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!

Coach’s Corner: Interview with Dor Dayan

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Coach Dor Dayan has shown incredible commitment and passion working with PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) over the past two years

 

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) blog post is about 27-year-old Israeli coach Dor Dayan. Dayan played basketball in the top professional league in Israel, before deciding to become a coach five years ago. He has been working with PPI – ME for the past two seasons and is the head coach of two of our mixed (Arab and Jewish) All-Star teams in Northern Israel. Here Dor talks about his experience as a coach and the impact that PeacePlayers has had on him.

 

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Dor speaking with the girls during a timeout in their win against Iblin

How did you get into coaching?

My mother encouraged me to become a coach. She thought I would really be good at it. At first I just did it for fun, but then I loved it so much that I wanted to do it professionally as a full time job.

Is there a coach that you look up to or that has influenced how you view the game and your own coaching?

David Blatt (Former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) because he is very intelligent, knows the game very well, and knows how to speak with his players.

What is your favorite team to watch?

In Israel, it’s Maccabi Tel Aviv (former team that David Blatt coached – the most popular team in Israel). In America, it was the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan played on the team and now it is the Golden State Warriors.

How are your teams doing so far this season?

This season is going really well so far. I think the All-Star Yeladot team (14-and-under mixed team) will continue to get better. Our team is successful when we play aggressively and together as a team. The All-Star Naharot team (16-and-under mixed team) is also doing really well. We are 11-0 in the league and we can only hope that this will continue for the rest of the season.

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Dayan pushing the girls during a pre-season beach workout in Nahariya

 How did you find out about PPI – ME?

I learned about PPI – ME from another basketball coach in Nahariya. I saw the Arab and Jewish girls playing together and it seemed like something I would be interested in. The next season the chairman of our club informed me that I would be coaching two PPI – ME teams and so far, I am really enjoying it.

How has PPI – ME impacted you?

I am now able to see the other side of the conflict. I think we can live together, but there is still a lot to work on. I think if Arabs and Jews spend time together from a young age, as they do with PPI – ME, that it would really help them as they become adults. I sincerely hope that the girls can build a connection with one another. I think that if our teams can continue to play together it will really help them in the future.

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Dayan (second from the right), the Nahariya Naharot players and other PPI – ME Staff after a team win

What is the most important thing you have gained from your experience with PPI – ME?

The project has given me a broader perspective on the Middle East conflict and has shown me that not everyone from “the other side” is a bad person. Through PPI – ME, I have met great people and built relationships and connections that I never would have made otherwise. It has also given me the opportunity to coach a group of girls and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Monday Mornings at PPI-ME

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Coach Rifka Ross and American Fellow LaToya Fisher start practice with the girls at Ein Karem

This week’s PPI-ME blog is written by American Fellow James Levine.

A few days ago, I woke up and realized I didn’t know what day of the week it was. After checking my phone, I learned it was Monday. Around the world, most people (understandably) don’t like Monday mornings. Mondays mean that the weekend is over, and the work week is beginning. For those who don’t think their work is particularly fun, I sympathize with you.

Monday mornings at PPI – ME are a little different. First, the Israeli work week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, so Monday here is more like Tuesday. Also, unlike most people, we get to wake up and coach basketball, which is pretty incredible. So, for readers of “From the Field” who need a little respite from Monday mornings, I hope you can live vicariously through me.

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The beautiful views from Ein Karem

We start Mondays at Ein Karem, a school nestled in the mountains outside of Jerusalem, where we have an all-girls team. The girls start their Sunday and Monday mornings with basketball practice at 8:20 a.m. Now, I’m not an authority on education, but I think first-period basketball is a great addition to any middle school curriculum. Before practice starts, I usually chat with one of our players, Noam, who teaches me bits and pieces of Hebrew, while laughing at me. Recently she has been pressuring me to download Duolingo and swears I’ll learn the language if I try it.

Despite the early start time, practices at Ein Karem are high-energy. Rifka Ross, the team’s head coach, always comes prepared with creative, fun and challenging drills. The girls do dribble series around cones, work on footwork and finish with hoops. Recently, they have started playing 4-on-4 live and they are incredibly competitive. During shooting drills, finishing drills and races, the girls always give 100% and aren’t afraid to get physical. It’s not unusual to see girls diving on the ground or leaving practice proudly wearing battle wounds.

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A high-energy game of 4-on-4 to end practice!

We end practice with a universally-loved game called “Yalla-Bye” led by LaToya and the girls go off to their next class at 9:15 a.m. Monday mornings at Ein Karem are great because we have an amazing group of players, but to make things better, we have two practices at Keshet to look forward to in the afternoon!

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.

Player Profile: Full Court Press with Yarden Salem

In today’s blog post, American Fellow, Courtney Douglass interviewed PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) participant, Yarden, who plays on the Nahariya Naharot 16-and-under mixed (Jewish and Arab) All-Stars team about her experience with PPI – ME.

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Yarden (left) with her teammates and American Fellow Courtney

Yarden, tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m 15 years old and am from a kibbutz (communal-style village in Israel) called Gesher Haziv located outside of Nahariya. I have been playing basketball for eight years and this is my fourth year with PeacePlayers. I currently play on the Nahariya Naharot 16-and-under mixed (Jewish and Arab) All-Stars team. Two of my favorite things to do outside of basketball are playing the piano and drawing.

How has your season been going so far on the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars?

So far everything is going really well. Everyone is getting along and we have been working very hard together. Our team is currently undefeated and in first place in the league. We have made really good progress and I think the bonding is getting better the longer that we have been in PeacePlayers.

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Yarden (#55) soaring over opponents to snag an offensive rebound

How did you first find out about PeacePlayers?

I really didn’t know much about it until my coach at the time told our team we were going to play with a team of Arab girls in special practices called “Twinnings.” The first couple of years my team from Nahariya met for Twinnings with a team from Tamra. Now we have progressed to being on a mixed All-Star Team together.

How has PeacePlayers impacted you?

When I was growing up my parents never said anything bad about Arabs, so I never thought anything bad about them, but I also didn’t have much interaction with them. PeacePlayers has given me a chance to learn more about “the other side.” I see my Arab teammates as regular people who want to play basketball just like I do. I believe that it’s all about doing what you love.

What is the most important thing you have taken away from your experience being a part of PeacePlayers?

There are so many kids in the world who want to play basketball but are not able to. So, I really appreciate the fact that I can play basketball and my parents and friends support me doing something I love so much. I feel like our team is a family. When we are on the court our differences don’t matter. All that matters is that we want the same thing – to win as a family.

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Nahariya Naharot All-Star team huddling after a victory

Rapid Fire Questions

If you could meet any person dead or alive, who would it be?

Michael Phelps

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Hawaii, Africa, Australia – too many to name one

What is your favorite food?

Kanafeh – Middle Eastern honey cake

What is your favorite artist or song right now?

Carry on my Wayward Son – Kansas

What is your favorite animal (besides dog or cat)?

Dolphins or elephants

 

 

 

It’s the Holiday Season at PPI-CY!

This week’s blog is written by Cyprus Fellow Sean Wright about the upcoming events taking place at PPI-CY during the holidays. 

It’s the holiday season here in Cyprus, and with it brings an exciting time for us at PPI-CY. Over the next few weekends, we will be having a twinning with 50 kids from both the North (Turkish Cypriot) and South (Greek Cypriot), and also we will be having our annual Winter Tournament next weekend. What a time to be alive!

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Group picture from Lapta Twinning

For our twinning, we will be having it in the buffer zone in-between the North and South sides right across from our offices at the Home 4 Cooperation. We have it at a place called the Ledra Palace Hotel, which is where the UN soldiers live. They are kind enough to let us use their basketball court and hold these events there. This is different from the recent twinnings because both communities are meeting at a neutral site. The few that we’ve had this year were local twinnings, where one side would travel to the other side’s community to play. The local twinnings give each side a better understanding of the other’s community which is awesome, but this neutral twinning gives us the opportunity to have more kids participate.

We’ve also given our participants in the Lead4Peace program more responsibility during our twinnings this year. They are taking on the challenges of leading the beginning parts of the sessions.

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From a twinning in Lapta

This means they lead the twinning participants in the stretches, explaining the activities in the mother tongue so everyone is on the same page, and breaking the teams up evenly. They are doing an excellent job with this, especially breaking the teams up evenly. This may not seem like a big task, but when your friends are looking at you wanting to be on your team and you have to say no, it can be difficult. The best part of them taking on more responsibilities is that they WANT to do it. We don’t even have to ask them because they come up to us ask us to do these things. We are very proud of what these young men and women are doing. 3on3

Next weekend is our Winter 3 on 3 Tournament, which is one of our biggest events of the year. Every team on the island, north and south, come together to have one epic day of basketball. This is a special event because it is one of the only times that every team on the island is in the same place at the same time. On top of that, we open the tournament up to anyone who wants to join. This is a great recruiting tool for new kids who want to play basketball but don’t have the outlet to do so. All in all, it’s going to be an exciting two weeks here in CYPRUS!!!