PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) has acquired a new addition to the team! In this blog, intern, Oliviere Pratte, describes his journey moving to Belfast from French Canada and his experience at a PPI-NI Twinning program:
Not so long ago, I began my search to find a Masters program that would satisfy my passion for conflict resolution. My quest led me to Belfast, where I landed two months ago to begin a Masters program in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at the Irish school of Ecunemics (Trinity College). As part of the program, I was given the possibility of a placement within an organization directly involved in reconciliation and conflict resolution work. I jumped at the chance, and my journey with PeacePlayers began!
My first encounter with the organization came in the form of a Twinning initiative at Our Lady’s Primary School in North Belfast. I was to witness PPI-NI firsthand and see if I could develop myself as a coach. I was nervous at first, apprehensive even, as I was trying to prepare myself for coaching basketball and kids. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize the whole initiative was more than just basketball and kids. It was about the power of connecting.
We hopped in the car and on the road we went. As we were driving through the city, the coaches were singing and making jokes, the atmosphere and camaraderie was great. The sea of kids welcoming us at the school brought me back to earth, in a refreshing way. Some were shy (a whole lot of them, actually), and others were smiling. The kids from the other school, Carr’s Glen Primary School, introduced themselves to the kids of Our Lady’s, who were sitting and listening. I wanted to get to know them better, so I followed in steps of Project Coordinator, Joanne Fitzpatrick, who gave high fives to all of the students one by one. The other PPI coaches had fun and created a great atmosphere for the kids to get to know one another. To my relief, they treated a new face with friendliness and welcome. One of the girls picked up on my accent and even went so far as to utter the words “you are so weird, but so cool,” which made me feel all the more relaxed and welcome.
A series of games followed where children from both schools ran after each other, asked about each other’s favorite sports teams and dates of birth, and also played some basketball. Quickly and surely, my spirits were raised by the power of youth and their laughter, and had forgotten all about being self-conscious. Just a few minutes into our visit I couldn’t decipher which one of the two schools the kids were from, they were all just having fun together. Through PeacePlayers International, the children, from two different sides of the community, were getting to know their peers, and were realizing, consciously or unconsciously that it doesn’t matter where people come from when true interactions are at play. Thank you PeacePlayers, for this wonderful opportunity and I look forward for what is to come in the future!