Last year, PeacePlayers International-Middle East (PPI-ME) launched the Junior Leadership Development Program (LDP Jr) where exceptional youth participants around the ages of 11-14 learn how to be a leader on and off the court and the importance of giving back to the community. In the spirit of community involvement, the LDP Jr got to visit the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled (ISCD) in Ramat Gan in February, and it was an experience that left many feeling very happy and inspired.
The visit started in the classroom where the LDP Jr met Jimmy, who has been a participant at the center for many years and is very involved. The kids watched the video Heroes of Life, which talked about the different programs the center offers and shared the stories of some participants and how ISCD changed their lives.
Following the classroom session, the LDP Jr headed to the equipment room where they were assigned special wheelchairs designed for sports that they then took to the gym. A brief overview of the wheelchairs was provided and the participants began learning the basics, such as how to move forward, backwards, and turn. Next, the kids were split into teams and began playing wheelchair basketball. It was very difficult to shoot from such a low angle with accuracy, so Jimmy told the group their goal was to hit the rim or the backboard in order to score points. After a few times up and down the court, the participants really got the hang of navigating and the game became pretty competitive.
After playing, a Palestinian participant from the center and his father talked about how his son was very upset after an injury that left him without the use of his legs and how ISCD restored the life within him and made him very happy. The father and son spoke about how they love the programs offered at the center and they like interacting with both Arab and Jewish participants.
The last part, and probably most unique aspect of our visit was when the LDP Jr had a chance to meet the ISCD basketball team, which was a mixed group of Arab and Jewish kids just like PPI-ME! The kids joined in on their practice and it was amazing. There were lots of hi-fives and cheering from both sides, and it was the perfect way to end the day.
Tamar, a 14 year old Jewish participant from LDP Jr, said that the event made her very happy and she was so excited that when she went home she immediately told her parents and friends about the experience. She thinks ISCD is great program because it helps people with disabilities lead normal lives and feel alive. The event was very educational and showed the participants that nothing is impossible if you have the drive and motivation.
Thank you the the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for supporting the Junior Leadership Development Program.