Youth Entrepreneurship Program Is Up and Running!

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Some of the participants of Peacestagram, one of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program initiatives, after attending a photography exhibit together

In November 2015, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) announced two new programs (view original post here). One of these is the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP), in which six graduates of the Leadership Development Program work in mixed Palestinian and Israeli pairs to create their own peace building initiatives. Here’s an update on the progress of the program.

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An Israeli and Palestinian participant from GGG

The first year of YEP was spent arming participants with the tools to create and successfully run a peace organization. Participants attended lectures about grant writing and budget-making, and presented their ideas in front of a panel modeled on the show “Shark Tank,” where they requested money to fund their initiative. Thinking through the logistics of creating a new organization was challenging and, at times, intimidating for YEP participants. One of the Palestinian participants, Duha, says she felt uneasy because her project used a medium she had little experience with: art. This is the first time any of the participants have been involved in starting an organization and they wanted their projects to be unique. With the help of mentors and Project Manager, Jamie Walsh, the participants created three special projects.

Duha (Palestinian) and Liraz (Israeli) created Girls Gone Green (GGG), an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through art. The participants tell stories about their cultures, families and other topics through traditional art forms, such as pottery and painting, as well as using gathered recycled material. The participants will display their creations at an exhibit the girls will host for friends and family.

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The first Peacestagram meeting

Participants Aysha (Palestinian) and Neta (Israeli) created Peacestagram, an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through photography. The participants will learn different photography techniques with the goal of producing high quality photos covering topics such as religion, food, sports and other personal issues. The participants will display their work on social media and in an exhibit this spring.

The last initiative was created by participants Ibrahim (Palestinian) and Ofir (Israeli). They will host an event this spring that pairs able-bodied kids with kids with disabilities for a sports activity in Jerusalem. While interaction between Palestinians and Israelis in often limited, there is an even larger gap when it comes to interaction between Palestinians and Israelis with disabilities.

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Traditional Moroccan slipper key chains made by GGG participants

Implementation of the three YEP initiatives has just started and is going well. The participants of Peacestagram have already taken a trip to a photography exhibit and the participants of GGG have started tapping into their creativity by making traditional Moroccan slipper key chains. Stay tuned for more updates as these initiatives progress!

Older and Younger Participants Learn From Each Other at Overnight Retreat

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The entire group after a fun retreat

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Two participants working hard at the dribbling station

On December 16-17, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) held an overnight retreat at Kibbutz Sdot Yam near Caesarea, where participants from the West Bank, the Friday basketball clinics and the Leadership Development Program (LDP) came together for a weekend of basketball and other activities designed to build trust. Approximately 60 participants attended the retreat, ranging in age from 9-17 years old. Participants were divided into two groups by age: the younger participants from the Friday basketball clinics and the West Bank made up one group and the LDP participants made up a second group. The younger group activities were primarily led by American Fellows Courtney Douglass, LaToya Fisher and James Levine, with the help of local coaches, while Heni Bizawi led the LDP activities.

Here’s a recap of the weekend’s activities. On Friday, the younger participants had two sessions, each with a very different focus. The purpose of the first session was for participants to get to know each other and learn to work together. These activities were light on basketball and heavy on fun; they generated a lot of laughter and really loosened up the group.

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LDP participants leading drills with younger participants

The theme of the second session was trust. Participants worked in small groups of four and each group was given an object that was placed somewhere in the gym and had to be retrieved. The catch was that the person designated to retrieve the object would be blindfolded and the rest of their team could only guide that person through verbal directions. The best part about this activity was watching the Jewish participants trying to understand directions in Arabic and the Arab participants trying to understand directions in Hebrew – and trying to teach each other in the process.

The LDP participants spent part of the day Friday in the classroom learning about coaching techniques and preparing drills they would run with the younger participants on Saturday. After finishing up in the classroom, the LDP had a basketball practice with coach Rebecca Ross. It was a tough but fun practice and showed them how a veteran coach leads.

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LDP participant Malak helping a younger participant

On Saturday, the LDP participants ran drills with the younger participants. The LDP did an excellent job at coming up with fun and creative drills, and the younger participants loved it. After each activity was completed, LDP participants were given feedback in real time so they could try to implement it when they worked with the next group of young participants.

The weekend was short and sweet but fun and memorable as always!

PPI – ME Launches New Program Year with Two-Part Weekend Retreat Extravaganza

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Palestinian and Israeli youth leaders served as positive role models for younger children, many of whom had never met kids from the other side before joining the program

Coming off of summer vacation, 52 Palestinian and Israeli PeacePlayers came together at Kibbutz Sdot Yam in Israel for two parallel retreats that officially got the new program year underway! Each retreat focused on different PeacePlayers groups. The first retreat was for members of the Leadership Development Program, which grooms Palestinian and Israeli youth to become the future leaders of the program and ambassadors of peace in their communities; the second retreat engaged Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls, ages 8-12 from East Jerusalem and around Israel and the West Bank.

One of the main goals of the retreats was to give new participants from both the LDP and

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Fun ice-breakers, basketball drills and relay races helped newer participants get to know each other and learn how to work together.

the youth teams a chance to get to know one another and to build team spirit. This year, the LDP includes a whole new cohort of younger youth, while LDP graduates have gone on to become “youth mentors” to help guide younger youth leaders. The younger group, which for the most part was made up of new participants, played several ice breaker games and took part in basketball drills and relay races, which encouraged cooperation and physical contact between Palestinian and Israeli children.

Although the two parallel retreats mostly operated separate from one another, the presence of the LDP, provided a great opportunity, especially for new West Bank participants, who had never met Israelis before joining the program, to see first-hand how normal and positive friendship between both sides can be.

To bring this point home, on Saturday, there was a joint activity with both LDP and the younger group. The LDP youth were divided into groups of three who worked together to design activity stations for the younger participants; while younger participants rotated between activity stations, During this time the LDP youth mentors went around offering younger LDP feedback about their activities and coaching, and engagement with the younger group of  boys and girls. It has been incredible to see the growth of our LDP youth mentors, and the impact they were able to have on not only the younger participants, but the organization of PeacePlayers as well!

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

Adriana Kasapi Shares Her Journey to PPI-Cyprus

Today’s blog is written by PPI-CY Leadership Development Program (LDP)  participant Adriana Kasapi. Adriana recently attended the PPI-CY Summer camp, where she met other LDP participants from around the world through Erasmus+. Her blog shares her experience at camp, and what makes being a part of PeacePlayers so special!

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Hey everyone! I’m Andriana Kasapi and I live in Larnaca, a seaside town in Cyprus. I’m 16 years old and I’ve been a proud PeacePlayer for almost five years now. My journey with PPI started at the age of 11, when my basketball coach suggested I start training with PPI-CY. As he was my first mentor in basketball, his advice was always to my benefit, so my journey with PeacePlayers had begun. At the very beginning I didn’t know much about PPI, but once I started getting involved and gained an understanding of the organisation’s purpose, I was very enthusiastic and excited that I belonged to this program. That year, I attended my first summer camp in Agros.  A few weeks later I had the opportunity to attend an Leadership  Development Program (LDP)  weekend in the north (Turkish) side of the island, Kantara. I was so keen on seeing the friends I had made at the camp and to spend a few days with all these empowering people. By the end of that weekend I realized PPI would be a big and important part of my life. The workshops and sessions we did really opened my eyes, even though I was still 12 years old. Being in the LDP not only helped to become a better leader on the court but also out of it. Building up my confidence, my communication, goal setting skills, teamwork and respect during camps, The LDP retreats, twinnings, tournaments and even some practices have all had a great impact on me; but the greatest skill PeacePlayers taught me was to see a person as a person.

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     This year’s summer camp, I can say, was the best so far. I really enjoyed learning about the other sites cultures and the various conflicts which exist in their communities.What I enjoyed the most was hearing stories from all the now friends that I met. It was so touching listening and empathising all those stories and understanding more how life is in other countries who suffered from conflict.
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PeacePlayers has allowed me to meet so many amazing people from around the world!

My goal this camp was to build up my confidence and communication skills. The Laureus sessions, with Coach Nasiphi, helped us set goals, identify the barriers which we could encounter and figure out how to overcome them. The most emotional and impacting part of the camp was listening to the stories of  PPI members who have found a purpose in their life due to the motivation and encouragement of PeacePlayers. I am inspired by all the PPI participants, leaders and coaches I meet every year. I’m so looking forward to future LDP exchange programs and I’m thankful to PPI for offering us these huge opportunities!

Travel season in full swing at PPI

As an international organization, we are always on the move, but this last month has been particularly exciting with over 100 PPI participants, staff, and board stamping their passports and leaving the place they call home! Here is a recap:

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A group picture from the Lead4Peace Summer Camp in Cyprus.

In Mid-July PPI-Cyprus hosted their annual summer camp, with a little bit of a twist! Through the Erasmus+ exchange program, we had young leaders from all four PPI sites as well members of Nesodden Basketball Club in Norway together for a week of leadership development, water balloon fights, and of course some hoops! Special thanks to Chad Ford for delivering some powerful sessions on conflict and to Ambassador Doherty for stopping by to say hello. Check out highlights from the camp below.

NI big bridgeBefore the Cyprus camp participants made it back home, the DC- LDP (Leadership Development Program) went out to PPI-Northern Ireland on a seven-day cultural exchange. Highlights of the trip included visits with PPI-Northern Ireland managing director Gareth Harper and board chair Trevor Ringland, some twinning sessions with the Champions4Peace leadership program, and work with over 150 PPI-NI participants at the annual Belfast Interface Games. The guys even found time to squeeze in a trip to the beautiful North Coast! Hope none of them had a fear of heights!

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Belfast Interface Games

As if this excitement wasn’t enough for a great summer, this week PPI- Middle East is hosting PPI executive director Brendan Tuohey and members of the PPI global board to show off some of the awesome work they do!

A big thank you to all of our funders, including USAID, Laureus, adidas Basketball, Erasmus+ and the US State Department for making this summer so incredible, and also to all of our volunteers, coaches and fellows who dedicated resources, time and so much more to make these events successful. Check back next week for a sneak peek at what we will be up to this Autumn!

SA Leaders reflect on the #PPICamp2k16

This weeks blog is written by Thobani Khumalo, PPI-SA LDP Co-ordinator, who attended the PPI LEAD4PEACE Summer Camp in Cyrus.

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Thetha and his”Caranilla” team mates

The 2016 LEAD4PEACE Camp that took place in Cyprus was one of a kind. The camp empowered young people from across the world, who were leaders in their own right, to enhance their knowledge about leadership and peace building. PPI-SA was able to send 5 participants to take part in the camp.  They all had life changing experiences and left the camp more confident in their leadership skills. The camp was packed with leadership activities; basketball sessions and site quizzes that helped participants learn more about each of the PPI sites.

They participated in leadership and basketball activities that broadened their mindset and

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Thetha and his”Caranilla” team mates

through these activities they learnt from their peers who have diverse experiences. All four of the participants from PPI-SA who attended the camp share their thoughts on the camp below:

“It’s was great for me to hear about what happens in  the other sites around the world and to be able to make new friends. I really hope to go to another leadership camp in the future.” Nomfundo Ngcobo.

“I felt like we had more in common with the people in my team and this made me feel more comfortable. What made me really happy was that my team selected me to win the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award. I felt so appreciated.Meagen Montiere  

“I met a lot of people and I gained more knowledge about others PPI sites. My teammates were great and always supportive even when you made a mistake or missed a shot they did not point fingers or shout at me. This was one of the lessons I will take back with me and apply in my team to help our team be better.” Ayanda Dlamini

“It was hard for me to bond with the other guys,  because I didn’t know if they would be accepted. My roommate helped me to unlock my suitcase, and that helped me come out my shell. Once the camp started and we had to work in teams, I started making friends.” Thetha Nxumalo.

A group picture from the Lead4Peace Summer Camp.

A group picture from the Lead4Peace Summer Camp.

The Summer Camp was generously made possible by Laureus and the Erasmus+ program