It’s getting close to that time of year again for the staff and participants at PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI), and no, we’re not talking about Christmas! Jingle Ball is fast approaching and with that comes the city-wide team building and basketball practice, better known as the Junior Belfast Interface League (Jr. B.I.L.). Project Coordinator, James Hughes, chats with a few participants from the Jr. B.I.L. program in East Belfast and reflects on the progress being made in Northern Ireland:
The Junior Belfast Interface League brings children from local areas of North, South, East and West Belfast to partake in basketball practice and community relations activities. As coordinator of the East Belfast Jr. B.I.L. program, I have had the pleasure of meeting and coaching a great group kids, most of whom have already had experience with PeacePlayers International. However, three girls in particular have sparked a friendship that will last a lifetime. Celina, Megan, and Leah met each other at the Belfast Interface Games – East Camp and became the best of friends over the course of the 3 day camp. I asked them to reflect on their experiences with PPI-NI.
Where did the 3 of you meet?
Leah: ‘We all met at the Belfast Interface Games – East Belfast camp at the start of the summer. We were the only girls at the camp, so we clicked straight away.’
Did you know that you were from different communities when you met?
Celina: ‘It wasn’t something that we thought about at the start, until we did the community relations games. But by then we had already become friends, so it didn’t really matter that much. That’s what PeacePlayers (PPI-NI) is all about. I’ve met a lot of people from different areas through PeacePlayers International and I wouldn’t have met Megan and Leah otherwise.’
Why did you sign up for the PPI-NI Jr. Belfast Interface League?
Megan: ‘I love playing basketball, and PPI-NI gives me the chance to do that. But I don’t get to see Celina and Leah outside PeacePlayers, so that’s the main reason why I signed up.’
Do you think that the Jr. B.I.L. program works well at bringing communities together?
Leah: ‘Definitely. There are kids at the program from different schools and communities from all over East Belfast. The games and coaches make it a lot easier to make friends with people you don’t know. I remember Pablo and Paddy messing and joking around and having fun with everyone at the B.I.G camp. It’s always fun coming to PeacePlayers (PPI-NI) and the coaches always make it a great time.’
With children like Leah, Megan, and Celina growing up with friends from different backgrounds, who live in different communities, an extremely positive outlook for Northern Ireland is created along with the other PPI sites around the world in Cyprus, South Africa and the Middle East. Progress is made every day by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland in building a peaceful future for everyone.