International Fellow Ryan Hage recounts the Leadership Development Retreat that doubled as an exchange between PeacePlayers-Cyprus and PeacePlayers-Middle East.
PeacePlayers International operates four year-round international sites – South Africa, Middle East, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland. As a Fellow, I read about each site and see pictures of events they have on Facebook, but because we spread out across 3 continents, it is very challenging for sites to meet in person. Luckily, two weeks ago I and the rest of PeacePlayers-Cyprus had the please of hosting three tremendous young leaders from PPI-ME during our fall leadership retreat. We had Heni, Program Coordinator for PPI-ME, as well as Aysha and Duha, former participants who are now coaches at PPI-ME.
The weekend was focused on turning our current Leadership Development Program participants into coaches one day. The exchange was extremely beneficial to both programs and is something we will try do more often.
The girls came a couple days early to explore the new setting and learn about the current conflict. They experienced traditional Cypriot Meze food and were able to travel to both sides of the island, learning about the history of the conflict. Visitng the United Nations buffer zone, an area that divides the island, and St. Hilarion Castle, were really interesting to the girls. The girls also had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with the US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig. The girls shared with the Ambassador their experiences in Israel and their recent trip the United States. Ambassador Koenig really enjoyed the lunch and was happy to have the opportunity to learn more about PeacePlayers outside of Cyprus
Before the retreat, Heni devised a plan with Stephanie, our own Program Coordinator, on what the retreat would be about and what we wanted the kids to get out of it. She was integral for planning the weekend and we loved having a new perspective from someone with new ideas. We both learned a lot!
On Saturday night, Heni spoke about her experience with PeacePlayers, going to the army, which is mandatory in both Israel and Cyprus, and then coming back to PeacePlayers afterwards. This was extremely important because a lot of our kids go to the army and we want them to stay involved afterwards and become coaches/employees of PeacePlayers-Cyprus one day. Heni told me afterwards, “It was a great weekend because we really saw a change in the kids in only three days. They made huge strides in taking the lead and understood a little bit better on what it is like to be a coach. Also, it was amazing to have the kids see how we are all a big PeacePlayers family no matter which site we are from.”
Aysha and Duha were also a gigantic hit at the retreat. They spoke after Heni about the conflict through their eyes and why they became PeacePlayers coaches after they graduated from the LDP program. It was really important for them to be there and mix with the LDP participants from Cyprus and show how similar all the PeacePlayers are from both sites. Our kids listened so much more when they spoke because they are the same age and are peers. They were also great at giving feedback to the Leaders after they coached their mini coaching sessions. “I liked how they became better at coaching as the practice was progressing and they got to learn from each other on what they need to do to become better coaches. I love the whole mission of the weekend and getting to know everyone. They are the best!”
We are so thankful the three tremendous and inspiring girls from PPI-ME could join us and hope that it is an exchange that continues for years to come not only between our two sites, but also with all the sites!