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 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.
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