PeacePlayers Cyprus – April/May Update

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The month of April is an exceptionally busy time for the sports community. This was exceptionally true for PeacePlayers programming here in Cyprus! This blog post will highlight some of the awesome opportunities our Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants took part in over the month of April and into May. This was a time for them to execute some of the skill they have been learning throughout the year, as well as participate in some pretty unique opportunities that few youth on the island get to take part in.

ART MURAL

The front gate of the Ledra Palace Hotel in the UN administered buffer zone has received a fresh new look. The decorative mural, stretching 50 meters in length, is a collaborative project between PeacePlayers Cyprus, Visual Voices and YEU Cyprus, with support from the British High Commission Nicosia. Presenting symbols of unity and peace, it further defines the space as a connection point between communities. The ideas of this mural were inspired by youth taking part in the PeacePlayers LDP program!

The mural is made up of three principal components, all of which symbolize positive steps towards a lasting peace on the island of Cyprus. The stencil designs include: a donkey, olive leaf, scale and seedling. The symbols in red, blue and yellow are inspired by ancient Cypriot patterns found on pottery. The symbols in black come from the Caribbean, where one of the participating artists is from. Together they symbolize the harmony that can be found in diversity. The final element is a circle with two hands spiraling around the entrance gate, symbolizing the contact between communities and the opportunity to find peace.

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LEARNING TO FACILITATE (CLASSROOM SESSION)

During the past LDP classroom meeting, our Leaders had the opportunity to learn how to become better facilitators and communicators when mentoring. The session was focused on being able to keep others involved in an authentic way that ultimately increases the learning environment for everyone and increases engagement in the activities. They learned the importance of verbal vs nonverbal communication; explored different types of students and how to best communicate with them; and defined active listening.

MIGRANT WORKSHOP

During the holidays, most youth are out of school and taking the time explore other hobbies, take a break from school and hangout with friends. However, in late May, a ldp2group of our LDP participants helped facilitate a workshop for a group of teen participants from We Art One (a series of workshops a part of the LAB 31 project), which is funded by the European Union. LAB 31 aims to harness the relationship between national and foreign youngsters, through providing a platform for young people to express themselves by engaging in different cultural and artistic activities. The project desires to develop the participation of foreign adolescents, unaccompanied foreign minors included, in the cultural and social life of the host community, through specific play initiatives with the local population.ldp1

During this workshop, a group of LDP helped run several team-building games which included fun activities such as hungry hippos, an obstacle courses, basketball games and even a rope “laser” escape game. The beginning and end of the workshop felt like two different groups! At first nobody knew anybody’s name, everyone was unsure of what they were going to do or if they have any fun. At the end, nothing was the same! Fun has a very unique way of bringing people together and breaking down barriers of trust and discomfort. It was a special opportunity for both PeacePlayers and We Art One!

EXCHANGE TO ISRAEL

In mid-May, fifteen Leaders from both the LDP and JDP had the opportunity to travel to Israel to partake in an Erasmus exchange between Northern Ireland, Middle East and Norway! At the exchange, there were many amazing activities that the leaders took part in such as hiking the Masada in pitch dark for sunrise, a ropes course, rock climbing, relaxing by the Jordan river, touring the Old City of Jerusalem and last but certainly not least, participating in leadership development classroom sessions.

In mid-February, two of PeacePlayers-Cyprus members joined a group of staff and participants from each site to help plan the amazing exchange. Sophia Georgiou participated as a Coach on the exchange and helped plan the classroom session workshops. She worked to help come up with the theme “Stretch & Explore”, and here’s what she had to say about it:

“Our thinking was mostly around self-awareness and how that could really benefit someone throughout the exchange. We wanted the participants to spend time exploring who they are as individuals, exploring the people by making connections with others and exploring the cultures that are found across the exchange.”

– Sophia Georgiou, PP-CY Coach

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LEADERS GON’ LEAGUE

Check out one of our LDP participants Vedat Kaya in a playoff game with his team! One of PeacePlayers Assistant Coaches, Cetin Pirlanta, is also the Assistant coach for Vedat’s team as well. Fun fact about Vedat: he also has a twin brother, Ali, who is also in the LDP! Go Magusa!

 CAMPING EXCURSION

 This past weekend, we hosted our first ever joint LDP and JDP retreat Leadership Camping Retreat! PP-Cy was able to take 40 participants to Tatlisu, including coaches, fellow, JDP and LDP, to partner with Step Out Cyprus for a weekend of adventure, team-building, and leadership activities. We hiked to the top of the Kyrenia Mountains, rock-climbed on a cliff facing the seaside, sea-kayaked, zip-lined, played teambuilding games, had an exciting quiz night (ice cream was involved), roasted marshmallows and overall had an amazing time. It was the first time many of our participants slept in camping tents, and they enjoyed it so much that they’re already talking about when they’re going to go again. Our leaders did such a good job that Step Out Cyprus offered them volunteer positions at the camp whenever they want as volunteers! We couldn’t have done this without the help of the British High Commission who helped fund a major portion of the cost.

 

Celebrating April 6 in Cyprus

PeacePlayers Tshirt

As an organization working to use basketball as a catalyst for peace advocacy, International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) is, naturally, a big event for us. Since the UN holiday was created in 2013, organizations all over the world use April 6th as a day to celebrate their hard work using sport for peace, human rights, and development in their communities.

For PeacePlayers – Cyprus, it’s no different. We wanted to do something big for IDSDP, celebrating and demonstrating the great work that our participants, leaders, and coaches do on the island. While researching the ways different organizations celebrate, I found out that Peace and Sport, an organization from Monaco, was holding a football friendly match between a Turkish-Cypriot club and a Greek-Cypriot club. Nea Salamina and Magusa Turk Gucu (MTG) planned to face off in Pyla, with famous football and Peace and Sport’s Vice President, Didier Drogba, in attendance. I immediately sent an email to their page to see if we could get involved, and their response was better than I could’ve hoped. We were given tickets to see the match, invited to their networking event, and Drogba was going to come to our programming!Drogba Huddle

With the tickets that Peace and Sport gave us, we were able to take a small group of kids to watch the match, which ended up being a professional Twinning, where they mixed the teams up to compete together. It was a great match, a beautiful day (I think I’m still suburnt), and a great place to see both communities interacting and enjoying themselves.

After the match, there was a slight hiccup. Peace and Sport said that they would have to cancel Drogba’s visit to PeacePlayers due to the match going longer than they thought. But after a couple phone calls and re-scheduling, he was able to come to our mini-twinning at the UN basketball court. Our Dali and Nicosia Mixed teams brought the energy and excitement, and Drogba ended up joining in for our relay races and shooting games. Afterwards, he signed autographs and took pictures, and we gave him some PeacePlayers swag!

It was a great day to celebrate the work that we do, and also give the participants a chance to meet other big names in the sport and peace world. It felt like the beginning of big things to come for PeacePlayers – Cyprus, and we’re all excited to see how our site can continue to make an impact for our participants, our community, and our island.

 

 

 

PeacePlayers-Cyprus Celebrates International Women’s Day #BalanceForBetter

“International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.” – United Nations

The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is Balance for Better, which focuses on the creation of a gender balanced world. At PeacePlayers – Cyprus, we chose to empower and celebrate women through a Women in Sport event, collaborating with island-wide sports federations, the Olympic committee, the UN, and local businesses. Young women and men had the opportunity to try out and participate in 9 different sports in total: basketball, football, volleyball, badminton, gymnastics, fencing, biking, hockey, and rock climbing.

PeacePlayers – Cyprus has the opportunity to be alongside so many wonderful female coaches, staff, and athletes. Our coaches and assistant coaches bring many important qualities to the table that allows PeacePlayers to be such a unique organization of people coming together as a family. Building relationships is one of the most important qualities of a PeacePlayers coach, not only because they are the first line of interaction for participants in our programming from the same community, but they are also interacting with their youth at least two times a week after school! Without our coaches, we would not be able to have such a positive impact on our three main pillars of programming: bridging divides, changing perceptions and developing leaders!

Thank you so much to the amazing strong women who give their time and expertise to help develop a more peaceful future! #BallanceForBetter

Check out some photos from our “Women & Sport” event!

 

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The Lessons I Learned at the Junior Development Program Retreat

Today’s blog was written by Serife, a member of the PP-Cyprus Leadership Development Program. 

It was Friday morning, and I was pretty excited and scared at the same time for our JDP Retreat in Agros. The reason I was scared is that the camp would my first camp that I was coaching and I was not sure how the juniors would act, and I was preparing myself for the worst scenario. I was telling myself “Get ready Serif, they won’t listen to you, they will be spoiled and they will not care about your feelings”. When I arrived at the meeting point, most of the parents were waiting with their children. I already knew some of the parents, but had a chance to meet new ones as well. All the parents were pretty friendly, and I earned their trust to look after their children. This really made me happy and relaxed, and I got more confident about coaching.

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Me leading classroom and on the court sessions!

During our bus drive I was talking with the juniors non-stop. After our short drive (for me, not for the other juniors on the bus, I guess), we arrived at the fancy hotel that we would stay. Our first day was not pretty tough because first we settled in and found our rooms, and then welcomed everyone at the conference room. During the welcome, I translated the activities to Turkish which was fun and easy for me, because that was my only responsibility for that particular event. After that, everyone ate their dinner and we played scavenger hunt which was fun for everyone. This part was a little bit tough though, because we tried to make them gather and see the teamwork spirit, and even though some of them got too competitive, it actually went pretty well and everyone had fun.  Afterwards they had free time and went to bed (I should admit that it was hard to make them go to the bed). When they all went to the bed, we (the coaches), met to talk about that day and what should we improve for them to have a better camp. This was pretty helpful for our next day to be more successful.

 

The next day was way harder and fun. After we had our breakfast we walked to the indoor court which is down the hill. We taught the juniors basics of basketball which are defense, shooting, passing and dribbling. It was so tiring and also fun. My struggle starts at this point. After we arrived to the hotel we played educational games that teach important aspects such as teamwork. My team started out losing the first couple games, and they became so bored and they gave up. I talked to them, I said: “Let’s keep playing guys, don’t you keep playing at a basketball match while you are losing?” and they answered “We don’t keep playing if the score difference is 30 points”. I was angry and I stepped away and so I could try to calm down. I calmed down in a minute and went back. I said to them “Look guys, the aim is to have fun, not to win. In addition, think of it as our lives, we come across many difficulties in a short period but we need to learn how to stay strong and keep doing our best”. They looked totally fine and surprisingly understood everything I said. Shortly after, they started winning and they kept winning and winning over and over again. I got really happy and was honored. After our successful games, we played basketball, where I was a referee, which was a great experience of mine.

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Group picture post retreat!

 

I was communicating with the parents of the juniors during the camp and they were pretty kind. I was making sure that they were in contact with their parents. They had free time after basketball, and they had the option to go play board games, but I wasn’t expecting them to come because they were tired. But they did come, which made me so happy and we all played together. After we had our delicious dinner which made us all full, we had many small games that all of the juniors enjoyed them a lot. Their faces were worth watching, even their eyes were smiling. Then they had a break and during some of the juniors were sitting at their rooms being sad and I cheered them up and made them join us which made me really satisfied.  On that day they went to the bed so much easier since they were tired. Coaches had a meeting about day two and everyone was pretty grateful about the day, and how successful it was.

On our last day, we had a tournament which I was a referee again. It was good, except the mistake I made; it was both so funny and embarrassing at the same time. My team was playing on the other court (that I wasn’t reffing) and it was a really tough game and I got distracted. My team won and I blew the whistle to celebrate, forgetting that I was reffing. Everyone was looking at me, but fortunately the game I was reffing ended at the same time so I ended the game by chance (I know it is so embarrassing). I learned that I need to be more focused there. Our team became the champion of the tournament and everyone on our team was really happy.

 

At the end of the camp, we had an award ceremony which was blast. Every coach and some juniors gave speeches, which were pretty emotional. We showed our appreciation for one another. I was a pretty tough coach on the juniors, so I wasn’t expecting them to like me a lot, but some of them said that I am their favorite coach and I was at the top of the world. That was the time I decided I definitely need to continue being a coach in PeacePlayers. I think the key to be liked is not letting them do all they want. I was a tough coach, but I was like their friend at the same time and they could talk about everything with me. I learned so many things from juniors and I hope they did as well, and I hope that they had fun. In addition I hope I was a good role model for them to be successful leaders in the features. The experiences I gained are priceless.

It’s November Already? PP-CY Fellow Clark Tritto Shares His Experience

Time really does fly when you’re having fun (my high school writing teacher, Mr. DiLeo, used to tell me to avoid clichés like plague, but just a fair warning — there’s going to be a ton of them).

In Cyprus, practices officially started in October, and we’ve been sprinting ever since. We’ve had three LDP activities, a twinning, two Imagine workshops, a teachers training, two local festivals, a first-aid certification, two coaches trainings, and a partridge in a pear tree.

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I wanted to write about my experience in Cyprus for awhile now, but finding the words (and the time) was difficult. But finally, on a rainy day at a cafe in the Old City, I think I’ve found both. You know what they say, better late than never!

My first week on the island was Summer Camp, which was an amazing experience. I was like a kid in a candy shop (I warned you!), obsessed with the programming, the energy, and the friendliness that emanated from everyone I met. We had participants and coaches from Cyprus, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and friends from the US. I felt lucky and spoiled to have such an incredible experience as my introduction to PeacePlayers, and I was energized and excited to get to work after that!

Clark Blog 1

But, unexpectedly, the next month was dead as a doornail. The summer holidays are notoriously slow in Cyprus, and the office pretty much shuts down. So, seeing that it was my first couple weeks in a new place, I did what any person would do to get acclimated — I took a month-long Euro-trip with my new coworker/roommate/friend, Amber! To make a long story short, we ended up visiting 11 countries in 28 days, had a blast, and made it back to Cyprus with only losing a few, non-important items (and one important one – my credit card).

CLark Blog 2

After having the time of my life (Sorry Mr. DiLeo, you win some, you lose some) in Europe, I was ready to get down to work. Building a new LDP (Leadership Development Program) has been a challenging and rewarding experience. Spending time with our young leaders and seeing their enthusiasm for volunteering, peace advocacy, and basketball has been a great experience. On the other hand, it has had its setbacks. We had a great day planned at a high ropes course in the Troodos Mountains, and even though it was 90 degrees (35 celsius?) in Nicosia, we took an hour bus ride to find that it was HAILING in the mountains. Our original plan was ruined, so we found a local restaurant, ate cheeseburgers and played team-building games at the lunch table. At the end of the day, even though it wasn’t the original plan, (and we promised the kids we’d do the ropes course in the spring), it was a learning experience and hopefully one that our LDP participants will look back on and laugh.

Visiting mono-communal practices has been the highlight of the program year for me. Seeing our young basketball players learning the sport from our great, local coaches is something special. They’re learning a new sport, while accepting a strange, long-haired, usually mustachio’d American into their practice. Not only can I see their growth, but their energy and excitement keeps me motivated while I’m working out of the office. I’ve also had the opportunity to coach a team at the English School of Kyrenia. Every Friday I head up to their school in the mountains, and coach a group of 25 students for about an hour. We work on basketball basics like passing and dribbling, and always end practice with a fun game. And even though my car died on the last trip up there, and is currently still in their parking lot, I can’t wait to travel (somehow) back there this Friday.

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We want to have more guest writers this year on our blog, so hopefully you will be able to hear more about PeacePlayers Cyprus from different perspectives, and I’m sure all of our writers will knock it out of the park! The PP-CY calendar is filled to the brim, so there will be plenty to hear about this year as we continue to help our youth become better basketball players and stronger community advocates!

Please don’t judge a book by it’s cover, my future posts won’t have as many clichés.

#ItsGhoulToBeAPeacePlayer

You know what they say, all’s well that ends well.

 

The Road to Peace

This weeks post is brought to you by PP-NI International Fellow, Leif Frymire. 


It was approximately 11.30pm Monday night.  We had left the airport 15 minutes earlier.  In the group chat with all the coaches and coordinators they were taking bets on when we would arrive to the hotel.  At that same moment our van driver, using only hand gestures because he doesn’t speak english, hails Andrew and I out of the van to show us why we have stopped on the side of the highway.  The trailer carrying all our luggage that was being towed behind the van has lost a tire. This was my response in the group chat…

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Some context.  From 18th to 25th June, PeacePlayers international sites came together for a week long basketball camp at the Rodon Hotel in Agros, Cyprus.  Of Cyprus, Middle East and South Africa, Northern Ireland was the last group to arrive on Monday night.  Well actually, Tuesday morning…

 

 

 

Our bus from Belfast left the Europa Centre at 5.30am (Belfast time) Monday morning.  We flew from Dublin to Bucharest, Romania.  3 hours later we flew from Bucharest to Larnaka, Cyprus.  We arrived at the Rodon Hotel approximately 1.30am Cyprus time, or 11.30pm Belfast time.  Now back to the side of the highway….

 

Thankfully, our phone plans gives us coverage anywhere in the EU.  Quickly we were on the phone with Steph, programme coordinator for PP-CY, and organiser of trip. Gave her an update.  After it was clear what the van driver wanted us to do, we quickly moved all the suitcases into the van with us.  Luckily there was enough room, just barely.

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After all the luggage was moved onto the bus.

The van is on the move again with the trailer still being towed behind us.  Another phone call with Steph, I hand the phone to the driver.  A quick conversation, the phone is back to me.  We have the trailer until we can find an exit to leave it off somewhere.  40mins later we’re at the base of the mountains.  I see signs that show to expect 10 to 15 degree inclines.  We’re basically crawling up the road at this point.  The van is working real hard, or at least it sounds like it is.  The journey up the mountain was probably just as long as the journey from the airport to the base, if not longer.  It was approximately 12.30am when I had the thought for this blog post.

Our journey from Belfast was long.  It was exhausting.  It was complicated.  Not everything went according to plan.  There may have been more direct options, but they weren’t suitable.  Despite all the challenges we experienced along the way, we eventually made it to our destination.  I’ll argue it made the destination so much sweeter as well.  The sense of relief having finally, truly arrived in Agros made the journey well worth it.

In many ways, one could say the same for the peace process.

To build peace takes time.  There may be a clear direct route, but often that’s not an option nor is it sustainable.  Sometimes you have to make concessions along the way.  Other times you think you’ve finally arrived and nothing else can go wrong, but then you end up on the side of the highway with a flat tire.  However, despite all the complications, despite the time it took, despite the frustration and stress it caused, you’ve arrived to your destination.  In fact, during the time it took, the bonds formed may just have built stronger relationships.  I believe this is to be true for all our PeacePlayers sites, both international and national.

 

During the week, a leader asked a group of kids at the dinner table, “what’s more important, the journey or the destination?”  I leave that question to you…


Stay tuned for more details on an exciting week in Agros, Cyprus! 

Leaders Invest Today, Change Tomorrow

PeacePlayers-Cyprus (PP-CY) is dedicated to running programming that engages the community in local and sustainable ways. As an organization, we follow five core programmatic pillars to ensure PP-CY stays true to it’s mission and unites communities for the youth of today and the future. At our last Twinning, we had the opportunity to see the leadership pipeline pillar truly come to life. The Leadership Development Program (LDP) youth were charged with the task of running a Twinning for the newly nominated Junior Development Program (JDP) youth.

As you may know, Twinnings are the bread and butter of bringing people together for PP-CY. These Twinnings are normally facilitated by the office staff, international fellows, and the local coaches. However, this past Twinning was completely different.

So, here’s what happened. The Leaders planned every step of the Twinning from start to finish and blocked off time slots for different activities.

LEADERS FACILITATING AT THE JDP TWINNING

They had to make decisions about specific things like:

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What drills will be suitable for the JDP considering their ages  (12-14)?

Who will translate when necessary?

When will we focus on fun games, and when will we play basketball?

How will we split up the teams with the bi-communal mission in mind?

If you are reading this blog as a former athlete, coach, or anyone who has ever been directed and told what to do in a sports setting, you may remember that moment when you went from a participant to a leader/teacher. It’s a big deal! There are so many behind the scene things that need to be thought-out when planning and executing something. Not to mention, it is extremely important to keep in mind the ultimate mission behind WHY we do what we do.

SO, HOW DID THE LEADERS DO?

To be frank…it was incredible! While the Leaders were planning a week in advance, they were worried that some of the games, like the “canoe-canoe” game they planned to play, may be unsuitable for the age group. However, the Leaders became confident and decided to play it. At the Twinning when they played, there was not one kid without a huge smile on their face and laughing! It was such a beautiful moment of what a Twinning should look like. Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot youth laughing and playing together, as if all pieces of divided identities were shattered. It did not matter that structural barriers and a history of conflict continues to divide the island. For these two hours, we were one big PeacePlayers family.

LAPTA TEAM GIRS WITH FELLOW AMBER (LEFT) – TAHIR AND SERIFE (RIGHT)