At PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland (PP-NI), we use basketball as a tool to connect children and young people from Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist and Catholic/Nationalist/Republican backgrounds in Belfast and surrounding areas. By competing together on integrated teams and participating in PeacePlayers’ community relations and team-building activities, children from these historically divided communities can discover common ground, forge new friendships and break down barriers.
When social distancing guidance and self-isolation guidelines came into effect, PeacePlayers knew this would be a challenging period. It was decided that PeacePlayers programs would not be cancelled, but would instead pivot from in-person, face-to-face setting to a virtual setting. After a few different taster sessions with various platforms, it was quickly identified that while in-person programming could not happen, the importance of maintaining that visual connection between friends from different areas and backgrounds was still key. As with many companies and charities, Zoom was selected as the key platform to facilitate these needs.
For 10 weeks, PeacePlayers has been conducting its virtual Cross-Community Leagues (CCL) to great success; averaging 85 young people per week. Condensing a 2-hour session that is typically done in a sports hall into a session that is done from the comfort of one’s own home has been a new and exciting experience. The conversations PeacePlayers has been able to facilitate virtually are still just as inspiring as they would be face-to-face. The challenge has been adapting the basketball portion of the session into something that can be done from home. Luckily, PeacePlayers works with brilliant coaches that have been hard at work for the past 10 weeks helping to identify, circulate and create workouts that are creative, simple and engaging.
To celebrate all the effort that the young people and coaches have put into the virtual sessions over these 10 weeks, PeacePlayers has moved forward with its plan to host a virtual Summer Jam event. PeacePlayers is privileged and incredibly excited to offer this ambitious event for folks to participate in, from home! Join us Saturday 30th May from 1pm to 5 pm BST, 8am to 1pm EST for the best. day. ever! Visit this link here to watch on Facebook Live! (http://facebook.com/peaceplayersni/live)
For the uninitiated, Summer Jam is PeacePlayers end of Spring term celebration event that brings young people together from CCL’s across Northern Ireland to compete in a day full of basketball, connecting with friends from other areas, dancing and FUN. PeacePlayers has pivoted from hosting a face-to-face tournament to hosting a virtual tournament (of sorts) that will still meet Summer Jam’s original intent: bridging historical divides between young people across Belfast and Northern Ireland, and more importantly, FUN.
Summer Jam taking place in the virtual space, at home, means it will be different than years past. Will there be challenges? Most likely, yes. HOWEVER, PeacePlayers is hard at work ensuring that regardless of the current circumstances, Virtual Summer Jam is the BEST day for the young people and families involved!
PeacePlayers is and will always be about connecting people. Challenges to this goal are presented frequently and the newest has not stopped PeacePlayers from moving forward with positivity and renewed vigor. Nothing can stop the mission to unite communities, educate young people and inspire the next generation of leaders!