Journeying to the Heart of PeacePlayers

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Grant and the PPI team in Jerusalem during his recent visit

Today’s blog is written by PPI Development and Communications Intern, Grant Youngkin. Grant is going into his junior year at St Albans High School in Washington DC.  He plays soccer, hoops and hopes to be involved with basketball in some way when he grows up.

I started out my summer internship with PeacePlayers not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to work for an organization that taught basketball in order to bridge divides between young people around the world. I spent my first couple weeks trying to grasp what went on behind the scenes, trying to understand what it would be like to be in the field, watching as kids just like me used the game I love to break down barriers and build friendships

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Taking in the breathtaking sights of the Old City

Then I got that chance. Three weeks ago my family and I traveled to Israel for vacation. One of my favorite places that we visited was the Old City of Jerusalem. This experience made chills run down my spine because of the great history that took place in this city. All of the stories that I read about people conquering Jerusalem and constantly fighting over it finally really resonated with me.

During our time in Jerusalem I was fortunate enough to spend an entire afternoon with PeacePlayers. We ate together and broke the fast of Ramadan with the kids and coaches. I even got to play basketball with them. Although we spoke different languages, I was surprised at how easy it was to communicate with them. I learned how to understand people who I could not talk to directly. After all, basketball allows you to communicate without speaking. Everyone was very nice and welcoming and I truly enjoyed meeting these great people that live a very different life from me.

Watching the news and hearing personal experiences during my time in the region, I understand the great hardships and the constant tension and fear that all these families have to endure every single day of their lives. The ability of PeacePlayers to take these kids and teach them the sport of basketball is amazing given the challenging circumstances that these participants sometimes face. Not to mention, these kids interact with people of the “other side,” some who have been told never to do so. But now some of these “enemies” have become best friends, and I was able to experience firsthand the process of building these long-lasting friendships. This trip was life altering because I learned how impactful and meaningful PeacePlayers’ work really is.

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Breaking the fast of Ramadan with the PPI team!

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