“Not Too Old for an Adventure”: PPI-NI Team Leader Reflects on Turkey Trip

Today’s blog is written by PPI-NI Operation’s Team Leader Debbie Byrne. Debbie reflects on a week spent in Turkey at the Jump Basketball Tournament.

It is Thursday 8th September at 9pm and I am looking around the room at over 90 young people from Turkey and Syria along with 20 coaches. They are dancing around and around the room and having such fun! I am sitting beside Joey, Chris and Sifiso Mthembu and we are waiting for the talent show to begin. I am thinking to myself, “how did I end up to be in this place at this time with these wonderful people?” I am thankful!

Rewind almost seven days ago and I am on the bus from Belfast to Dublin and I am so excited about going to Turkey! I know this is going to be a fabulous week. Adventure comes to my mind and even though I am old (or older, rather), I am about to experience some things I never have before. Looking back now – how right I was!

After I arrived in Turkey, I met the rest of the PPI crew (Rochelle Coleman from the DC office and Sifiso from our South Africa site) and we met with Chris and Joey from the Basketball Embassy. These two were the head coaches of the camp. Later we all went to the Turkish Basketball Federation and heard about the plans for the camp.

Momentum was building….

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Coach Debbie, Sifiso and Rochelle with the coaches from The Basketball Embassy

The next day we departed for Kocaeli, to a ski resort in the mountains (around 2 hours from Istanbul), and that afternoon we met the participants. That is when the fun really began! Even though a lot of the participants could not speak English, I found that communication on the basketball court was not too difficult at all. The young people were friendly, open and excited to be participating in the camp and spending time at such a lovely venue. Some the highlights for me were:

  • The entire camp going up the ski lift together
  • The improvement in the basketball skill level as the week went on
  • Seeing the young people engaging so well during on and off the court activities where they were learning about communication, cooperation and teamwork.
  • The coaches game
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Debbie, Aleyna and Ozaner

The overall highlight of the week  was just getting to know people! I was inspired by spending time with my fellow PPI colleagues, and I was delighted to become firm friends with the guys from the Basketball Embassy. I learned so much from the guys at the Turkish Basketball Federation and it was lovely to get to the know the coaches from Turkey, in particular Aleyna Kilit and Ozaner Kutay who became part of our “gang” for the week.  I was blessed to spend so much time with such great young people for a full six days!! It was beyond wonderful to meet the participants and coaches from Syria who I hold very close to my heart.

Overall, I had a wonderful week and I am thankful to work for PPI which affords me opportunities like this!

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