My name is Will Massey and I am 21 years old from Iowa. I studied Physics and Religion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I love dogs, rock n’roll, and the Chicago cubs.
When I tell people in Belfast that I coach basketball in Ballymena on Wednesdays and Thursdays, they almost always say, “Och, I bet you have had a hard time with that Ballymena accent,” but to American ears a Belfast accent and a Ballymena accent are not so different especially when coming from a child’s mouth.
I came to Northern Ireland with the Young Adult Volunteer Program (YAV) of the Presbyterian
Church U.S.A. YAV sends volunteers all over the world to partner with local organizations engaged in missions. To my delight, I was placed with PeacePlayers, as well as the Whitehouse Presbyterian in Newtownabbey. Four other YAVs are serving in Belfast this year with other congregations and community programs. Reconciliation is one of the key goals of the church, as articulated by the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Peace Players is committed to this ministry, and how they operate really impresses me.
In Ballymena, I coach three twinning sessions, which excites me, although it strains my voice and my patience. At 9-years-old I may have been just as eager to learn basketball as these children, although it is hard to imagine. Our challenges as coaches are to direct this energy towards learning basketball skills and community relations activities, which ask kids to think critically about identity and prejudice. Coming in as an outsider, I am counting on PeacePlayers to provide me with the right questions to ask, and on the kids to be honest in answering. The answers I get are often encouraging and I like to ask my fellow coaches about the responses I get from the kids on the drive home. I am learning a lot through my partnership with PeacePlayers. I hope that I am making a positive contribution to the PeacePlayers mission in Northern Ireland by coaching, playing, and educating.
Aside from my work at PeacePlayers, I spend a great deal of my time with the various ministries of the Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, including Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Brigade, Youth Fellowship, and 50+ lunch club.
My PPI-NI experience is more than just about a t-shirt, it is about the impact that I can make in children’s lives.
We would like to thank Rev. Doug Baker, who is the Regional Liaison for the Presbyterian Church of USA in Ireland and the United Kingdom. He coordinates the YAV placements in NI and has been responsible for inviting PPI-NI to formally host Will. We previously had a informal relationship with the YAV programme. We met with the group and gave briefings on the works of PPI-NI and we also had another YAV, Patrick Harley, volunteer with us two years ago.