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!

USAID Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation and PeacePlayers International Begin Two-Year Cooperative Agreement

USAIDimageProgram will expand, deepen and sustain PeacePlayers International’s work in Israel and the West Bank

Washington, DC – On September 16, 2015, a contract became effective between PeacePlayers International (PPI) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation to implement a two-year cooperative agreement. The two organizations will work together through the summer of 2017 to dramatically broaden PPI’s outreach in Israel and the West Bank using the game of basketball to unite and educate hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli young people as well as influential key personnel in both communities.

PPI’s Managing Director in Israel and the West Bank, Karen Doubilet, comments, “PPI is grateful for USAID’s partnership, which enables us to scale up our impact, providing high-quality, impactful programming to facilitate cooperation between, and build the capacities of, Palestinian and Israel youth and key people.”

USAID will fund more than half the costs of the project for the life of the grant, expected to reach over 700 Palestinian and Israeli young people as well as individuals who have been classified as “key people,” who will aid in bringing about structural change. The program includes four project components: Children and Youth Activities, Youth Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, Leadership Development Program and Sports Diplomats for Peace. Through the project, PPI – ME will bring six high-profile athletes and coaches, and a conflict resolution expert from the United States who will lead a series of capacity building workshops for Palestinians and Israelis. All activities will revolve around PPI’s unique basketball-based peacebuilding curriculum, developed in partnership with the Arbinger Institute and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

About PeacePlayers International: PeacePlayers International (PPI) is an innovative nonprofit organization that uses the game of basketball to unite and educate young people and their communities. Founded in 2001 on the premise that children who play together can learn how to live together, PeacePlayers International currently operates programs in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel and the West Bank, Cyprus and Washington, DC that have collectively reached over 69,000 young people. For more information, please visit www.peaceplayersintl.org.

PPI and USAID launch Two New Programs

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PeacePlayers:  bringing kids together through joint basketball and leadership activities!

PeacePlayers International – Middle East is committed to providing important, exciting opportunities for participants. Thanks to our continued partnership with USAID, this year we are implementing two new projects, Sports Diplomats for Peace and Youth Entrepreneurship Programs.  We will also continue our regular programming with Joint Activities (Twinnings), All Star Teams (mixed league teams), and Peace Education (conflict transformation programming).

USAIDimagePeacePlayers will continue to empower participants through the Youth Entrepreneurship Program.  Six graduates from the Leadership Development and Conflict for Reconciliation programs will work in mixed Palestinian-Israeli pairs to build their own peacebuilding initiatives.  There will be two components over the span of two years.  In the first year the participants will attend lectures offering them hands-on training and a deeper understanding of project management and public advocacy.  By the end of the first year, the mixed pairs will have completed a project concept and budget.  In the second year, the pairs will receive a budget to actuate their projects with the help of PPI staff and mentors.  It will be a great experience for the youth to build a project from the ground up! This project is being generously sponsored by LinkedIn for Good as co-funders with a larger USAID project.

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Jamie Walsh (far right) was a fellow and is now managing the two new projects

Project Manager Jamie Walsh, who previously was a fellow for PPI-ME,  is “excited to see what the participants in the Youth Entrepreneurship program come up with for their projects.”  She is interested to see PeacePlayer participants incorporate the skills they’ve learned through PPI into the new programming.

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PPI participants are learning new skills at a basketball clinic.

With our new programming, Sports Diplomats for Peace, PeacePlayers is planning on engaging well-known American athletes, coaches, and conflict mitigation specialists to help lead activities for both PPI participants and unaffiliated youth from Israel and the West Bank.  These activities will include retreats, camps, and conflict resolution sessions.  Walsh is looking forward to “reaching out to non-PPI participants and showing them what we are all about.”  We are excited to continue engaging with the larger community in the PeacePlayer way thanks to the support of USAID and LinkedIn For Good!

VIPs and DC Teen Leaders See PPI – ME in Action in Back-to-Back Delegations

PPI board members, friends and supporters at the start of a memorable visit with PPI - ME

PPI board members, friends and supporters at the start of a memorable visit with PPI – ME

PeacePlayers Middle East hosted two amazing groups from the United States for two weeks back-to-back. Our first visitors were PeacePlayers board members, friends and supporters, including Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute Ron Shapiro, PPI Board Member and Adidas General Manager for South East Europe Lawrence Norman, PPI Board Member and ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford. In addition, we were visited by Jay Wright, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Villanova University, and NBA Coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers. Some of the visitors also brought their family members along to share the PeacePlayers experience and story with them. We had quite an unforgettable crew!

During the board trip, we were always on the move trying to fit in as many experiences, stories, and sites this region has to offer as possible. There was plenty of action on the court, historical and geo-political tours to offer some context to help understand our work and a feast at the Program Director’s house that felt more like a big family dinner. Another highlight was a special Twinning we held together with friends from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, The U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem and USAID. Our youth and board got that chance to meet our U.S. Government partners, who are among the biggest supports of our work. Visitors included Bill Grant, Charge d’Affairs, U.S Embassy Tel Aviv; Dave Harden, Mission Director, USAID West Bank/Gaza; Donald Blome, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem; and Robin Solomon, Cultural Attaché, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem.

Another high point of the trip was when Ron Shapiro sat and had a talk with the older participants. It was amazing to watch because he did not deliver a speech but rather just asked them what was on their minds and how they felt about life. They shared their thoughts and he shared his life experience. It was casual, impactful, and rewarding. It goes without saying that there was a lot of basketball involved too. Coaches Brown and Wright were kind enough to run clinics in the north, West Bank, and Jerusalem. It definitely reiterated that basketball is a universal language.

Ron Shapiro's talk with PPI youth was amazing to watch because he did not deliver a speech but rather just asked them what was on their minds and how they felt about life.

Ron Shapiro with a PPI-ME participant.

For me as a Fellow, I fell in love with the program once again. It reconfirmed my belief in PeacePlayers’ mission to hear Toot and Duha, two members of the Leadership Development Program (LDP), share stories about their transformations since they’ve entered the program. PPI has impacted so many young people, and especially young women. It was an honor sharing PeacePlayers Middle East with our guests and their families.

The second group of visitors arrived immediately following the board trip. Through a program called Junior Sports Envoy for Social Change – supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – 16 student-athletes ages 15-16 from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were able to visit the region and learn about the history and conflict as well as PeacePlayers’ work in the area. The trip was part of the DC youth’s participation in a year-round Leadership Development Program launched in partnership with adidas.

Youth leaders from DC got to meet and hang out with many local participants.

Youth leaders from DC got to meet and hang out with many local participants.

Much like the board trip, each day was jam packed with activities and tours so that the group could see as much as possible during their time here. On the first day the group arrived, they were treated to a nice welcome lunch as well as a talk and clinic run by Coach Wright. The group got to meet and hang out with many of the local LDP participants as well as participate in a twinning activity. The participants also got to raft on the Jordan River and visit many historical sites. One unique part of the trip was that the U.S. participants were split into groups and got to plan and run different stations for the local participants in the north. They saw firsthand the importance of relying on other ways of communication when there is a language barrier.

It was great to hear some of the feedback and comments made by the group that came from the U.S. One of the girls said the trip was “better than visiting the White House.” Many of the participants took time each night to write down what they did each day and the conversations they had with the local participants. We also took time to reflect during the last day.

It was so much fun hosting both groups and a great way to end the summer break. We look forward to having more visitors and are now gearing up for the start of the new programming year!

Photos: Joel Dzodin

76ers’ Brett Brown, Villanova’s Jay Wright Visit PPI – Middle East

76ers Head Coach, Brett Brown, with PPI in Jerusalem. Also pictured: PPI Board Members Ron Shaprio (Founder Shapiro Negotiations Institute), Lawrence Norman (adidas General Manager for South East Europe), and Chad Ford (ESPN NBA Insider). Photo credit Joel Dzodin.

76ers Head Coach, Brett Brown, with PPI in Jerusalem. Also pictured: PPI Board Members Ron Shaprio (Founder Shapiro Negotiations Institute), Lawrence Norman (adidas General Manager for South East Europe), and Chad Ford (ESPN NBA Insider). Photo credit Joel Dzodin.

From July 27 – 31, Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach, Brett Brown, and Villanova University’s Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Jay Wright, visited PPI – Middle East to coach Palestinian and Israeli basketball players from PPI’s teams in East and West Jerusalem, the northern town of Tamra and central town of Kfar Saba.

Villanova Coach Jay Wright with PPI's Israeli and Palestinian young leaders.

Villanova Coach Jay Wright with PPI’s Israeli and Palestinian young leaders.

During the trip, Wright told reporter Mary Knight of the Catholic News Service, “The goal was to use the sport to enable Arabs and Jews to concentrate on the game of basketball — their skills and the needs of each other as teammates — and to look past the conflict and see each other as human beings, with the ultimate goal being to transform the relationships of Jews and Arabs in the younger generation.” (Read the Full Article).

The coaches were joined by Charge d’Affairs, U.S Embassy Tel Aviv, Bill Grant, Mission Director, USAID West Bank/Gaza, Dave Harden, and representatives of the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem including Consul General, Donald Blome, and Cultural Attache, Robin Solomon. Brown and Wright also participated in leadership and conflict resolution workshops led by PPI Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, Ron Shapiro, PPI Board Member and  adidas General Manager for South East Europe, Lawrence Norman, and PPI Board Member and ESPN NBA Insider, Chad Ford.

Missio Director of USAID West Bank/Gaza Dave Harden, Villanova Basketball Head Coach Jay Wright, and Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown

Missio Director of USAID West Bank/Gaza Dave Harden, Villanova Basketball Head Coach Jay Wright, and Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown

Coach Brown said, “It was incredible to see firsthand just how impactful basketball can be in bringing together young people from both sides of one of the world’s toughest conflicts. In coaching them, I saw how dedicated they are to both becoming better players and people; if peace between Israelis and Palestinians is achieved, these will be the kids behind it.”

Thank you to USAID West Bank/Gaza, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and PPI Board Member Arn Tellem for their support.

Shooting Hoops with U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro

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Israeli ambassadors and diplomats take to the court against PeacePlayers International – Middle East!

PeacePlayers International – Middle East recently had the honor to shoot hoops with United States Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro. At this special occasion, staff representatives of the United States Embassy Tel Aviv, United States Consulate General Jerusalem and USAID joined PeacePlayers on the court. PPI – ME brought buses of excited youth to the event, including members of our Leadership Development Program (LDP), Minis teams, as well as All-Stars from Jerusalem.

Our two All-Star and LDP members, Toot and Duha, started the event off right, together with Managing Director Karen Doubilet, who all shared a few words with the crowd. “Without PeacePlayers, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am now a coach and have the chance to play sports,” said Duha.

The youth participating in the event took this unique opportunity to heart and felt special during the activities with the Ambassador and staff. Showing off their twinning drills gave them time to shine, demonstrating the same activities PPI leads with both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. For the drills, the entire group was split into two sides, with each side filled with PeacePlayers, and USAID, Embassy and Consulate staff on both. Members of both sides dribbled to the center and engaged in shared action like high fives, switching balls.

Ambassador Shapiro accepted his second invitation to play with PeacePlayers. His first time playing with the group, in 2012, was also a great success. It’s not always the easy route to choose, to play with the supposed enemy, but our players are doing it and got the chance to showcase their understanding of basketball and of each other to our amazing U.S. government friends and supporters.

Thank you Ambassador Shapiro, the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, USAID and the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem!

Coaching for Reconciliation

Basketball coaches training in the Jerusalem YMCA

Basketball coaches in training at the Jerusalem YMCA

PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) and Wingate College, the premier sports education institution in Israel, have teamed up to create a two-year bilingual diploma course for coaching hopefuls who are interested in learning how to use basketball to bridge divides. The course combines basketball coaching certification classes and conflict resolution facilitation training and is made possible by the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The course also includes Hebrew and Arabic language training and a practicum, in which coaches in training get to use their new skills with PPI youth.

In order to legally coach youth sports in Israel and East Jerusalem, coaches must hold official coaches’ certifications. Currently, there are no options for Arabic Speakers to receive basketball training and certifications in their language. Coaches for Reconciliation will open that door for hundreds of potential excellent basketball coaches to serve the Palestinian community. Research has also found that many person-to-person peacebuilding initiatives fail due to untrained staff. Coaches for Reconciliation builds the capacity of young leaders through sport and intergroup facilitation to combat stereotypes and prejudgements. Because many of the participants derive from low socioeconomic means, Coaches for Reconciliation offers activities at a nominal fee and full free scholarships for those in need.

Vito Gilic on the court with PPI-ME participants

Vito Gilic on the court with PPI-ME participants

PPI-ME has been planning the Coaching for Reconciliation program for some time, and has launched thanks to the generosity of USAID, which is sponsoring the training of 20 scholars. PPI-ME director of basketball operations, Vito Gilic, reflected the importance of USAID as “a partner that has fueled the creativity and imagination of PPI-ME to actively pursue the best ideals for the PPI-ME participants.” Classes began last week, on November 19th, for these 20 students, many of whom are graduates of PPI-ME programs.

The curriculum is broken down differently in the first year than the second. In the first year, participants will spend nearly six hours a week learning how to coach basketball, while also learning the science of sport and the human body. The second year will focus on language training and the 20-hour volunteer practicum. Between both years, the participants will have two-day retreats with PPI-ME peace education facilitators Renana Gal and Nissreen Najjar as well as with Gilic. Gilic shared the mission of the Coaching for Reconciliation program. “The goal is not only for the kids to learn to coach; they must learn to educate. We want our students to lead the future generation in basketball skills but even more in life skills. This program will foster the development of healthy, open-minded people who will prepare their players to win and to lose with good sportsmanship. It is not a matter of winning the game. It’s a matter of being a winner in the life. Our coaches must be able to communicate the importance of accepting people from the other side of the conflict.” 

Neta (right) is looking forward to a future leading the younger players

Neta (right, with David Blu of Maccabi Tel Aviv) is looking forward to a future leading the younger players

With only two classes in the books, the course is already making a strong impact. PPI-ME participant Neta from West Jerusalem is taking part, and she is surprised how much she has taken away from the two sessions. “I’m now asking my coach all kinds of questions that I didn’t ask him before the course. It is developing me as a player, as it’s helping me to better understand the game.” Neta went on to share her thoughts on the addition of the conflict resolution training. “It’s very special, because this program goes beyond the basketball. It brings the kids together from the two sides learn about the game that they love.”