Last week we wrote about Former PPI-SA International Fellow Tim Roche bringing his Texas MBA classmates down to South Africa and spending a day with us. This week, Tim shares his personal reflection on his return to South Africa and to PPI-SA:
Coming back to South Africa for the first time in four years brought a wave of emotions for me. My time with PeacePlayers from 2009 to 2010 was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The PeacePlayers experience in South Africa is extremely unique for an American. As fellows, we are inserted into an entirely new culture and expected to be leaders. I grew tremendously as a person and as a leader and I also met lifelong friends who welcomed me to South Africa and essentially made me a part of their family. At the same time, I suffered through a nearly three year period of depression that lasted for a large part of my time as a fellow. Coupled with being away from my friends and family in the US, the PeacePlayers experience was also one of the most difficult periods of my life.
On this trip back to South Africa, I was leading 35 of my classmates from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas as part of the McCombs Global Connections program, a course intended to expose MBA students to the business climate of other business-leading foreign countries. In past years, the course focused on large, multi-nation South African corporations; however I felt such an experience would not show the true South Africa, so I designed a curriculum focused on NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and mission-driven organizations. The linchpin to the trip was PeacePlayers International as my experience in South Africa and the PeacePlayers network helped me to set up six days of visits to South African non-profit organizations.
Arriving at Mthethweni Primary School oddly felt normal. Although it had nearly been four years since I had participated in a primary school event, the event stayed the same. Kids were bursting with excitement, PeacePlayers coaches were prepping their teams, and basketball ruled the day. The kids played hard, had fun, and committed to the PeacePlayers way of respecting their teammates, their opponents, and themselves. Yet the program seemed to have strengthened and grown as the kids from two separate schools seemed to play together as one PeacePlayers team. Competition still existed in the game, but after the game the participants did a group pledge to the PeacePlayers way, which was new to me. Gone were fighting, arguing with teammates and referees, and it was replaced with opponents helping each other up off the ground and genuine friendships and mingling after the game. As the leader of my classmates’ trip and a former PPI fellow, I was incredibly proud to be associated with the organization. The feeling was confirmed by the compliments of my classmates who remarked that it was “the most fun day of the trip” and that the guys from PPI were “awesome” and “incredible dudes”.
Fittingly, we ended the long day with a braai at North Beach with Texas students and current and former PeacePlayers staff. The fun continued, stories were told, and the event lasted into the night. The strength of PeacePlayers lies in its leadership and ability to relate to others. Seeing friends from two periods of my life bond and truly become friends during our time in Durban proved that PeacePlayers is succeeding in those two metrics. Although I left Durban with a heavy heart, I was so proud and happy to see that PeacePlayers has grown so much in the past four years and remains the premier life-skills and basketball organization in South Africa.