Now through January 31, Nike stores across the country are inviting shoppers to learn about three of their partner organizations and to donate $1 or more to these nonprofits dedicated to getting kids active. Marathon Kids is one. The others are Girls Inc. and PeacePlayers.
Excited by this challenge to learn more about other nonprofits doing great work to get kids moving, we asked PeacePlayers a few questions!
What is PeacePlayers? Give us the elevator pitch.
PeacePlayers is a globally recognized organization that uses basketball to unite, educate and inspire young people in divided communities to create a more peaceful world. Through our sports-based programming, we are building a movement of young leaders, in some of the world’s most challenging places, who are empowered to develop as advocates for peace. In our increasingly fractured global community, we at PeacePlayers believe that sport, particularly basketball, has a unique ability to bring people together. Our unique program model is based on the premise that children who play together can learn to live together.
Founded in 2001, PeacePlayers now operates year-round local programs in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Cyprus, South Africa, and most recently, the United States.
Can you describe what makes PeacePlayers special in one sentence?
Our incredible youth leaders at PeacePlayers—who are using the unifying power of sport to bridge divides and change perceptions in some of the world’s most historically divided communities.
How many kids participate in your programs each year?
We have over 4,000 youth participants come through our PeacePlayers’ programs each year throughout our five year-round sites around the world, but it’s important to understand the lifetime journey of our participants and the ripple effect of the impact each participant has on their family, coaches, schools and broader community. We are building a global community of advocates for peace that impacts much more than the kids who directly participate in our programs.
Is there a story that comes to mind about a kid whose life was changed by PeacePlayers?
Karissa from our PeacePlayers Brooklyn program is a great example of one of our inspiring youth leaders. Karissa was first introduced to PeacePlayers when she was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. She joined as a member of the inaugural PeacePlayers girls’ league at her school in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
Where Karissa lives in Brooklyn is home to 18 public housing developments, the largest concentration of public housing in the Americas. There is ongoing violence and division in the community where Karissa lives and it can often be challenging to feel safe to travel to other parts of the community even within Brownsville itself.
PeacePlayers was Karissa’s first exposure to organized basketball. Through her participation in PeacePlayers, she has felt a sense of community and has been inspired by a PeacePlayers’ female coach, one who she could see herself in. Through PeacePlayers she was also brought together with young people in a school from the other side of her neighborhood. She enjoyed that experience so much that she and a teammate pleaded with their coach to have more practices with the other school.
A few months ago, PeacePlayers Brooklyn officially launched their first high school leadership development program, which Karissa is now a part of, and she has also helped use her learned leadership skills to bring in other girls from different sides of her Brownsville community to join her in playing with PeacePlayers on a weekly basis. She is gaining leadership skills both on and off the basketball court and helping to develop a network of young leaders in her community who are fostering a more peaceful world.
Are there any exciting new projects you are working on this year?
Yes! We are bringing youth participants from our PeacePlayers’ sites around the world together for our first-ever global games this summer! In August 2020 we will bring young leaders from LA to Northern Ireland and from Chicago to South Africa all together for a week of basketball competition, leadership programming, and cultural exchange activities.
Many of our participants have limited opportunity to interact with youth from outside of their communities, let alone outside of the country. Having our inaugural PeacePlayers Friendship Games will be a great opportunity for them to understand that they are truly part of a global peace movement.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the future?
For one, we hope to find more ways to collaborate with institutional and community partners (like your team at Marathon Kids!) who are using the power of sport for good and supporting youth leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Like your team, through sport, we hope to show kids that they can achieve maybe more than they ever thought was possible, and by strategically partnering with organizations we hope to deepen, sustain and scale our impact on the path to building a global youth peace movement through sport.