Check out the new Official PPI blog!

PeacePlayers International now has it's own OFFICIAL blog with weekly updates from "From the Field". The blog posts are written by current PeacePlayers Fellows (aka Program Directors) from South Africa, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Cyprus. There is also the new "PPI Sixth Man" blog highlighting PPI donor activities.

Every Thursday "From the Field" has a new post from Israel & the West Bank. Here are all the PPI Middle East blog posts .

PPI has recently done an great job embracing online, social media platforms like Facebook Causes, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging to share insights into the hard work and great success stories from PeacePlayers' global operations.

I would also expect a new PPI website design soon to better highlight and bring together these great new social elements.

Don't forget. Bookmark the new Official PPI blog and subscribe to its updates! http://peaceplayersintl.wordpress.com/


Playing For Change: Peace Through Music

This video is great. Excellent idea, well executed. I'm looking forward to the DVD release.

From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe. This and other songs such as "One Love" will be released as digital downloads soon; followed by the film soundtrack and DVD early next year.

Join the Movement to help build schools, connect students, and inspire communities in need through music.

Northern Ireland Newsletter, Fall 2008

Below is PeacePlayers International -- Northern Ireland's latest newsletter, from Fall 2008. Click to enlarge. [In two parts]

Video: Laureus visits Middle East PeacePlayers

Video by Laureus TV of a recent visit to PPI-ME:

"Laureus World Sports Academy members Edwin Moses and Tanni Grey-Thompson have taken part in an eye-opening visit to the West Bank.

At the start of a three-day visit to the region, they were welcomed at two girls' school projects, run by PeacePlayers International, an organisation that uses the game of basketball to provide a positive outlet teaching leadership and life skills to refugees and Palestinian children."

Middle East Newsletter #5

Below is PeacePlayers International -- Middle East's latest newsletter, from November 2008. Click to enlarge.



12 year old raises $1500 for PeacePlayers in Maryland

Montgomery youngsters give instead of receive on their big days
The Gazzette (Maryland)

November 16, 2008
By Meghan Tierney

Two young men use their birthday and bar mitzvah to reach out to help others

Two upcounty youths celebrating different milestones this month showed that it really is better to give than to receive.  Chance Leo of Germantown asked for donations to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital instead of presents for his 8th birthday party, raising $350 for the Rockville facility's pediatric unit. And Andrew Fink of Gaithersburg decided to take the giving component of his upcoming bar mitzvah to a higher level, collecting more than $1,500 for Israeli and Palestinian youths by organizing a basketball tournament.
"We raised Chance that way, that you give and if you don't have a lot to give, every little bit helps," Diane Leo said. "…This is not something you force on a child because there's going to be resentment and they're not going to get it."

Nancy Shulman, executive assistant at the hospital foundation, said she wasn't aware of any other donations from a youth birthday party.

"It's awesome, especially in this day and age when kids are so me-me-me, to have them do something for others," she said.

Youths preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs are required to do service projects to help them in their spiritual growth. Many choose to donate a portion of the money they receive from friends and relatives to charity, according to his mother, Amy Fink.

Andrew Fink, 12, who is preparing to celebrate his bar mitzvah, took the call to service even further — he organized a youth three-on-three basketball tournament in Gaithersburg earlier this month.

The money — $1,500 so far — went to PeacePlayers International, a nonprofit that organizes youth basketball tournaments in historically divided communities such as Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and New Orleans. Andrew's efforts will fund two tournaments in the Middle East for Israeli and Palestinian youths.

"I really felt the connection there," said Andrew, who plays league basketball.

Andrew rented a gymnasium, made fliers, recruited teams, found sponsors, enlisted cheerleaders, collected entry fees and recruited a neighbor to design T-shirts for the 29 players. He also organized a pizza night at Potomac Pizza in the Kentlands, where 20 percent of purchases went to the Washington, D.C., nonprofit, and he plans to donate some of his own money as well.

"I feel like I've accomplished something," he said of the experience.

PeacePlayers donated prizes for the winning teams and his parents provided some organizational help, but Andrew was the driving force and did the bulk of the work.

"It's a fine line. As a parent I wanted him to do it himself, and he really rolled up his sleeves," Amy Fink said. "…As a parent, the greatest pleasure was afterwards he was like, ‘Wow, I just did that.' A 13-year-old can make a difference in the world."


Laureus visits PPI -- ME

Edwin and Tanni ‘inspired’ by visit to Laureus project in West Bank

RAMALLAH, October 26, 2008 - Laureus World Sports Academy members Edwin Moses and Tanni Grey-Thompson have taken part in an eye-opening visit to the West Bank.

At the start of a three-day visit to the region, they were welcomed at two girls' school projects, run by PeacePlayers International, an organisation that uses the game of basketball to provide a positive outlet teaching leadership and life skills to refugees and Palestinian children.

Double Olympic gold medallist Moses and Paralympic legend Grey-Thompson shared life experiences with the children, ‘shot hoops' and joined in basketball drills and match play. Laureus Chairman Edwin Moses said: "Sport is one of the few things that can bridge the divide between the communities which is why the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation recognises projects like these. A decade ago, Nelson Mandela, the Patron of Laureus, spoke of the power of sport to change the world and unite people and communities in the way little else does.

"Ten years on, standing here in Ramallah, his impassioned words relate clearly to what we have witnessed through this programme. It shows that sport can play a part in changing people's lives. We all know there is so much history here and have seen it first hand today, but we hope that there will be a brighter future for all these young people, who we have met at the project. It shows that sport can make a difference," he added.

British Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson said: "This has been inspirational and one of the most uplifting Laureus visits I have ever made. I have been fortunate to witness what this programme can deliver to these young girls. It gives them not only the opportunity to play sport, but also teaches them to live healthy and productive lives. I was always taught to aim high and this is the message I wanted to deliver. I am so happy to be here today to do what I can to help this important cause."

At the end of the of what was a day full of perspective, the sporting legends witnessed a ‘twinning' programme at Gonen in Jerusalem, that featured both Arabic and Israeli boys who meet twice a month using basketball to foster understanding between the two communities.

During the visit, the two Laureus Academy members will also attend tenth anniversary celebrations for the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv - another project in the region supported by Laureus - where they will appear on a sports panel discussing the topic ‘Overcoming hurdles through sport'. Also on the panel will be Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, and Ramón Calderón, President of Real Madrid football club.

PeacePlayers International was established on the West Bank in 2005. Laureus has been supporting a sister PeacePlayers International project in South Africa since 2002. American brothers Brendan and Sean Tuohey, who are the founders of PeacePlayers International, were presented with the Laureus Sport for Good Award in 2008.


Chicago Tribune profiles East Jerusalem PPI-ME Girls

From the the Chicago Tribune article, "The game that changed their world" about PeacePlayers International's program for girls basketball in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber:

The game that changed their world
To these Palestinian schoolgirls, basketball taught self-confidence while also testing the boundaries of Islam

By Joel Greenberg
Chicago Tribune correspondent
2:10 AM CDT, September 16, 2008

JERUSALEM — Mai Abdo, an assistant principal and teacher in Jabal Mukabar, a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem, had a dream for the teenage girls in her school that rankled some people in her religiously conservative community.

It sounded like a simple proposition: start a girls basketball program to promote fitness and build self-confidence.

Abdo knew she was bucking strong currents in the neighborhood, where strict interpretations of Islam dictated that adolescent girls steer clear of the basketball court, to avoid mixing with or being watched by men while wearing clothes deemed too revealing.

"My main priority was to break the stereotype that females must not and should not do sports activities," Abdo said.

But the project, begun early this year, was more than that. It was a challenge to long-held conventions regarding the roles of women and girls in the community. For some local residents, the sight of adolescent girls running and leaping on a basketball court was an indecent public spectacle, an affront to female modesty mandated by Islam.

There had never been a basketball program for teenage girls in Jabal Mukabar, or any other sports program for girls that age, whose place traditionally was seen as either in school or at home, helping with household chores and looking after younger siblings.

Abdo wrote letters to parents of girls who wanted to join the program, soliciting their permission. The school principal, Ghazi Souri, promised to take the heat from opponents. The idea, Abdo said, was to find allies who would make it easier to stand up to the inevitable criticism.

Parents were assured that their daughters would be in a girls-only program, that they would be modestly attired with long sleeves and sweat pants, and personally supervised by Abdo.

Coach: Religion, sports can mix

Rania Abu Shaaban, an energetic woman who recently graduated with a degree in physical education from Al-Quds University, was recruited to coach the girls.

Wearing a fashionable Islamic head scarf and sunglasses, Abu Shaaban asserts that observing the rules of Islam should not be an obstacle to women's participation in sports or any other activity.

"Our religion encourages us to take part in sports and to be active in all fields," Abu Shaaban said. "We can participate in sports within the bounds of religious law."

When news of the basketball program spread among parents in Jabal Mukabar, Abdo and Souri came under harsh criticism from some who complained that it was inappropriate for their teenage daughters to be running up and down a basketball court.

"The head of the parents committee was with me, but other parents whose girls were not in the program objected, complaining that we were setting a bad example by having the girls jumping up and down," Abdo recalled. "They always used those words: 'jumping up and down.' "

One man angrily scolded Abdo on the street, telling her that involving adolescent girls in basketball was against Islam and that she should set an example by being more observant and covering her hair.

Meanwhile, the girls permitted to join the program were thrilled, chipping in on their own to buy a basketball. Eighteen girls enrolled.

After failing to find sponsors in her neighborhood, Abdo, with the help of an Israeli teacher she knows, contacted PeacePlayers International, a U.S.-based group that uses basketball to bridge divides between young people in conflict zones around the world. Working with schools and community centers, the group sponsors mixed Jewish-Arab youth teams and basketball training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian youngsters.

"When I met Mai it was in the middle of our financial year and we didn't have the funding and manpower to find an [Israeli] partner for her school. But when we saw her girls, we knew that we couldn't turn these girls away," said Michael Vaughan-Cherubin, operations director for the PeacePlayers program in the Middle East. "There was no question that these were two very special women and a bunch of girls with a great need. Their options were zero. . . . These girls were crying out for this."

PeacePlayers provided basketballs and T-shirts, and Vaughan-Cherubin helped with coaching advice and other technical assistance.

Although the Jabal Mukabar school, which is attended by boys and girls, has high-quality outdoor basketball courts, the principal proposed that the girls practice in a small inner courtyard devoid of baskets and hidden by walls, out of the public eye to avoid controversy.

But that idea was quickly abandoned, and practices were held on the main courts, with a decision "to take the criticism and face it," Abdo said.

'It became ... acceptable'
The first practice was held after school hours when people were passing by on their way home from work, provoking criticism from neighbors who objected to the girls training in public view. So to avoid further trouble, the practice was shifted to the first two hours of the school day, when the streets were generally empty and people were away at their jobs.

"Gradually it became somehow acceptable for them to play," Abdo said.

Abdo uses the basketball training to drive home messages of independence and self-reliance.

"Through basketball they see that they can do something with their lives and achieve their dreams and ambitions," Abdo said. "It gives them self-confidence and awareness of their abilities."

Abdo, who defied her father and brothers to live alone though she is single, said she talks to her students about the importance of completing their education, finding jobs and supporting themselves, rather than being married at an early age and falling into dependence on men.

The basketball program changed 14-year-old Islam Zuheika, who Abdo said had been depressed and withdrawn since her father died and her mother moved the family into a room in an uncle's house. Now the girl exudes an upbeat attitude.

"Before, if something was wrong, we would just keep quiet about it," Zuheika said. "Now we deal with it immediately. This is a breath of fresh air."


PPI-ME Newsletter June 2008

This looks great! Here is the newest edition of PeacePlayers International -- Middle East's quarterly newsletter. Click the image below to see it full sized.

If it's not visible click here.


Bush pays visit to co-religious school in Belfast

US President Bush visited a PPI site in Northern Ireland on Monday:
[from Herald.ie]

President George Bush took a break from political talks today to play basketball with children in a co-religious school.

The President joined Protestant and Catholic boys and girls on court during his visit to Lough View Primary School on the outskirts of Belfast.

It was not the most successful game as far as Mr Bush was concerned, however, as he missed four shots from four.

Afterwards he took time to chat to coaches from Peaceplayers International - an organisation that has used basketball, a sport with no religious affiliations in Northern Ireland, to bring together young people from divided communities.

On what was their final engagement on their visit to Belfast, the president and the first lady also talked with teachers and pupils.

The school has been educating pupils in an inclusive environment since it was formed out of a parents' campaign group 15 years ago.

"It sure looks like a great school," the president told the children. "It's sure fun being here."

UPDATE: more from the Independent.co.uk
"Irish bid farewell to globetrotter who can't shoot hoops"
(including photo at top)

UPDATE 2: more from the AP...
Bush ended his trip shooting hoops with Protestant and Catholic children in Northern Ireland. He went 0-4.

The president stopped by Loughview Integrated Primary School in Belfast to highlight efforts to bring together Catholic and Protestant students. Most children in Northern Ireland attend schools that are segregated by religion.

Bush was visibly disappointed when his first shot turned out to be an air ball. Two more hit the backboard but didn't go in. His layup was unsuccessful, too.

When a young girl shot an air, Bush said, "I know how you feel."

The children were members of an organization called PeacePlayers International of Northern Ireland, a group that operates around the world to address sectarianism and to foster mutual respect and tolerance. The players were invited to the school to meet with Bush.

UPDATE 3: more photos here...


NBA Legends Dr. J and Rick Barry in Jerusalem

From the web update, "PeacePlayers Get Tips from NBA Legends Dr. J and Rick Barry":

On May 26th, fifteen PeacePlayers from Esawiah, Beit Safafa, Abu Ghosh and Katamon participated in a clinic - organized by the Jerusalem Municipality - with two of the NBA’s all-time Top 50 players, Julius Erving (Dr. J) and Rick Barry at Malha Stadium in Jerusalem. Dr. J is credited with revolutionizing the game of basketball in the 1970’s, with his electrifying play and high flying dunks. Rick Barry, recognized by many basketball fans as one of the greatest pure small forwards of all time, is the only player ever to lead the NCAA, NBA, and ABA in scoring.

The PeacePlayers youth worked hard, as Dr. J lead them through a defensive warm up. They listened and watched attentively as he showed proper rebounding technique and back door cuts. Rick Barry demonstrated his famous under hand foul shot, even floating one in with his eyes closed. At the end of the clinic, Rick Barry spoke to the children about the importance of staying in school and keeping away from drinking and drugs. Dr. J gave an inspiring speech about the importance of choices.

The clinic served as a reward for the top PeacePlayers in the Jerusalem area. According to Program Director Danny Ourian: “Having the chance to see Dr. J and Rick Barry was a special opportunity for these children, many of whom have never seen a professional NBA player in person - let alone two of the greatest players of all time.” After the clinic, Rick Barry reminisced with PPI – ME program directors about his son, Brent Barry, San Antonio Spurs star, who traveled to PPI – Northern Ireland in the summer of 2008.

The clinic was a part of a “Legends” tour in Israel, featuring Dr. J and Rick Barry, along with fellow basketball legends Dominique Wilkins and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. The “Legends” visited the Middle East to raise awareness for a youth village for underprivileged children in northern Israel.

Special thanks to the Municipality of Jerusalem for inviting PeacePlayers to the clinic.


Jerusalem Peace League

From the web update: PeacePlayers International-Middle East Teams-Up with the Municipality of Jerusalem to Launch the Jerusalem Peace League

As PPI-ME entered its third year in the fall of 2007, our oldest players needed a welcoming place to test their competitive mettle. Unfortunately for the past six years, the Jerusalem area has not had a league that was truly open to Arab and Jewish clubs. The result, after months of hard work, was the reopening of the brand new 2007/08 Jerusalem Peace League, which took place in Abu Ghosh.

The League boasted three integrated PPI – ME teams, comprised of Palestinian and Israeli participants (Gilo-Esawiah/ Katamon-Beit Safafa / Abu Ghosh-Beit Shemesh) , who have been practicing together in the Twinned Basketball Clubs program, in addition to six other teams (three Palestinian/Arab and three Jewish-Israeli) from the Jerusalem area and from Bethlehem.

The boys, aged 13-15, were broken into two groups and played a round robin, before the best two teams from each group moved onto the final four. The Final Four was some of the most intense basketball ever to be on a PeacePlayers court and it was all done keeping in mind to spirit of the league: brotherhood through basketball.

Congratulations to all of the teams that participated in the league and special props go to out to Hopoal Pizgat Ze’ev for taking the championship!

A special thanks to the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Abu Ghosh Regional Council and Community Center – our partners in this project.


Three Spring Tournaments Energize PPI – ME

Below is the web update and photos from 2008's Spring Tournaments:

PeacePlayers International – Middle East’s Twinning Program recently finished up a great month of Spring Tournaments. Throughout the months of April and May, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls from East and West Jerusalem, Abu Ghosh, Beit Shemesh, Jaffa, Holon, Qalansuwa, Bat Hefer and Kfar Yona came together at three separate events in the Tel Aviv area.

The first two events, April 4th for 10-12 year old boys and April 11th for 13-15 year old boys, were held at the beautiful Herzliya Sportec in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. The third event, May 2nd for 10-14 year old girls, was held at the Tel Aviv Sportec.

The young PeacePlayers came together to enjoy full days of basketball games and additional fun activities, including Juggling, Body Art, Trampoline, “Wacky Baskets”, and a “Hot-Shot” Contest.

Participants played on mixed teams with their Twinning partners. For example, the Arab girls from Qalansuwa played with their Jewish counterparts from Kfar Yona, strengthening the bonds they have developed during the year-round Twinning Program. Each mixed team was co-coached by an Arabic and a Hebrew speaking coach, who jointly led their team through the day’s games and activities. Members of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) helped referee and keep score at the events, in addition to challenging PPI – ME’s Program Directors and excellent Volunteers to a 5-on-5 basketball game. At the closing ceremony of each tournament, the coaches from each team selected a player from their team for the “PeacePlayers Award”. The award went to each team’s player who best demonstrated a combination of sportsmanship, hustle, helpfulness, compassion, and hard work.

The three Spring Tournaments were eagerly looked forward to by PeacePlayers’ Twinned Communities, and each one in its own right was excellent!

The three events were put together and coordinated by new Middle East Program Director Pamela Kelly. Pam’s event coordination prowess impressed everyone and resulted in three exciting tournaments that will leave positive long-lasting memories for the whole PeacePlayers' family.
Originally posted "Three Spring Tournaments Energize PPI – ME" by Brian Sigafoos

Photo slideshow of the Boys' 10-12 Tournament:

Photo slideshow of the Boys' 13-15 Tournament:

Photo slideshow of the Girls' Tournament:


What's a PPI Program Director? Meet David.

What's a PD? And what does a PPI-ME PD do? Meet David.
Enjoy the slideshow below.


What are we? Family!

Our last special edition PeacePlayers International t-shirt and the contest were a resounding success. One World / One Game / One Family.

Building on the PeacePlayers global theme of "Family", we're ready to unveil the new limited edition t-shirt. PPI Spells "Family" (in 7 languages):

New Orleans - English - Family
South Africa - Zulu - Umndeni
Northern Ireland - Gaelic - Muintir
Cyprus - Greek - Οικογένεια
Turkish - Aile
Middle East - Arabic - عائلة
Hebrew - ‮משפחה