February the 14th is usually marked as a day for roses and chocolates, but this year, PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PPI-NI) celebrated Valentine’s day by engaging in the Queens GAA Game of Three Halves Tournament in South Belfast. Participants from Taughmonagh Primary School, Botanic Primary School and the Bunscoil Global Feirste all joined in for a day of fun at the DUB Playing Fields with our friends from GAA, Ulster Rugby and IFA. Thanks to Queens University GAA for involving PeacePlayers with the GAA Festival this year!
The morning was off to an auspicious start as 75 primary school participants arrived to get their first taste of a new sport or two while also having an opportunity to get to know pupils from other schools. In Northern Ireland, children still attend predominantly single identity schools, meaning pupils from either Catholic or Protestant backgrounds do not have the opportunity to get to know children from other backgrounds. As children dawned their new t-shirts designating their new diverse teams, they excitedly ran across the pitch warming up together before the first stations began.
Soon teams were directed to their first skills stations with coaches from each of the sports as well as a special community relations station with PPI-NI coaches. Participants were keen to display their skills and impressed all the coaches with their attentiveness and enthusiasm.
While the weather didn’t exactly cooperate with the planned activities given heavy winds and rain coming in the afternoon we took the opportunity to play a few PeacePlayers favorites. The group learned more about basketball through a round of ‘MJ (Michael Jordan) Says’, had their reflexes tested with a rousing round of ‘Sit Down Clown’ and discovered similiarities and differences within the group through ‘Find A New Seat’. It was great getting to know the group better and discovering that while there were many common links within the group, there were also many differences that everyone could learn from.
We were also pleased to be joined by students from the Doane Stuart School and teacher Seamus Hodgkinson, known to most as Mr. H. Seven students from the school came along to see Gaelic football for the first time and make a few attempts at tossing the rugby ball with the guidance of the Ulster Rugby coaches. All in all it was a great day despite the weather conditions. We look forward to the Belfast Interface Games this summer which should prove to be bigger and better than ever, especially now that South Belfast has some new recruits!