PeacePlayers Presented with Award from Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

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PPI receives the Reflections of Hope Award at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel on November 14, 2016. (Via abc Tulsa.)

PeacePlayers International (PPI) was honored for its international work uniting young people in divided communities through basketball with the “Reflections of Hope Award” from the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. PPI was named the award recipient in August of this year.

Co-founder and Executive Director, Brendan Tuohey accepted the award on behalf of PPI saying, “We at PPI are deeply honored to receive the Reflections of Hope Award and to be included among past winners who have overcome barriers to build a more peaceful and just world. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum represents the very best of what individual citizens working together towards a shared future can achieve.”

Along with Tuohey, the Oklahoma Thunder general manager, Sam Presti, PPI-ME participants Liraz Ben Yosef and Malak Ayub and coach Rebecca Ross were also in attendance at the award luncheon.

The Reflections of Hope Award is granted annually to those who embody the core beliefs of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. Past recipients include journalist Anthony Shadid (2012), and Presidents George W. Bush and family (2011), and William J. Clinton (2010).

More information about PeacePlayers and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum’s selection can be found here.

PeacePlayers Wins Prestigious Award at the Beyond Sport Summit & Awards

This week’s blog by PPI-NI is written by Laura Agnew, Office Administrator at PPI-NI.

On Wednesday 19th October, the eighth annual Beyond Sport Summit & Awards took place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Each year, the Awards (supported by Comic Relief) promote, support and reward the best projects from across the globe that use sport for positive social change. These events bring together the world of sport, business, government and community development, and since 2009, Beyond Sport has had over 2,150 entries into the awards from 145 countries.

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Beyond Sport Award takes pride of place at the PPI-NI Office

This year after being selected from over 250 entries from 55 different countries that represent over 64 sports, the joint PeacePlayers project entry (PPI-NI and PPI-ME) made an initial shortlist of 42 initiatives. Managing Directors Gareth Harper and Karen Doubilet were invited to the Beyond Sport Summit 2016, where we were announced as the winner in the Sport for Conflict Resolution category (supported by Comic Relief and the Postcode Lottery Sport Foundation).

PPI-NI’s Gareth Harper said, “PeacePlayers is delighted, honoured and humbled to receive such a prestigious award. It is fantastic that the hard work of the young people, parents, teachers and community groups, along with those in Government and from trusts and foundations that have supported us over the years, have had their investment and trust in the work of PeacePlayers acknowledged in this special way. The power of sport for conflict transformation work is amazing. It’s brilliant that the effectiveness of sport in bridging divides, in developing leaders and in changing perceptions, is increasingly being realised and acknowledged.”

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PPI-NI Managing Director, Gareth Harper and PPI-ME Managing Director, Karen Doubilet with Martin Kihlstrom (General Manager, Postcode Sport Foundation) at the Awards Ceremony in London.

Building Peace Through High Fives

Today’s blog is written by new International Fellow James Levine about what peacebuilding looks like at PPI-ME.

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James leading a fun defense warm up activity

One of the most appealing aspects about working for PeacePlayers is coaching for peace. Coming into the International Fellowship, I was excited to know that I not only would be coaching basketball, but that my actions would hopefully help to promote this ideal. Now that I’ve been with the Middle East team for a little over a week, I’m beginning to understand what it means to coach for peace and my thoughts on the concept are constantly developing.

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One of the participants preparing for a high five

Before arriving in Jerusalem, I thought of peace as an abstract, academic and idealistic idea. In political science literature, dimensions of peace are broken up into countless categories like peacebuilding, peacemaking, peace enforcement, mediation and reconciliation. Oftentimes it’s easy to feel removed from the concept of peace because we associate the idea with official pacts, truces and ceasefires negotiated during formal political processes by multi-lateral international institutions.

Since I’ve been here, I haven’t participated in any high-level political negotiations, but I have given out a lot of high fives. What I’m beginning to understand is that peacebuilding isn’t just limited to formal political activities, but it’s the way we think and the way we act on a day to day basis. To PeacePlayers, building peace is about investing in our youth, creating trusting relationships and demonstrating empathy and compassion.

Peacebuilding is all about boosting the confidence of our players, encouraging them to reach their potential, and showing them that we are here to support them along the way. Sometimes it is hard to measure how we are changing perceptions or developing future leaders, but at the most basic level, we provide a positive space for our participants to grow, and we let our players know that we care about them.img_4323

Although it’s easy to label the Middle East as “volatile” or in need of peace-related interventions, this type of peacebuilding isn’t limited to the Middle East. Rather, coaches across the globe are doing the same. If you are a coach who promotes the values of sport and invests your time in kids, then you are also a grassroots activist supporting peace in your own community.

So when the U.S. State Department calls asking me to facilitate peace talks in Colombia, Syria, or Ukraine, I’ll be ready. Until then, I’m happy working with PeacePlayers and giving out high fives on the basketball court.

PPI-ME LDP in Action Through Social Action

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The Leadership Development Program participants and their mentors show off their hard work!

PeacePlayers International- Middle East’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) teaches participants how to be better leaders on the court and within their communities.  One component of the program is a Social Action Project, which emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community.  This month, the LDP chose to do their social action project refurbishing the basketball court at a school in Ein Karem, where PPI – ME has two teams active in basketball programs.

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It’s possible more paint ended up on the participants than the actual basketball post.

At the end of August, a few weeks before the start of the school year, LDP participants, along with their LDP alumni mentors, went to Ein Kerem and painted the outside basketball court where many of the students play before the start of the school day, and have physical education classes and basketball practice.

The participants worked together to paint and clean the court. A big part of their leadership development is putting others first, and lending a helping hand to those who need it. Both of these outcomes were achieved during the project, along with a ton of fun too! (See caption from the picture to the left) PPI-ME is really excited for the students of Ein Kerem to enjoy the new court and looks forward to running some activities on it this season!

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An LDP participant lends a helping hand to an LDP mentor

Meet Malak: My Memorable Camp Experience

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“We were all involved and knew our strengths so we encouraged each other and naturally came together as a team.” Photo: Imagine Photography

My name is Malak. I am a 17-year-old Palestinian, and I have lived in Jerusalem all of my life. I have been in PeacePlayers almost 7 years. This summer I got the chance to attend camp at the PeacePlayers site in Cyprus and it was an experience I will never forget.

Camp was very intense. We had a lot of different activities and our days were long and jam-packed.  During the day we had sessions on the basketball court or in the classroom.  In the classroom the staff facilitated sessions where they discussed the different ways people can see one another, with an emphasis on trying to “see people as people,” which is at the core of the PPI curriculum. There was also a big emphasis on identifying leaders and learning how to be a better leader. At night we had similar sessions in addition to free time.

Each night we broke up into our own delegations, which were Northern Ireland, Cyprus,

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Malak with her Israeli Teammate Ophir.

Norway and the Middle East. Each delegation would take time to write in their journals and reflect on the activities from that day.  I was part of the Middle East delegation and on the third night during free time after the delegation meetings, my [Israeli] friend Liraz and I decided to go join some participants from the other delegations that were playing on the soccer field. Liraz and I were nervous to go over and ask to join but they welcomed us and that night turned into my favorite memory from camp. It was difficult to step out of our comfort zone and talk to the other participants but it made the remainder of camp more enjoyable and it became easier to start talking to the participants from the other delegations. On the nights that followed, I met so many funny and interesting people during the free time; I didn’t want to go into my room when it was time for bed because I was having so much fun.

At the beginning of camp we were split into different teams that mixed the delegations together. The staff would observe the teams throughout the day and look for examples of team spirit, communication, playing well together. I was fortunate to have a very well-rounded team that exemplified team spirit, strong basketball skills, great communication, curiosity to learn about each other, and a strong connection. I think our coach played a huge part in helping us to break the ice and come together at the start. We were all involved and knew our strengths so we encouraged each other and naturally came together as a team. I may be a little biased but I think we had the best team and it was awesome to be a part of it!

My biggest take-away from my camp experience was what I learned during sessions in the classroom lead by staff member Nasiphi, which focused leadership, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and overcoming barriers (cultural differences, language barriers, etc).  It helped me to find myself and made it easier to identify where I stand and how to be an effective leader within my community.

I’m so lucky to have had this experience at the camp and would be more than willing to do it again anytime!

Former NBA and WNBA Players Visit PPI-ME in Jerusalem

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PPI-ME Participants strike a pose with Kelenna Azubuike (NBA), Tameka Johnson (WNBA) and Neil Meyer (NBA).

On July 14 former players Kelenna Azubuike (NBA) and Tameka Johnson (WNBA) came to Jerusalem and did a basketball clinic with the participants of PeacePlayers International – Middle East.  Below is a recap of the event.

PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) had the chance to meet former professional basketball players Kelenna Azubuike (NBA) and Tameka Johnson (WNBA) during their visit to the Middle East.  Kelenna and Tameka spent some time in Jerusalem where they got a chance to

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Tameka brought tons of energy during the clinic!

meet some of the participants and put on a basketball clinic.

Kelenna and Tameka started off the clinic by talking to the participants about the importance of followi
ng your dream, not giving up, and believing in yourself.  They also spoke about the many doors and opportunities that have arisen because of basketball.  Neither of them imagined that they would be traveling to the Middle East and hanging out with our participants simply because of a game they fell in love with at a young age.

After the opening discussion, the participants split into groups and went through different stations.  Kelenna ran a shooting station at one end of the court where he talked about the importance of using fakes and cutting in order to get open for good shots.  At the other end of the court, Tameka ran a dribbling station where she talked about the importance of keeping your eyes up in order to see the entire

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Kelenna and Tameka sign autographs after the clinic 

court and always maintain control of the ball.  Neil Meyer, Senior Director of Basketball Operations for the NBA got in on the action as well and ran a station at half court.
Neil’s station focused on passing and the importance of making good strong passes in order to set teammates up to be a threat to the defense.

The clinic ended with autographs from Kelenna and Tameka and lots of pictures.  PPI-ME really enjoyed meeting both of the players and sharing a little bit of the program with them.

Thank you to the U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem for the continued support and for including PPI-ME be part of such a fun event!

A week in the Middle East with Friends from the USA

 

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PPI Board Chair Emeritus Ron Shapiro shares a moment with participant families in Jerusalem.

Last week PPI-ME hosted a visit for 30 friends and supporters from the United States, including Ron Shapiro, PPI board chairman emeritus and founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, for a week of basketball with our kids, geopolitical tours to help contextualize our work and lots of traditional feasts along the way!

The week started off with a welcome dinner at the home of a family who has three kids in PPI – ME. Visitors were joined by veteran participants and their families, and they got a chance to hear about the impact PeacePlayers has had on their lives.

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PPI board members John Vaske and Brian Kritcher get into the team spirit with kids from PPI – ME.

Our visitors had the opportunity to participate in three joint activities (twinnings), where they got on the court with Arab and Jewish participants. The twinnings took place in Jerusalem, Ein Kerem, and Kfar Saba, which allowed visitors to see and meet a good portion of the participants from the different communities where we work. They were put through the drills and activities that are designed for twinnings as icebreakers and fun games build connections and cooperation between Arab and Jewish youth.

The visitors also got a chance to learn about Jerusalem and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through guided tours that explained the history and geo-political climate within the Middle East. Two days out of the trip were dedicated to seeing some of PeacePlayers’ work in the West Bank, touring Bethlehem’s historical sites, and more great food, of course. The trip came to a close with the visitors spending their last day in Tel Aviv taking in the sand and sun.

Visits by international friends and supporters are always fun, but they serve a greater purpose.  For PPI – ME participants, meeting people from around the world helps them understand that people care about their experience and want to know more and help make things better regarding the challenges of living in this region.  For those who visit us, these visits show them exactly who and what they are rooting for and makes them stronger and more effective advocates for ending the conflict.