PeacePlayers International-Norther Ireland Intern Will Massey shares his experience of working Castlereigh Borough Council Project.
I recently discovered a difficult truth. Belvoir is inexplicably pronounced “beaver,” and nobody has been able to give account for why that would be. I have been in Belvoir twice now to lead community relations session for a program with the Castlereigh Borough Council. The three-week program gives a group of 30 children aged 8-11 an opportunity to play rugby, football, Gaelic, and basketball together and to experience PeacePlayers’ magnificent community relations seminars. You would be familiar with this idea of bringing deferent sports from the Game Of Three Halves (GO3H), where we invite our partners from Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby to assist us with coaching.
Most PPI – Northern Ireland programs deal explicitly with the divide between Protestant and Catholic communities, and for most groups of children this is a sensible approach. However, not all the kids we worked with in Belvoir match the binary that characterizes most of Northern Ireland. For instance, children born in China and Sudan are participating, who cannot easily identify with the particulars of Catholic and Protestant relations. But the mission of PeacePlayers is not restricted to just one cultural division, and it is not hard to adjust session plans so that our activities and conversations are relatable for children who do not identify as Catholic or Protestant. PeacePlayers is about constructing a peaceful society, and all children need to feel that they belong in that conversation. Whether they be Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Buddhist, it is so important that we can be intentionally inclusive.
The work of changing perceptions can address historical conflicts but can also anticipate future conflicts. I cannot report any statistics, but the demographic landscape of Northern Ireland seems to be changing. The Castlereigh project demonstrates that. If Northern Ireland is anything like my country of origin, the United States, then children from minority backgrounds will occasionally be the victims of hurtful stereotypes and unfriendly words. As Northern Ireland becomes more diverse, the task of promoting diversity through sport becomes even more exciting and important.
It was really great to also get an opportunity to work with PPI – NI coach and Senior Champion4Peace, Michaela Thompson. Because I am mostly based in Ballymena, I hardly get time to work and interact with other coaches that are based in Belfast. It is always great to get these opportunities to work in these projects as it helps us to get more access to children that might not be in our programming already. Thank you to Castlereigh Borough Council Project for asking PPI-NI to assist in delivering this project.