Our journey to the Friendship Games kicked off during our annual Summer Camp in mid-July! 54 youth, aged 12-18, came to the Rodon Hotel in Agros for a week of leadership activities, team-building, and basketball skill-building. Our coaching staff consisted of 8 PeacePlayers Cyprus staff, including two of our Assistant Coaches, and Joanne from Northern Ireland to help run our classroom sessions. We went “back to basics” this year with our classroom sessions, focusing on the importance of identifying and breaking down stereotypes, emphasizing inclusion, and teambuilding within the peace process.
This year we also had the pleasure of partnering with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and hosted 11 youth who had recently migrated to Cyprus from countries such as the Congo, Egypt, Lebanon, Cameroon, and Jordan. Many of these kids had never played basketball before, but they joined their teams and participated wherever they felt comfortable. It was amazing to see the connections they made with the rest of PeacePlayers Cyprus by the end of the week.
In preparation for the Friendship Games, we focused on a higher level of basketball engagement during Summer Camp. For the first time, we kept week-long team scores and individual statistics, and also held shooting, dribbling, and skills challenges. Creating a more competitive atmosphere during our basketball sessions helped everyone improve upon their individual skills, as well as their teamwork during the tournament.
As always, team-building was a major focus of the camp. We had “PeacePlayers Cyprus Survivor Challenge” where teams had to compete in mini-challenges and pass through an obstacle course together as one unit. We also gave them structured free time to write each other Appreciations, talk to new friends, or play football with the UNHCR kids. Camp ended as it always does, with a water balloon fight and dance party, which really emphasized the themes of togetherness and fun, which we always try to focus on.