Introducing: The Together: Building a United Community Reunion in NI!

This week’s blog is written by Jazz Bishop, International Fellow at PPI-Northern Ireland.

Last Saturday, 4th March, over 40 PeacePlayers participants gathered together for the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) Camp Reunion. This event highlighted youth summer camps sponsored by Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). The purpose of the summer camps were to contribute to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united shared society. From an African drumming session to a Bollywood dance workshop, the event truly celebrated diversity in Northern Ireland.

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Florence from (South Belfast)  Patrice & Anna (from West Belfast) pose for a picture with PPI-DC participant during South Belfast BIG Camp last summer!

To give you a quick recap – T:BUC funded our Camp Beta where we had our first ever monitoring & evaluation training with our participants and our first ever youth-led evaluation thereafter. Our BIG Camps also known as the Game of 3 Halves (GO3H) where governing bodies coaches from the International Football Association (IFA) Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby spent three days with our participants sharing the culture of the 3 traditional sports in Northern Ireland.  The fourth half in the camp, participants took part in activities and discussed community relations topics such as prejudice and diversity in Nothern Ireland.The camp culminated with a Flagship night which brought together PeacePlayers participants alongside our participants from the PPI-DC Leadership Development Programme in their integrated teams from all sides of the city to compete

OK Fast forward to Sataurday! ——>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The Reunion Event was filled with fun and games for everyone.  We started the morning listening to participants from all of the different T:BUC camps as they were interviewed about their experiences at the camps.  Maud Tinsley and AJ Mcminn from our Senior Champions4Peace programme represented PeacePlayers and shared with everyone what it was like to be a Champion4Peace. They both represented PeacePlayers very well as they spoke in front of the large audience.

After the interviews and welcome speeches, we broke out into three different groups so that we could split up the day. In the first session, we were in the “Discover Zone”, which consisted of a lot of sports activities such as Rugby, GAA (Gaelic Sports), disability sport NI.  I tried Hurling during this session.  I was never very good at softball-type sports so I was even given a smaller stick thinking it would help me to hit the ball better.  It didn’t help.  One of the participants, Sam Keery told me how he had the privilege of meeting a professional Rugby player.  That seemed to be the highlight of his day. I was happy to see the pleasure it brought him to meeting the Rugby player.  Sam was extremely excited.  It seemed to have made the day complete for him.

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Me attempting some Hurling.

After the “Discover Zone,” we moved on to the “Live Zone.”In this session, there were Chinese dragon lion head martial arts, dance and a Bollywood dance workshop. Of the Live Zone activities, everyone seemed to have enjoyed the Bollywood dance workshop the most.  Some PeacePlayers participants even dressed in traditional Bollywood clothing. One of our participants, Gary Duffy volunteered to get on stage with the instructors. I was a little surprised that Gary did this because Gary is normally very shy and reserved.   It was great to see him having a blast dancing up there.  It demonstrated to me how much his confidence has grown just in the short time period that I have been involved with PPI.  Great job Gary! Yes, I too, even took part in some of the dancing.  I figured if I can get up there, a girl with absolutely no rhythm what so ever, then it would encourage all other participants to get up and join in on the fun as well.   Everyone had a blast!

In the last station, we got to partake in what was called the “Active Zone”. In this zone, there were quite a few team building activities that included some inflatable games and a farm/petting zoo. I was going to attempt some of the inflatable games but I think all of the kids had the same idea and the lines were extremely long so I stepped back since the day was for the kids after all. However, I was able to go out and pet some of the animals that they had. There was a llama, some goats, sheep, rabbits, and even a wallaby. The wallaby was very cool to see.  At first, everyone thought it was a baby kangaroo, but the handler corrected us.

All in all, the day was a great fun for everyone involved. The kids appeared to be
having a blast all day long, which was great to see. I’m glad I was part of it as all well.  It truly was a wonderful event.  Being able to see the smiles on all of the participants’ faces was amazing and made the day complete for me.

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PeacePlayers T:BUC Camp Group

Thank you to T:BUC for putting on such a great event! If you missed our Instagram Stories on the day off, we have included a compilation video below. Be sure to follow our Instagram handle @PeacePlayersIntl and LIKE our Facebook Page — (facebook.com/PeacePlayersNI) 

Coaching for Outcomes – Enhancing Local Capacity in Northern Ireland!

This blog was written by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland’s International Fellow, Sally Nnamani.

Many moons ago, during my onobarding training before moving to Belfast to start my fellowship, I met with Gunnar Hagstrom, (PPI Chief Program Officer) and when I asked him what were the key needs at PPI-Northern Ireland, he answered “developing local capacity.” This week was all about investing in our local talent. We delivered trainings with coaches, teachers, and principals from Belfast, Armagh, Ballymena, Magherafelt, and Lurgan.

We kicked off the week with a full day of teambuilding/training with our Belfast coaches. The training introduced our brand new Belfast Interface League Curriculum which integrates “Beyond the Court”(life skills-focused)  “Sharing the Court”(community relations-focused) “On the court” (basketball-focused) activities and outcomes.  With this newly revamped curriculum, we know our participants will be excited to take part in absorb fresh content all while reinforcing previous learning.

Our coaches teambuilding day in Belfast was centered around building positive culture in our twinnings and the idea of a purpose-driven coach. We dug into why we coach, what do we want the young people we are coaching to get out of the time spent with us, and what we will do to make sure we reach our outcomes.  Our coaches and staff truly embodied the positive culture that we want to bring to our day in and day out to participants in our twinning programme. We ended the day with some hoops and a lovely dinner together!

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St Oliver Plunkett & Derryhale teachers working on twinning session plan

On Wednesday, Debbie (our Operations Leader here in NI) and I spent the day in Armagh, a town about 45 minutes from Belfast where we delivered a training for a group of teachers and principals from St Oliver Plunkett and Derryhale Schools. The idea behind the partnership is to train the teachers who will then organise and deliver a twinning programme involving  P4, P5, P6, and P7 kids from their schools. The schools are planning on putting together another joint bid for a twinning next year.

Today, Joanne (our Project Coordinator) spent the day in Lurgan with our coaching staff there. The training reiterated positive culture and also covered facilitation techniques for delivering twinning games.

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Susan (Teacher at Derryhale) & Jimmy (Principal at St Oliver Plunketts) working on shooting form!

We have really stepped up our game in the capacity-building front. Our Champions4Peace participants are even involved. They were trained last August and led our first ever youth evaluation. Earlier this year, Emma Gibson on the PPI-NI board and Fundraising professional led a fundraising training workshop for the C4P’s.  They are currently working on teams to develop a fundraising idea and put it into action. Joanne and I also led a series of social action workshops at the start of the year for our Lead4Peace participants. Our aim was to support our young leaders to leverage their experiences from the international exchanges to impact their communities locally. The Lead4Peace participants are currently working on teams to raise awareness around homelessness in Belfast and young people affected by mental health.

We’ve received lots of positive feedback from the additional trainings and what makes the trainings and support we give our participants, coaches, and other stakeholders particularly unique is the “experiential learning” activities immersed throughout the training content. This approach has helped our coaches feel more comfortable and confident because it allows our trainees to experience the PPI way and culture before coaching in an actual PPI programme.

PPI-NI C4P Gary Duffy Talks About His #Lead4Peace Experience in Norway!

Hello! My name is Gary Duffy, I am 15 years old, I live in Northern Ireland and I’m here to tell you about my time in Norway as part of the PeacePlayers Champions4Peace Lead4Peace exchange. It’s a long but savoury ready so sit back and enjoy! 

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Me and my new friends from the Middle East Malak and Liraz

Leading up to the trip, I had all sorts of butterflies, nerves, and excitement all at the same time. I wondered what the people would be like, would they like me and would I fit in. The next six days turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with PeacePlayers.

The first day we arrived to Norway, I was so excited as we waited for the Middle East group to arrive. It was exciting for me as I was going to meet new friends from different parts of the world. Once the Middle East arrived, the participants from the previous exchange all met up and said hello, giving each other hugs. I had to make myself known and introduced myself. We then got on the bus to go to our host families homes and that was when I met the first person on the exchange and that person was Yuval from the Middle East. When we started talking, Yuval had told me about his first time playing Gaelic football in the Middle East exchange last October. We had a laugh on the bus and was amazing getting to know him. On our journey to our host families, we had a party on the bus or what we came to call a PeacePlayers ride.  We were blasting music, introducing ourselves and chatting with all the new people we had yet to meet.

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The NI Squad at the airport waiting for the Middle East group to arrive!

After about an hour on the bus, we arrived to Nesodden and I finally got to meet Edvard who I had been chatting with before the trip and I was so excited to finally get to meet him and it was amazing. Me and Eoin (Lead4Peace participant from NI) were driven up to our host families house where we were introduced to Edvard’s family.

On the first day of the camp, I didn’t get to meet many new people. So my goal was to not sit with people I knew so I can begin to make new friends and to get myself known to everyone on the exchange. Edvard’s dad dropped us off at Nesodden High School. This was where we met the coaches from the other sites – Gøril, Roar, Jamie, Nicos, Ståle, Sissel, Latoya, Bahar, and Sean. The coaches introduced themselves and shared something interesting about themselves, they were all a laugh and I knew I was going to get on well with them.

After all the introductions, we were split up into our teams. This was when I met my teammates – Thilde, Jinan, Christain, Martin, Gur, Serife, Ayanda, Anne, & Beth and Anna. We called ourselves Team Fire Ball to match our team colour, red!  Later that day after we all played basketball, it was time to lead our session on Trust & Communication. I wasn’t as confident at the start but when I saw Beth and Anna do an amazing job, I said to myself it can’t be that bad and went on and led my activity and I did a good job.

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Beth, me, & Anna leading our session on Trust & Communication

After that session, it was time for dinner and that’s where I finally got to talk to the new people. That night was my favourite night in Norway because I made everyone laugh and made myself more recognised by everyone. Later that night, Edvard and William set up a Norwegian food taster for me, Eoin, Max, Tahir from Cyprus & Ryan.  We all sat at the table and began tasting Norwegian food which was amazing and very tasty. The third day was the day we all went to the hotel and did the fun in the snow the first activity we all did was ice hockey.

The third day, we headed off to Sormarka which was about an hour drive from where we staying in Nesodden. The first activity my team did was ice hocky, it was an amazing experience and I enjoyed it so much even though I got warm pretty fast becaue of all the

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Lovin’ life on the snowboard!

layers I was wearing. Our next activity was snowboarding and just having fun in the snow. This was the first time I ever went on the snowboard and I fell many times. But nonetheless, I still had an amazing time. After all the fun in the snow, we went to a little area and had hotdogs for lunch. Later on that day, we continued with our classroom sessions on social action led by the Cyprus coaches.

That morning I woke up and got my heavy clothing on and brought my bags down to the hotel reception as we were all going back to our host families in Nesodden. This was the day we all went dog sledding and it such an amazing experience. I’ve never seen such peaceful dogs before, the dogs were just so adorable and they were the cutest dogs I’ve seen my life.  Later on that day, we took the ferry boat back to Nesodden, the boat was the best transport for me as I love boats.

We arrived in Nesodden and we watched a match. Edvard and William play for the Nesodden club and they had a game that night. We also helped with making waffles which we gave out to the fans. Me, Jinan, Brooklyn, Malak, and Nagham all made the waffles and they were amazing. The basketball game was so intense and it was very exciting to experience. Unfortunately, Edvard’s team lost that game but it was a fun match to watch.

After the match, we were split into two teams and played basketball until we had to go home. The next day was all about school visits! I got to coach in two basketball sessions which was amazing, I had such a laugh with all the kids. After coaching I got to do a classroom session with 15-16 year olds  where I shared how I was introduced to PeacePlayers, I also told them about the conflict in Northen Ireland. I was so nervous at first but when it came to it, I did a pretty good job and I was proud of myself.

After all that was done, me, Edvard, Eoin Thetha, Nitzan, Nagham and Maria all walked home to Edvard’s. We had free time so we decided to rest and get our energy back up. After the rest, we all got our gear and headed to the ferry. We got to the ferry and met up with everyone else. The ferry is so cool, I was in love with it. We got to our destination and had to get a bus to Kolbotn where we played more basketball.  We got a lot of basketball time and was a lot of fun. When our matches were over we all had a big game of knockout and the winner was Ryan who’s also from Northern Ireland. After all that we all went home. The last day for us all to be together which struck me but

The next day was last day for us all to be together which struck me but I made the best of that time and made such great memories. So, the first thing we did was get on the ferry. After the ferry, we all met up and did a bit of sightseeing around Norway and the view was so pretty. We all went to the parliament where we had a member of Parliament talk to us about Norwegian politics and the king of Norway. It was so interesting and fun to learn about.  After the Parliament, we took the underground (subway) to visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This was also where me and coach Joanne recreated the heel kick photo and we all had such fun. We then visited the Nobel Peace Centre where we had a lovely tour of the 2017 exhibition.

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Coach Joane and me heel kicking!

We came back to Nesodden and played in a 3 on 3 tournament. My team made it to the finals but we lost. After the tournament, we all went into the lunch hall and had our final time together. I was sitting down with everyone getting food before the awards were given out. After dinner, the awards were presented and I won the Spirit Award. The Spirit award is given to someone who takes part in everything with a positive attitude while cheering everyone else on. I was so proud to be gifted that award. After the awards were given out, I completely broke down as this was the final time I’d be with everyone before saying goodbye. I went around hugging everyone and spending my final hour with everyone but we didn’t let that bother us as we all had a ball. We were all singing and dancing even the coaches joined in!

 

 

So you might ask what has this exchange done for me, it has made me more confident in leading sessions an16807022_1200989770022113_942240450499203875_nd in being a coach. It has made me a better leader, I made new friends and it might have even made me famous! I was featured in the in the local paper! And what I am looking forward to the most is seeing everyone again when they visit Northern Ireland in July!

 

Training the Trainers: PPI-NI Ballymena

This week’s blog was written by Ryan McGarry, Local Fellow at PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland. 

bmenaThis year was the first time I became involved in a PeacePlayers Twinning that took place outside of Belfast. I was tasked to take the lead on our programming in Ballymena, a town about 30 minutes outside the city (famous for being the birthplace of Liam Neeson!), within which we have been running Twinnings for 4 years. Having established ourselves here working in conjunction with the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, we have recently began taking steps to further develop our work in the area. Specifically, we are aiming to train and increase the capacity of locally based coaches, to transition our work there to becoming completely locally-led. (As much as I love my weekly pilgrimage up there!)

This approach fits into part of our overarching plan, which is to create and develop local PeacePlayers sites in every council area in the country. Recently, a partnership with the Ballymena Northern Regional College enabled us to take initial steps in this direction. This partnership has given young to volunteer as assistant coaches at our weekly sessions in the area.

 

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Local student Paige leads a discussion on ‘Respect’

While this has only begun in January, these students have already shown their coaching abilities, and their willingness to develop themselves further. While jumping into a coaching role isn’t easy (especially in a high energy environment like a PPI Twinning!) The assistant coaches have been great at quickly adapting to our particular style of coaching, and leading activities not only in Basketball, but also in our Community Relations curriculum.

This has been evident not just to myself and the other PeacePlayers coaches, but also to their own teachers, and also to staff from the participating schools. They impressed the latter so much so that a few of the assistant coaches have been invited to the schools to help out in other ways, and meet back up with their team members!

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Coaches Paige & Rebecca pose with their team’s completed ‘Respect Wall’

With the potential to bring some of these prospective coaches to our coaches’ trainings throughout the year – we could be seeing the establishment of a very important foundation for PPI’s planned expansion into the six ‘Super Councils’ of Northern Ireland.

If our efforts to create and develop a bank of local coaches in Ballymena is successful, it could well be used as a template for our work in other areas, and with a great group of potential future PeacePlayers at our disposal, I feel personally responsible to ensure that this becomes a reality!

 

From Sea Plunges to Super Twinnings, Keeping up with Coach Jazz

This week’s blog is written by Jazz Bishop, International Fellow at PPI-Northern Ireland.

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Some frosty Plungers on Boxing Day

Happy New Year to everyone from Northern Ireland!

PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland wrapped up 2016 with its Inaugural PeacePlayers Boxing Day Plunge on Monday, December 26th in Newcastle.  PPI-NI staff, friends, and family took the plunge into the Irish Sea.  Everyone jumped in with their sneakers on, except me because I didn’t have a spare pair with me.  I jumped in with my socks on and ended up losing my socks in the Irish Sea. The water was extremely cold, but it was a great deal of fun for everyone.

The fundraising goal was set for 500 pounds. With online and cash contributions combined we were able to reach our goal!  That’s impressive considering this was the inaugural year. Thank you to everyone who took the plunge, to all of the sponsors and to all of the donors that helped us to raise the funds to help support PeacePlayers.

Kicking off 2017, we have started organizing our Super Twinnings. Basically, Super Twinnings are like a big celebration tournament.  It’s an opportunity to celebrate the great things accomplished by our P6 class in their twinning sessions that the just completed and a perfect way to lead into the P7 class as the will soon begin their sessions.  I have two of them scheduled in February.  All of the PeacePlayers International–Northern Ireland staff will help coach at all of the Super Twinnings.  Team Work makes the Dream Work!

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Coach Joanne leading Warmup at Carrs Glen & Our Lady Queen of Peace Super Twinning

We had our first Super Twinning session on Friday, January 13th.  There were eight integrated teams total participating, four teams from each class.  As you might already know, the twinning programme involves two schools (Catholic & Protestant) and when I first arrived to Belfast, I had the joy of coaching alongside Coach Joane and Michaela in the North Belfast Twinning with Garrs Glenn Primary and Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary. This was part of my onboarding and I truly enjoyed working with and getting to know these young children.  All of the participants were great and the Super Twinnings ran quite smoothly as well. All of the participants on my team were really amused that I was from America. They said that they liked me because of my accent and that they wanted to come to America too.

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Participant keeping score!

Good Sportsmanship was the theme of the day. Winners were not determined in the conventional way by the team with the most points.  Instead, the winners were determined based on points earned by being a “good sport” throughout the day. Participants were giving a Good Sportsmanship checklist and at the end of a match, they were to grade themselves based on how well they think they performed as a good sport. I have had many coaches throughout my career for several sports, not just basketball, and most all of those coaches would rather have a Good Sportsmanship Banner hanging from the rafters in the gymnasium than a championship banner.  I would have to agree with that.

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My Squad at the Super Twinning

Because we ran into some time constraints with schools needing to get the students back to the school and the venue availability time, some of the stations were finished rather quickly.  However, all of the youth seemed to be enjoying themselves and were having a great time.  Most importantly, they truly understood and demonstrated the true meaning of Good Sportsmanship.   I was very proud to be part of such a great event.

In closing, I would like to thank Debbie Byrne, PPI-NI Operations Team Leader for opening up her home to Sally and I, and inviting us to share Christmas dinner with her and her family.  The food was excellent!  She has a beautiful family.  They were all wonderful and treated me like one of their own.  I enjoyed meeting and getting to know them all.  Best of all, she made me feel right at home.  I learned that our families are very similar even though they are half a world apart. After dinner at Debbie’s house, we enjoyed playing a game together.  It reminded me of Christmas at home because we always have dinner and then we play family games together as well.  So thank you for sharing your home and your family with me.  This meant a lot to me.

The Ever Present Past in Northern Ireland

In this week’s blog by PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland, Office Administrator and M&E extraordinaire Laura Agnew walks us through the legacy of Christmas Holiday in Northern Ireland with a personal touch!

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Belfast City Hall December 2016

It’s December, a Saturday in December to be precise, which means only one thing – the annual Agnew family Christmas day out to Belfast! The day is exactly the same every year, but that’s why I love it!

We start the day off with a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich (because calories don’t count on weekends!), and then we make the trip from the sleepy countryside to the hustle and bustle of the capital city. After spending the afternoon shopping, we have dinner and walk through the continental Christmas markets at City Hall. The sights, sounds, and smells of stalls from across Europe, nestled under the twinkling lights of City Hall’s Christmas tree, are a sure-fire way to put you in the festive spirit.  

As in every city, the crowds in Belfast can be a little crazy at this time of the year, and my dad seems to take great pleasure in pointing out that obvious fact every five minutes! But it’s all part of the festive buzz. Everyone is running around looking for presents for loved ones, offices are out for their Christmas parties, children are in awe of the decorations everywhere, and it’s just a generally happy, cheerful atmosphere!

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Entrance to Belfast City Hall through a security gate at the height of the troubles

But Christmas shopping in Belfast wasn’t always as magical; it was more security greetings than season’s greetings. After our day out during the weekend, my mum found some pictures of what it was like for her as a little girl. She, along with everyone else, had to go through heavily-guarded security checkpoints to be searched before even entering the city center. Shop entrances had further searches to be sure there were no weapons or bombs being carried. And in the streets, there was a constant presence of armed police and soldiers, with weapons held in plain site for all to see. It struck me just how different things were less than 40 years ago. It seems that no matter how much you tried to get into the festive spirit, round every corner, or in every doorway, there was a constant reminder of the conflict that was all too real.

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Armed soldier passing City Hall on Christmas

Long gone are the days of the security checks and regular bombings. But even though the conflict is no longer as pronounced as it was during “The Troubles,” the feelings from that time are still harboured within those who experienced it. I remember Christmas shopping in Belfast as a little girl and seeing my mum panic if there was the slightest whisper of a bomb scare happening in the city center. Even today, the legacy of the conflict is still prominent in the minds of those who lived it.

But I am confident that this is changing. I am confident that we can make a difference. I am confident that if we try, every day in Northern Ireland really can be like Christmas – full of love, harmony, and most importantly, PEACE.

Music, Matches and Mayhem…JINGLE BALL 2K16

This week’s blog is written by PPI-NI’s Managing Director, Gareth Harper.

Awesome.  

That’s the word that comes immediately to mind when I reflect on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016. It was on this day that PPI-NI hosted its 10th Annual Jingle Ball Tournament, and yes it was the biggest and best to date, crammed full of ‘goose bump’ moments. After a decade, this event still remains a highlight in the PPI-NI calendar. It has also become an important landmark event for our many volunteers and supporters, including our friends from Google and from the Clare Youth Service.   

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Some of the Google volunteers. From left, Maxime, Andre, and Badr

Starting at 1pm, the basketball courts in the Queens PEC were transformed to a sea of red, green, yellow and blue as 149 Catholic and Protestant players from interface areas across Belfast came together to compete on 22 cross community teams. Chants of “EAST, EAST, EAST BELFAST and “WEST IS BEST” competed with top tunes blasted out by PPI-NI’s resident DJ, Sean “Topper” Thompson. Music, matches and mayhem pretty much sums up the scene.

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Participans from all sides of the city, 150 young people from all over Belfast took part in the Jingle Ball Tournament

It was teams from South, East, and West that emerged victorious on the day, picking up coveted spirit and hustle awards. But if smiles and flushed cheeks were the measure of success for the day, I’d say everyone was a winner.  Jingle Ball was a truly fantastic seasonal conclusion to another brilliant year.  We even threw in a mannequin challenge as an added bonus!

I feel privileged to be involved with such an amazing organisation.  It is fantastic to work with such a talented and committed team of staff, volunteers and supporters.  Watching past participants step up to take on coaching and leadership roles is simply awesome and was definitely my biggest ‘goose bump’ moment. I can’t wait until next year.