PeacePlayers Northern Ireland engages over 1200 Catholic and Protestant youth each year, ages 9-25, in year-round and multi-year basketball training, conflict resolution education and leadership development activities in Northern Ireland. Programs are divided into five tiers:
The Twinning program is offered to Primary Six classes in the autumn and Primary Seven classes in the spring. A typical twinning program lasts six weeks and introduces the fundamentals of basketball in conjunction with PP-NI’s peace-building curriculum, which incorporates the Northern Ireland Personal Development and Mutual Understanding (PDMU) academic curriculum.
The new LDP will incorporate core elements of each of these existing program in the new structure. The LDP will work with at least 25 young people aged 14-18 years The LDP will have 5 program objectives: 1. Unite young people on a regional level 2. Develop core competencies in leadership skills 3. Develop understanding of using basketball as a tool. 4. Provide experiential learning opportunities 5. Facilitate training in PeacePlayers Core Values.
Four camps are organized across the city, in north, south, east and west Belfast. At each camp, up to 50 young people, from either side of some of Belfast’s most notorious interfaces, come together to play Gaelic football, rugby and soccer. Coaching stations, led by coaches from each of the three sports, are complemented by a ‘fourth half’ of interactive community relations conversations led by PeacePlayers Northern Ireland facilitators.
of participants got along well or very well with the participants from a different religious background, and 70% of them attribute that response to their experience with PeacePlayers!
of respondents answered 5 out of 10 for how confident they felt in their basketball skills, and 95% of them attribute that response to their experience with PeacePlayers!
of respondents enjoyed the virtual CCL sessions that PeacePlayers ran, with “seeing my teammates” and “the competitions against or with my teammates” ranking as the top reasons for this
of respondents were not taking part in any other virtual sessions outside of those with PeacePlayers
Gareth took up the position of Managing Director with PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PeacePlayers) in March 2009, having previously worked as Programmes Manager with a regional rural community development organization. He has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Geography, and an MSc in Town and Country Planning, both from the Queens University Belfast. Gareth also has a Post Graduate Certificate in Management and a Master in Business Administration (MBA), both from the Open University. Gareth is a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic programming and holds additional qualifications in Executive Coaching and Sustainable Investment for the 3rd Sector. Gareth has expertise in strategic planning; people, project and financial management; and a focus on outcomes based accountability. Gareth has over 15 years’ experience at Senior Management level and over 25 years of experience of managing teams and change for sustainability in the community / voluntary and Not-for-Profit sector. Gareth is married, has two teenage daughters and hails from Co. Down
At the age of 10 Laura became involved with a victim’s group in her local area of Co. Down. She helps local people affected by “The Troubles”, and has been elected onto the committee each year since the age of 17. The group has been a big influence in her life and it is only fitting that this passion for peace has transferred into the start of her career.
Laura became involved with PeacePlayers when undertaking her university placement year, and took on a full time position after graduating from Ulster University with a BSc (Hons) in Business Studies with Marketing. PeacePlayers also led to Laura being recruited to play rugby for Ballynahinch RFC.
Debbie Byrne took up the position of Operations Team Leader in Peace Players International – Northern Ireland in November 2013. Debbie previously worked for Youth Initiatives, a cross-community youth work organization for 17 years. Debbie also worked for the Bytes Project for a year as a Cross Community Worker. Debbie has a BA Honours in Political Science and later worked and studied at the same time to obtain a Diploma in Informal and Community Education. Debbie starting playing basketball at age 12 and went on to play for her school, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland and Sporting Belfast who who played in all Ireland National League. Debbie is connected with Phoenix Basketball in Lisburn where her children play and compete. Debbie is married with 3 children and loves the work of Peace Players International – Northern Ireland because it is a marriage of two of her passions: basketball and community relations work.
Joanne was born and raised in Co. Down and attended St. Louis’ Grammar School in Kilkeel, where she discovered her love of basketball. Joanne played for the Southern Education and Library Board basketball team during the Golden Cow Youth Games in 2001 and later went on to play for the Ulster Basketball Association (UBA) for 4 years. Alongside her love of basketball, Joanne has always had a passion for working with children and young people. In 2001, Joanne joined the Down Youth Council and was a member for two years. In 2007, Joanne helped to start up the Down Vikings Basketball Club, where she met Dave Cullen (former PPI board member) and Will Maloney (former PPI fellow).
Joanne officially joined the PeacePlayers team in 2008. Her passion for basketball and working with young people has allowed Joanne to grow within the organization. Joanne now coaches the PeacePlayers U12 girls team and coordinates programming in North Belfast and the Junior Champions4Peace programme. She is currently completing her degree in Youth Work and volunteers in Whiterock Youth Club in her spare time.
Aoife started working with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland in 2017 on placement as part of her degree where she was challenged to explore Youth Work in a new context. She has been working as a Youth Worker across Northern Ireland for the past 8 years and now has a BA Honours in Youth and Community Work.
As the first ever junior member of her school’s Sports Committee, Aoife has always been involved in and advocated for team sports. From Dublin, she uses her unique position as an outsider to the conflict in Northern Ireland as a tool to open up conversations and learn alongside participants. As a coach Aoife has been able to journey alongside various groups of participants as they engage in sport, informal education, team building and leadership opportunities.
Growing up in Belfast, Good Relations was a huge part of my upbringing. I was constantly actively involved in the local community and developed a passion of trying to better the community. I became a young leader in a local T:BUC Programme in my area called Uniting Communities through Creativity and Sport. Beyond being a young leader, I was quite involved in the local politics, especially in trying to get the youth voice heard. I volunteered for the Children’s Law Centre, NICCY and even founded a young person’s political lobby group called OFOCNI. Caring for young people’s voices in the local community was a strong motivator in what I did.
I continued to develop through the Uniting Communities Young Leader Programme for a few years and graduated to become a Uniting Communities Young Ambassador. This is how I got to know PeacePlayers. PeacePlayers were responsible for developing and running this programme, and after being through their training programme showing how to promote good relations through Basketball, I knew I wanted to be involved. After this training, I was hired as Sessional Coach for PeacePlayers and 1 year later, I’m now in this position. The opportunities and chances to grow that PeacePlayers have gave me has been unmatched. Presently, I am studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Queen’s University Belfast. I’m still not great at Basketball but have definitely got better!
Rachel grew up in Ardoyne, within proximity to multiple hot spots areas known for conflict. She began her PeacePlayers journey in 2009 where she took part in the Holy Cross Girls and Wheatfield Primary School Twinning.
Over the past 13 years she has taken part in several of our programmes beginning in the Cross Community League moving to the Ambassadors Programme, to the Champions for Peace Programme and graduating within the Coaches Development Programme. Rachel is currently a Sessional Coach working in a range of areas in Northern Ireland and the Local Project Coordinator for East Belfast.
Rachel is also a recent Graduate of Queen’s University Belfast and has a BA Hons degree in Film Studies and Production. She has a passion for the creative field and spends her free time completing paintings. Rachel eventually hopes to complete a Midwifery degree in the future whilst continuing to encourage growth and inspire others the way that PeacePlayers have inspired and encouraged her.
AJ grew up on the Ardoyne Interface, an area where the two main communities in Northern Ireland meet. She began her PeacePlayers journey in 2009, when she participated in the Wheatfield and Holy Cross Girls Twinning.
Over the past twelve years, she has developed and graduated through various PeacePlayers programmes. Starting as a participant in the Cross Community League, Champions4Peace programme and graduating from the Coaches Development Programme, she progressed onto being a Sessional Coach. AJ is now currently the Local Project Coordinator for North Belfast, the area where her journey first started.
AJ is currently in her final year of studying Sport and Exercise Science (BSc) at University of Ulster Jordanstown, hoping to graduate and continue her career working with children and young people. Her work with PeacePlayers has greatly influenced the career path she has chosen, and approaches all work with the mantra “be the person you needed when you were younger”. AJ is excited to step into this new role, knowing the inspirational change PeacePlayers can have on a young person’s life, and is extremely passionate about delivering good relations in North Belfast and beyond!
Patricia got involved with PeacePlayers NI in late 2020 through her involvement with Ards Rangers Football Club, when PPNI and Ards & North Down Borough Council were organising a local Game of 3 Halves. The event took place virtually in March 2021 but all clubs remained engaged to deliver an in-person session in April 2022. During this time, Patricia took the opportunity to work towards an OCN in Promoting Diversity through Sport, delivered by PeacePlayers to coaches from Ards Rangers FC and St Paul’s GAA, Holywood.
Patricia has been volunteering with Ards Rangers FC for a number of years in a variety of roles: organising events, safeguarding, public relations, starting up a mental health team and most recently, a women’s football team. In 2021, she was awarded the Irish Football Association’s Football For All award for her volunteer work and is now a committee member with Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association.
Patricia is from Co. Down but has lived in Galway, Dublin and Yorkshire. She now lives in Newtownards with her husband and two sons.
Jim is an experienced broadcast journalist, presenter and producer. He has a track record in award-winning documentaries for television. He has also presented radio news, television news programmes and many outside broadcasts over more than a decade in the frontline of broadcasting in Northern Ireland. He has detailed experience in crafting news bulletins and daily news for radio, television, online and print. He has worked on programmes including politics, business and economics. He has managed independent productions and digital media projects. He is currently working on a number of internationally focused documentaries and new media projects in collaboration with others. Jim has specific expertise in politics, economics and investigative work. He is a frequent host of public events including conferences, seminars and customer engagement sessions. Jim is married with four young children and lives in Belfast.
Lisa has extensive experience working with companies in every sector across Northern Ireland establishing and developing relationships at a senior level. Lisa, who gained a degree in Business Management from Queen’s University, Belfast, also holds a Masters in International Business and received a Level 5 Award in Leadership and Management from the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Belfast. More recently, Lisa has completed the IoD Certificate in Company Direction (Level 9). Lisa works as Business Development Manager in The Institute of Directors in NI. Lisa’s former positions include Business Development Executive at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Northern Ireland and as a consultant to firms in the food and drink sector in Northern Ireland.
Peter is Public Affairs Specialist ~ Northern Ireland, U.S. Consulate Belfast. Peter oversees the Public Diplomacy function for the U.S. Department of State in Northern Ireland. He has oversight for a range of responsibilities that augment international connections or develop awareness of U.S. foreign policies. His role has involved the management of high-level events at home and abroad, including Presidential/State visits, G8/G20 summits, and rapid-response work overseas in the physical evacuation of American citizens. He provides strategic direction to a number of management boards run by the British Council, the International Fund for Ireland and Belfast City Council. In addition, he sits on a number of selection panels for international initiatives such as the Washington Ireland Program, the U.K. Fulbright Commission, and the Irish Institute at Boston College. A graduate in Tourism from the University of Northumbria, Peter has previously occupied roles in Moyle District Council, and Armagh City Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. He holds an MSc with Distinction in Political Communication and Public Affairs. Born and bred in County Armagh, he is married with two young children.
Emma is an experienced fundraising manager working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for 11 years, specialising in event fundraising, community and small corporate fundraising in Northern Ireland. More recently she has managed a remote team of staff across the island of Ireland and Scotland to support volunteers and engage with the community.
Prior to joining the RNLI Emma worked for the Northern Ireland Civil Service as a graduate entrant as a Project Team Leader in the Social Security Agency focusing on managing a direct marketing campaign and project management. Emma holds a BSC (Hons) degree in Geography from Queens University Belfast and spent a year studying business at Albright College in Reading Pennsylvania through the Business Education Initiative. She holds the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma in Marketing and is currently studying for the Advanced Diploma in Sustainable Investment for the Third Sector at the Ulster University. She is a certified member of the Institute of Fundraising and a member of Fundraising Ireland.
Susan is a business consultant with Deloitte, specialising in strategy and operations within the life sciences sector and has also worked with public and third sector clients. Susan is a former board member of Basketball Northern Ireland and has volunteered and played with Phoenix Basketball Club for the last 15 years.
A Partner in the firm of Macaulay & Ritchie, Solicitors, in Belfast, having studied law at Queen’s University Belfast, he played rugby for Queen’s University Belfast, Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and the British Lions. Trevor is a former Vice Chairman of East Belfast Ulster Unionist Party; and Co-Chairman of the One Small Step Campaign, promoting a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland; and a Director of The Ireland Funds and The Mediation Network. He is also a Trustee of the RUC George Cross Foundation and a Non-Executive Director of Independent News & Media (NI) Ltd. Trevor has also served as a member of the Policing Board for Northern Ireland. He is Vice Chairman of Rally Ireland and is on the Northern Ireland Board of the British Council (Northern Ireland).
Michael has been volunteering with PeacePlayers for this past three years through partnership with the Study USA Alumni Association of which he is the chairman. The Study USA program sends Northern Ireland Students to American Colleges for a year to study business and has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Michael Studied Management and Computer Science at Queens University Belfast and graduated in 2002 after having also spent a year at the University of Evansville in Indiana Studying Business. He worked in England as a Software Developer for Atos Origin before returning to Northern Ireland to work for the PRM Group of companies which is his family business. PRM is Ireland’s largest independent chilled foods company employing 200 staff in Sales, Logistics, Transport and Manufacturing. Michael is a keen motorcyclist and is the Head Road Captain and Webmaster for the Belfast Chapter Harley Owners Group.
As Design Director in Page Setup, Alan is responsible for devising design strategy and ensuring the companies Clients are communicating, efficiently and effectively. A chartered designer, he has been involved in the design and delivery of many high profile campaigns for both the public and private sectors and spent many years overseas working for major design and advertising agencies including the Mojo agency in Australia. With over 23 years experience in design and marketing he continually addresses all elements within the ever changing communications field. A keen sportsman, Alan fought for Ireland’s main Karate team who were based in Dublin, throughout the golden years of karate (late 80s up to 1994) and was one of the youngest fighters to represent Ireland at full international level gaining over 14 full international caps. He was also awarded one of the highest grades in Ireland at that time by the legendary Tatsuo Suzuki, 8th Dan (Hanshi). He has also a keen interest in boxing and was involved in coaching both Karate and Boxing in areas of social deprivation throughout Belfast. He still maintains a strong interest in sport and the benefits it can deliver.
has taught in primary and post primary schools in Belfast and is now an Assistant Advisory Officer for Primary Schools in the Southern Education and Library Board. She has responsibility for the Schools Community Relations Programme in that board. The SCRP is a programme funded directly by the Department of Education which provides training and resources for schools in the controlled and maintained sectors to work together on collaborative projects focusing on mutual respect and understanding. She is also involved in the design and implementation of training days and resources for teachers involved in the delivery of Personal Development and Mutual Understanding with a specific focus on dealing with difficult or sensitive Northern Irish issues.