my guide in this foreign country.

Jessica took me under her wing. She showed me how to run a practice the PPI way. She taught me what it truly means to be a part of this incredible organization. She taught me how to complete many tasks in the office that once she is gone I am taking over. She has been an incredible teacher to me, and I thank her for it.


Jess on her trip to the PPI-ME Exchange in Oct. 2016

Besides teaching me the PPI ways of life and being co-workers, we are also roommates! Because of this, I’ve gotten to know some things about her. Her favorite singer is Beyonce, and had it not been for Jess I would have never listened to the new Lemonade album that was on repeat in the car all summer long, which I didn’t hate. We were beach buds, every weekend going to a new location with crystal clear water and relaxing together on the sand. She was my Game of Thrones partner, as we would watch together and be left stunned at what took place in the episode. She was my movie/tv show advisor, where every morning on our way to work I’d tell her what I was watching and she would do the same which would ultimately lead me to watching her suggestions.

For the past 10 months, there have been only a few days where we haven’t been together. It will be strange to not have her with me anymore soon as her time as a fellow comes to an end. The next fellow with have some big shoes to fill!