Intern Olivier Pratter shares his experience with a primary school Twinning program in Northern Ireland.
So long, Saint-Pats and Ballee!
A few Tuesdays ago, I took part in my last twinning session in Ballymeena with Saint-Patricks and Ballee and bid farewell to a group that I had never expected to be so great! My long-time colleague, Coach Megan (I am taking the liberty to call her a long-time colleague after weeks of chitchat in her car between Belfast and Ballymeena), along with local coaches Alistair and Craig organized a full session of matches which were brought to full swing by a group that was, as they say in this part of the world, ‘dead on’ (Northern Ireland slang for ‘nice people’).
Jingle Ball was my first 2014 encounter with these players, who were still fresh from Holidays. “Olivia” (That’s what they call me – they still need practice outside the field to pronounce my name correctly – they use Olivia because it is the female equivalent to Olivier, my real name – I know it was said with good intention) ‘Whats the craic?’ ‘You are here!’ ‘Long time!’ they all screamed. Trying to imagine French Canadian delicacies, one participant asked me if I had snails on BBQ over Christmas. We greeted each other with the well rehearsed secret hand shakes that we had practiced weeks beforehand. I thought these handshake tricks would sink into oblivion over the holidays, but that was far from being the case! The children knew them better than I did! Boys and girls went for the ball regardless of the apprehensions they had over the first weeks of the Twinning. They mingled, talked and eventually formed a great group. Had I not known who belonged to which school, I could not have made any distinction between the students from Ballee and the students from Saint-Patricks. Together they engaged in the game, laughed, shared stories and joked with each other. No one was left out. It’s incredible to think that these children would have never met each other if it weren’t for PeacePlayers.
The energy levels during twinnings were great! Some participants were keener on chatting than others, but they all fully engaged in each of the matches. During one session, we had an incident where one player fell on another while attempting to take the ball from him, injuring his opponent’s knee. However, thanks to lessons from PPI-NI’s Anatomy of Peace and conflict management curriculum, both of the players were high-fiving each other and playing ball again. Team spirit at its best! I knew I was part of a great twinning when I first met the players from both schools, but I believe the many activities and workshops organised by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland helped the bonds between participants reach such high levels. This isn’t just about basketball. It is about friendship and humanizing the ‘other side.’