This week’s blog is written by Cyprus Fellow Sean Wright about former Summer Camp VIP Sebnem Kimyacioglu, who is currently at the Rio Olympics competing on the Turkish Women’s Basketball team.
Last summer at our Summer Camp here in Cyprus, we had the tremendous opportunity to have Sebnem Kimyacioglu come and be our VIP for the week. Being a VIP is a an honor bestowed on someone who PPI invites to come teach basketball and more importantly help in the overall development of PPI participants. She was an incredible person to have influenced our PPI staff, participants and coaches. After taking part in the camp, Sebnem had this to say; “Witnessing the power of this program, which brings together youth from communities that under normal circumstances do not interact has been incredible. One of the goals of PeacePlayers is for the participants to apply their acquired leadership and peace-building skills to their communities. With the progress I have seen at this camp alone, I am excited and hopeful for the future.”
Here is a little more background, on the Olympic star we were so lucky to spend time with!
Sebnem is a remarkable woman who was born in the states, but has dual citizenship in Turkey. She grew up in California, and proceeded to play her college basketball at Stanford University. After that she became a lawyer, but had an opportunity to play in Turkey and couldn’t pass it up. She went to the try-out and ended up making the club Galatasaray, one of the best in all of Europe. While she was there, she helped guide her team to a Euroleague championship, the highest honor in European basketball. This is where an important connection was made, as her coach from Galatasaray became the Turkish National Team coach and asked Sebnem if she would play on the team, which she agreed to do.
Turkey qualified for the Rio Olympics, only the second time they have done so, which is an incredible feat for Sebnem and her teammates. Leading up to the Rio Olympics though, Turkey has been struck with numerous tragedies, many of which significantly impacted citizens day to day life. Like so many other countries around the world, the Olympics have given many the opportunity to come together for a common cause.
What Sebnem and her teammates are doing at the Olympics for Turkey is similar to what PPI does in their sites located around the world. Sebnem and her teammates are creating a chance to come together through sport.
PPI Cyprus uses basketball by bringing the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot people together,more by bringing two sides who have long been segregated from each other together to prove that they can live together in peace, and even develop friendships.
Hopefully Turkey can move out of the group stages and into the knockout round, because we all know anything is possible in basketball. It would be perfect for the country that is in need of something good to happen. Good Luck Sebnem!