Hearing from our Alumni at the start of 2023

20 Years of impact

January 17, 2023

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On PeacePlayers' First Ever Global Exchange

“PeacePlayers Cyprus hosted the global organization’s first ever international exchange in 2015, it was a huge step for PeacePlayers, because we became an organization with not only each site operating on its own to solve their conflicts, but an organization with all sites working together and sharing knowledge to resolve global challenges.


Global connections are really important for the development of youth as well. You get access to different perspectives and knowledge from all around the world by people with different backgrounds.


Furthermore, kids get to build relationships with people from other sites with a common purpose. Those friendships teach them how to collaborate and work together to make positive changes all over the world.
People working together is really powerful. Two people cannot move a truck on its own but if hundreds
of people come and work together they will be able to move the truck. I think PeacePlayers operates the same way. One site on its own can only impact their community but all the sites working together can give a more powerful message all around the world.”

 

-Turhan, PeacePlayers Cyprus Alumni Coach, 8 years in PeacePlayers

Turhan CY

On "Going Local"

“In the beginning, when PeacePlayers got started, it was basically all American, with maybe one or two Northern Irish staff. Basketball was the sport that was used since it was perceived to be a neutral sport here, not like some other sports that are tied to a specific group. By the time I joined PeacePlayers in 2012, the program was already led by local people, but together with American fellows. For me, the fact that the coaches come from here is a good thing, because they’ve gone through what we’re going through. Actually, what they went through is a lot worse than what we’ve seen. Joanne has been that person for me. She’s my role model, and I’ve told her that I look up to her on many occasions. People like Joanne have taught me that it’s ok to be different, and that your differences are what make you you.


Now, I’m a coach in PeacePlayers, too, and I get to be that person for someone else.”

 

– Liam, Alumnus of Belfast Interface League and Leadership Development Program, currently a coach with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland

Liam NI

On Building PeacePlayers' Newest programs in the U.S.

As an alumna of the Global Fellowship program, I couldn’t be more proud of the trajectory of the organization and to be in a position to shape PeacePlayers work in the United States. America is a land of diversity and possibilities and while those possibilities haven’t historically been accessible to all and the richness of our diversity never fully celebrated, sport was one of the first frontiers of the fight for equality. 

 

PeacePlayers is uniquely positioned to play an integral part in this work. Our years of experience using sport to bridge divides and develop leaders in some of the most divided places in the world affirm this. Five years ago, Nike made the investment to expand our work in the US. Together with our community partners, local leaders across five cities and our institutional partners such as the NBA Foundation, Laureus, Beyond Sport, and Nike, we are building a local yet national movement of youth leaders equipped with the resources and networks to not only make a peaceful and equitable America possible but to lead choice-filled lives.”

 

– Sally Nnamani, alumna of PeacePlayers’ International Fellowship Program (Northern Ireland) and currently the Director of Programs and Partnerships at PeacePlayers United States

Sally

On PeacePlayers' Ripple Effect in the Community

“Over the past 20 years, PeacePlayers has bridged divides and embraced diversity. When PeacePlayers started in South Africa in 2002, South Africa was just eight years a free and democratic country after Apartheid, so many communities still didn’t understand each other. PeacePlayers brought us together.

 

On a personal Level, PeacePlayers has meant a lot in my life. After high school, I didn’t really have anything to do. I was bored, and unemployment was high in Wentworth where I lived. I joined a gang and started dealing drugs. One day in 2006, when PeacePlayers came to my community to do coaching clinics, I joined them just to see what it was all about. I loved the way PeacePlayers treated the children and also and also the basketball got me hooked. I learned that there’s more out there than dealing drugs. I then became a coach – other kids started looking to me as a father figure. I grew a bond with the children and staff, and as much as I was teaching the children life skills, it was also teaching me about life. 

 

From 2006 until this very date, I’ve never sold another drug in my life. In 2014, I started an organization called Children Have a Dream Foundation. I’m a motivational speaker for youth and many high schools invite me to speak to the youth. I’d hope to stay involved in PeacePlayers in the coming years, focusing my energy on mentoring and training other coaches.”

 

– Sheldon Francis, PeacePlayers alumnus and former coach, 16 years with PeacePlayers

Sheldon SA

On PeacePlayers' Work to Empower it's Female Athletes

I remember in the beginning, PeacePlayers used to have a lot of boys and not many girls. And of course that’s understandable, because it’s much harder to bring Arab Palestinian girls, especially in more conservative places like Jerusalem, to come and participate in sports. But it’s amazing to see how this shifted to where PeacePlayers is involving more girls in programs. So, 

I think it’s beautiful that right now PeacePlayers Middle East is like 70% girls. 

 

Growing up, I told a lot of people that I was an athlete, that I actually played serious basketball as part of the national Israeli team [a PeacePlayers All-Star Team]. But many people wouldn’t actually listen to me or take me seriously. And it would make me angry, because comments like these make you understand how much people underestimate female sports in general, but also me being a Palestinian athlete, trying to thrive in that world.

 

But once we realized the honor and respect that all of our coaches gave us and the seriousness that they treated us with, we started understanding that we can’t actually force people to respect us, but we have to respect ourselves. Until today, I remember these perfect times, these amazing times. And I’m just so happy that I had the chance to be involved in such an amazing program and still be involved, actually.”

 

– Malak,

Palestinian alumna of the PeacePlayers Middle East Leadership Development Program and All-Stars teams

Malak ME

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