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connect 2016 29 Supporters of The Ireland Funds are likely familiar with PeacePlayers Interna- tional-Northern Ireland PPI- NI an organization that uses sport specically the American sport of basketball to build relations between Catholic and Protestant kids in Northern Ireland. The Ireland Funds have supported PeacePlayers for many years but recently awarded them a Flagship Grant in support of their Champions 4 Peace Initiative C4P. CHAMPIONS FOR PEACE The Champions 4 Peace C4P Initiative is a year-round program of training and experiential learning opportunities that teaches the next genera- tion of young leaders to use sport to promote peace and reconciliation and to contribute to a shared future for Northern Ireland. It goes beyond bringing childrenfromdifferentbackgroundstoplayagameand it stimulates dialogue often about contentious issues that arent often explored in a safe and positive space. In 2015 PPI-NI successfully engaged over 150 young people in Champions 4 Peace from some of Belfasts most notorious interface areas in construc- tive dialogue on contentious issues such as ags and emblems parades and dealing with the past. PPI- NIs unique approach focuses on using sport and its inherent lessons of teamwork cooperation and communication to challenge stereotypes while nur- turing the development of positive relationships and friendships. CHILDREN WHO PLAY TOGETHER LEARN TO LIVE TOGETHER Its a very simple but powerful premise that children who play together learn to live together explains Gareth Harper Managing Director of PeacePlay- ers Northern Ireland. PeacePlayers has been op- erating in Northern Ireland since 2002. Back then it was very much an American program operating in NorthernIreland.Butoverthelast6or7yearswevebeen transforming the program to be a Northern Ireland program with added American value. We recognize that if were to be sustainable we really need to invest in local leadership and local capacity. Today the organization has evolved its approach while still sustaining the excitement of the early days. After a decade of work in Northern Irelands schools PeacePlayers is increasingly recognized as making an important contribution to the delivery of Northern Irelands school curriculum under the Personal Development and Mutual Understanding PDMU curriculum. Its great that were now being seen as key to making an important contribution to the schools says Gareth. All schools have to deliver the PDMU curriculum. So PeacePlayers comes in. Our job is not only working with the kids but its also around building the capacity of the schools to be able to continue this work themselves in the classroom. Last year we worked with about 2500 kids in Belfast. These are kids from interface areas where Protestants and Catholics often clash. These arent the easy cases theyre the hard to reach kids. These are the kids that live on either side of the walls that Belfast still has sitting there. WHEATFIELD AND HOLYCROSS A DECADE LATER PeacePlayers has always created a safe space on the bas- ketball court where kids could develop relationships. But more than a decade later the program is showing thebenetsofthatcultivation.Simplyputtheprogram has worked. Students from 2002 who followed our leadership pipeline are now working for us as coaches and facilitators back in the very communities that they come from says Gareth. Our key schools back then were Holycross and Wheateld. If you recall in 2001 there were awful sectarian disputes between those two schools. There was violence. When our program was rst developing in 2002 parents insisted that the program go ahead despite others threatening court action against the schools who bravely stepped up to engage with PeacePlayers. Then it was about working in each of the schools separate- ly. Would you believe we used to send two buses up to collect the kids from either side of the road and take them to a neutral spot. They travelled exactly the same road in two separate buses. r a- PI- uses merican relations tant kids in and Funds have any years but recently rant in support of their C P k to hav Peace working building continue year we w are kids Catholics th th