As a part of a PeacePlayers International exchange, three LDP graduates and current members of PeacePlayers—Middle East staff visited our PeacePlayers—Cyprus (PPI-CY) branch to assist with their Leadership Development Program (LDP) retreat. To keep the different branches connected, PPI members visit each other from time to time. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and create innovation between different PPI locations. Duha Amla of Jerusalem shares about her experience.
Earlier this month, I, along with Heni and Aysha, visited the Cypriot branch to help lead workshops and drills for the young LDP. For me it was a great learning experience to see how other PPI branches accomplish the same overall mission of bringing two communities in conflict together. I saw the similarities we both share. The Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots in PPI – Cyprus cared for each other and showed that they care even if they did not share the same common language. For us here, we show this care and love too through the language of basketball.
The theme of the LDP retreat was to refine the young members and equip them with developed coaching skills. To see the young LDP embark on the process of becoming coaches with the paradigm of understanding and peace, reminded me of the process I underwent with PPI—ME. Becoming a coach with my PeacePlayers family’s support made it meaningful for me and now I’m giving back to that community. We were afforded the opportunity to speak with the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig. Speaking with the Ambassador highlighted the need for PeacePlayers. Koeing supported the PeacePlayers’ mission and the work PPI-CY was accomplishing and was interested to hear how PPI-ME worked in our region.
Of course the PPI-CY members were nothing but hospitable to us. We felt welcomed and that each group had something to learn from the other. Having discussions about both conflicts and how we navigate the realities strengthened our belief in PPI’s mission. In Cyprus, both theTurkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots serve in their respective armies. Aysha and I shared what it means to us to see our Israeli friends leave the program to complete their mandatory service. I’ve learned that it’s important to support my friends and hope they come back to PPI after their service. For me, this happened with Heni, who left PPI for the army, but came back right afterwards and joined our staff. “I decided to come back because I love and believe in PeacePlayers. For me it’s a way to make change on a realistic level,” says Heni. “Young people going into the army with the background of PeacePlayers means to me that they may look at the other side with more understanding and respect,” continues Heni.
The simple exchange of conversation about the different conflicts helped me understand that others are going through similar situations and that they use PeacePlayers programing to make a difference on the ground.