Who will change the world, if not us?

Heni speaks on a panel about sparking youth activism in the Middle East and North Africa at the 2015 Clinton Global Summit University

Heni speaks on a panel about sparking youth activism in the Middle East and North Africa at the 2015 Clinton Global Summit University

Today’s blog is written by PPI – ME eight year participant turned coach/Project Manager Heni Bizawi.

Sometimes I feel like we are living in a reality where all over the world children are dying in unnecessary wars, where people dedicate their lives to killing the enemy, searching for strategies of war, and dealing with hate and conflict – the basis of which isn’t always clear to everyone. A reality that forces us to focus on survival, in a race after money, power and status. A reality that does not allow us to take a moment and think… to think about how we would want to live, what would really make us happy, and how we can get there.

Heni (right) with her Palestinian friend and PPI coach, Khaled, and American Fellow, Jamie Walsh

Heni (right) with her Palestinian friend and PPI coach, Khaled, and American Fellow, Jamie Walsh

This past March, I had the amazing opportunity to speak on a panel at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University. This year’s conference, which was attended by 1,200 students from 80 countries, served as a call to action for international youth leadership. The panel that I participated in was part of a session to drive young people to become involved in the Middle East and North Africa, and to give of themselves, so that the world will feel like a better place.

For me, this meant standing in front of 200 students and answering challenging questions, such as: Does having Arab and Jewish kids play basketball together really work?, Does the impact on the kids carry over off the basketball court?, With all of the conflict and wars, do you really believe that this can help change something?

All of these questions made me think a lot, and as far as I’m concerned the answer to all of them is YES! Every day at my job, I see that it works. Every day I see people changing their approach. Every day I see at least one person who believes that he or she can live better. At every joint practice, I find that these Arab and Jewish kids who are playing and laughing together are the ones who are making the change… making history by managing to communicate in ways that most adults cannot.

Heni in action using creative and fun methods to teach new basketball skills.

Heni in action using creative and fun methods to teach new basketball skills.

Once it was my friends and I who were these kids. Khaled, Noy, Aysha, Neta and Duha – were the kids who came to play basketball. And now we are the coaches and close friends, and through that process discovered that we are doing something that is changing reality. Over the years, the simple conversations about basketball have switched to conversations about more serious topics, and it makes me feel that when we are together anything is possible. The change I experienced in my life from being in PeacePlayers gives me the power and the motivation to continue and to believe that every one of us can and should make this change. Who will make it happen, if not us?

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