It's Cool to be a PeacePlayer!Bridging divides through hoops.
I was one of the first coaches at the start of PeacePlayers International (PPI) in Durban, South Africa 15 years ago. PeacePlayers combined my two great passions (youth and basketball) so it was a natural fit. Basketball was relatively new in South Africa and was not associated with any historical and racial ties that were sometimes a barrier to participation in other sports. Basketball was fast, cool and we were were young, idealistic and hopeful. We believed we could change the world and with every bounce we believed we were getting closer to our dreams. We also believed that basketball could transform the lives of young people.
I had the opportunity to help PPI develop into one of the best sport for development programmes using the game of basketball to build relationships between youth in divided communities. In 2006, I moved to London and started working for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. I remained involved with the organisation as it was one of the programmes supported by Laureus.
It had been 10 years since I had been involved with PeacePlayers delivery and last week I was part of the PeacePlayers family once again, delivering and sharing the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport Programme with PeacePlayers' global network of youth leaders. The camp was implemented by PeacePlayers International-Cyprus and is one of many interventions done to develop stronger relationships with young people. PPI-CY delivers year-round bi-communal basketball for peace and development program which involve participants from Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. The idea is simple, through the game of basketball, participants are encouraged to see each other as people rather than objects. This concept is the bases of PeacePlayers innovative basketball-based curriculum developed in partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Arbinger Institute, a global center for the study of interpersonal conflict. The beauty of PeacePlayers message lies in its simplicity "children who play together will learn to live together."
The Annual Summer Camp was held at the Rodon Hotel in Agros from the 21st to the 26th of July. The camp was aimed at sharing knowledge and expertise from different PPI sites, improving basketball skills and developing leadership skills. The Camp involved participants from Cyprus, the Middle East, Northern Ireland and South Africa. This was the first time that PPI has been able to bring all their youth leaders from around the world together. As PeacePlayers looks to the future the focus is on creating pathways for youth leaders and provide youth with skills to bring about positive change in their communities and be catalyst for bridging divides in their communities.
The camp also had special guest coaches who shared their experiences and inspired participants. Galatasaray basketball star Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu, and former New Orleans Jazz star and member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, Aaron James, were generous with their time and connected with participants about basketball and some of the leadership challenges they have faced. Şebnem told participants that "No matter what role you play in a team, you can still be a leader."
Classroom sessions were also delivered by experts in their respective fields; and subjects included leadership development (including exploring youth leadership, facilitation and communication), conflict resolution training, core values exploration, nutrition and growth, and team building.
A massive shout out to the PPI-Cyprus staff on an inspiring event. I learned a lot from your team and I was inspired by your humility, generosity and passion for developing youth through sport. This was much more than a basketball camp and judging from the look on participants faces, you were able to create a transformational and safe environment for youth to share their challenges and ideas for the future. We thank you and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation for inviting Reach Sports to be a part of this great week. It was a great privilege to be a part of the camp. ReachHigher.
The camp was funded through the European Union’s Cypriot Civil Society in Action IV financial assistance package within the framework of the ‘Promoting Peace and Wellness in Cyprus’ project with co-funding and support from the United States Embassy in Cyprus, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, adidas and Jotun.
We celebrate the power of sport to make a difference in communities around the world.