What’s Going on Jerusalem? A Recap of the Last Few Months at PPI-ME

 

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Some of PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program participants posing on the beach at Peace Camp

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) blog post is written by American Fellow, LaToya Fisher, and is a recap of the activities that have taken place in the Jerusalem area over the past few months.

Peace Camps

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The participants at the end of the Peace Camp

Peace Camps are overnight retreats that bring together Arab and Jewish participants from East and West Jerusalem and the West Bank for intensive basketball, educational and trust-building trust activities. There have been two Camps in the past few months, and they have been really successful. Highlights include a dance-off between American Fellow LaToya Fisher and the younger participants and seeing the Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants, who help run the Camps, turn into amazing leaders and coaches. At the most recent Peace Camp, participants did a basketball activity that involved learning new basketball terms in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It was fun to watch participants learn and use new terms right away. Sadly, there will only be one more Peace Camp during this program year; it takes place in May.

Youth Entrepreneurship Program

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The ladies of PeaceStagram during their nature session

In the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP), the girls of PeaceStagram have started taking photographs for their gallery showing and the ladies of Girls Gone Green (GGG) have created more masterpieces for their upcoming exhibit. YEP has brought in special guests like Muayad, a professional photographer from Jerusalem, who has traveled internationally, and gave the girls neat tips and tricks to take their photographs to the next level. Both projects will be displaying their work to the public at the end of April or in early May.

Twinnings

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The girls of Ein Kerem (Jewish school) and Ein Rafa (Arab school) during a twinning

All of the school and community basketball teams in the Jerusalem area that work with PPI-ME participate in twinnings – joint activities between Arab and Jewish teams – and this season, the twinnings have been a lot of fun. In one twinning between the boys of Tal Shachar (Jewish school) and Ein Rafa (Arab school), a Jewish participant who wanted to know an Arab participant’s name asked him “What’s your name?” in Arabic. The Arab participant smiled and was impressed to hear the Jewish participant speaking Arabic. It really helped to set the mood for the twinning. In another twinning between the girls of Ein Kerem (Jewish school) and Ein Rafa (Arab school), one of the Arab participants tried to learn all of the names of the girls from Ein Kerem, which proved to be a difficult task, but the girls from Ein Kerem appreciated the effort.

In sum, things are going well in Jerusalem as we head into the Passover holiday. Even though it’s a holiday, however, things won’t slow down much here at PPI-ME. Coaching clinics and leadership workshops will be taking place during the break, and once the kids head back to school, twinnings and practices will resume. Stay tuned!

In-Season Update: Nahariya/Tamra 14-and-Under All-Stars Team

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The team huddles together after a big win against Arabe

It has been a fun and exciting year for PeacePlayers International – Middle East’s (PPI-ME) Nahariya/Tamra 14-and-under All-Star team. This past week they officially moved into second place in their league, and with four games left in the season they are still within striking distance of first place. As we close in on the end of the season, we want to recap some of the memorable moments of the season and take a look at how this team has grown throughout the year.

The 14-and-under All-Stars have made huge strides on the court this year. This past week, with their win over Arabe, they officially moved into second place in their league. It was a very intense game and the team was down by as much as 11 points in the first half before taking control and winning the game by 10 points. It was a whole team effort and showed the determination and resilience the team has. Another thrilling win came a month ago after beating Kaokab, a team that hasn’t lost in two seasons. “It was so exciting! All of the players (including those on the bench) felt the tension and were completely into the game. It was so much fun for everyone and we were so happy,” said Noam (13, Nahariya).

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Lilian going for a layup during a game this season

The personal connections between the girls on the team also grew significantly this season. This became especially evident when the girls started planning activities together outside of practices and games. One of the most unforgettable times was when they came together for Roni’s birthday party. “Roni’s birthday was amazing. It was so great celebrating it with the whole team. We laughed and really talked and it was a fun and bonding evening for everyone,” explains Noam.

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Courtney, Alhan and some of the team members on the bench before a game

It has been such an enjoyable year for everyone involved with the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars. The coaches continue to work hard to help the girls become better both individually and as a team, and it really shows. They have grown so much together on and off the court and it has been special to witness. When Roni was asked about this season, this was her response: “Last year we were just playing together. This year we became great friends. I am just as close to the girls from Tamra as I am to the Nahariya girls.” Noam agrees that their connection has intensified, “It is much stronger this year. We really talk with each other and all of the girls are very open with each other.”

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Selfie time! The team celebrating after a win

Everyone at PPI-ME is excited to see what the future holds for these girls. Their determination, compassion, effort and teamwork are qualities that every team should try to emulate. Their togetherness inspires us all.

PPI-ME Wishes Everyone A Happy International Women’s Day!

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Three PPI-ME participants having fun at a practice in Tamra

On March 8th each year, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is a day to reflect on the circumstances of women around the world, to commit to helping women and girls achieve their dreams, and to help forge a more gender-inclusive world. IWD brings attention to the fact that millions of women around the world face discrimination and hardship every day. IWD encourages all of us to help build and maintain more inclusive societies.

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Nitsan, Jinan and Aya keeping score at a PPI-ME activity

At PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME), we are keenly aware of the myriad obstacles that women face to full and equal treatment and participation in many societies around the world. In both Palestinian and Israeli societies, women face numerous barriers which often prevent their participation in sports and other community activities. Many girls are lacking the support systems they need to get involved in programs like PPI-ME. For every 100 Palestinian boys who play at sports clubs, only 28 girls do the same. In Israel, women aged 13 and older make up only 12% of athletes and less than 8% of trainers.

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Yasmeen enjoying a Big Friday Twinning in Jerusalem

These shocking statistics are one of the many reasons that we at PPI-ME focus on engaging females in our programs and are proud to say that 70% of our participants are female – many of whom come from conservative and underprivileged communities where opportunities are scarce. PPI-ME gives female participants the opportunity to participate in sports programs that may not be available in their communities, to develop skills and experience that boost their confidence and increase their employ-ability, and to meet people they would most likely otherwise never have the chance to meet.

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Githa (PPI-ME Project Manager in the North) at a bowling activity with participants from Meiser and Kfar Saba

IWD is a chance to celebrate the courageous, powerful and beautiful women who make choices everyday that promote gender equality and it’s a chance for us at PPI-ME to celebrate the young girls and women who combat social norms in Palestine and Israel. IWD is about unity, inclusion, bridging divides and changing perceptions – all of the things that PeacePlayers advocates for on a daily basis. We at PPI-ME are so proud of our participants and everyone we work with, who actively contribute to women’s equality and who strengthen their communities by doing so. Happy IWD to everyone!

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Courtney (American Fellow) with PPI-ME participants after a Twinning in Northern Israel

#WhoRunTheWorld #Girls

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-ME Gets the Red Carpet Treatment in Monaco

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Duha (left) with Heni (middle) and Managing Director Karen (right)

In this week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) blog post, PPI-ME participant, Duha, recalls her recent trip to Monaco to speak at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2017 and the VIP treatment she and the other PPI-ME participants received throughout the trip.

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Group selfie before the rehearsal begins

My name is Duha and I was one of the first Arab girls to participate in PPI-ME. In February, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Monaco with with my friend and Jewish PPI-ME participant, Heni, and PPI-ME Managing Director, Karen, to attend the Laureus World Sports Awards 2017. Heni and I spoke on live television at the award ceremony about PPI-ME’s work and demonstrating the value of sport for social change. I was nervous about speaking in front of so many people and about being on live television, but the staff at the rehearsal were great. They helped me and Heni prepare bullet points and organize our thoughts, which made me feel more at ease. It was also cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at television production.

Plus, we were treated like celebrities throughout the entire trip. We had a private driver, stayed in a beautiful hotel, were invited to dinner on a yacht, and every time we introduced ourselves as PeacePlayers, people would say they knew about us and were very welcoming. I met several gold medalists and athletes, including “Sportsman of the Year” winner and track phenomenon Usain Bolt, “Comeback of the Year” winner and swimmer Michael Phelps, and football legend Carles Puyol.

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Duha and Heni with Michael Phelps

Aside from the amazing treatment and beautiful sites, it was the first time in a while that Heni and I got to spend concentrated time together. We both started university this year and we no longer see each other as often as we used to. It was great catching up on life without having to discuss a twinning, a practice, or an attendance sheet.

I am so grateful to PPI-ME for all of the opportunities it has given me. I will never forget this trip and will cherish the memories it has given me.

PeacePlayers Takes Over Norway!

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The entire group on the last night

This week’s blog is a recap of some of the experiences of PeacePlayers-Middle East (PPI-ME) participants during their recent trip to Norway.

In mid-February, participants from all four PeacePlayers International (PPI) sites had the privilege of traveling to Norway for the third leg of our Erasmus+ Lead4Peace exchange. It was a wonderful week  of cultural exchange, leadership development and, of course, basketball. The exchange was made possible through a European Union grant called Erasmus­­+, which focuses on education, training and youth sport. Click on these links to read about PPI’s previous Erasmus­­+ exchanges in Cyprus and the Middle East.

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Ofir ready for some hockey!

For PPI-ME participants, the trip to Norway began with both excitement and nerves; participants were excited to see their friends from other sites who they’d met on previous exchanges, but they were also nervous because, unlike on previous exchanges, in Norway, participants were staying with host families. Everyone’s nerves settled after one night, however, as all of the participants declared the next morning that they, in fact, were staying with the best host family.

One of the highlights of the trip for all exchange participants were the snow activities. The entire group spent two days in an amazing hotel in the forest where participants went dog sledding, played ice hockey on a frozen lake, went snowboarding, and enjoyed sledding. Participants Bashar and Gur had some additional unique experiences including early-morning ice bathing in only shorts and a t-shirt with their host family and skiing for the first time in their host family’s backyard!

Another highlight of the trip was when participants went to different schools in the area to speak about their experience with PPI. This was the best part of the trip for Nitzan because of the bond she formed with the participants she was paired with from other sites for the presentation. She was nervous to present but her partners gave her courage and confidence.

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Some of the participants posing after the school presentations

For many, a memorable part of the trip was the last night when participants said their goodbyes. They played videos from previous exchanges, laughed and danced together, and shed MANY TEARS. For Malak, the last night was special because it allowed participants to talk and share things they hadn’t had a chance to say during the week. It was also an opportunity to speak with people she hadn’t seen much during the week. That was bittersweet because after speaking with them she wished there was more time to get to know them. Over one short week, these participants and families, who started as strangers, became friends and were sad to part ways.

Each Erasmus+ trips has been amazing and saying goodbye gets harder and harder. The PPI-ME participants are already asking about who gets to go to Northern Ireland in July.

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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!