This week’s blog is brought to you by former PPI-NI intern, Zoe Cummings.
My name is Zoe Cummings, I am a final year student at Stranmillis University College studying Technology and Design with Mathematics. As part of my course I had the opportunity to have a two-week alternative placement in an informal education setting. I chose to work with PPI-NI, as they use sport (which I love) to bridge divides – bringing people together from all walks of life, develop leaders – the next generation who will be in charge of this country, and change perceptions – challenging why we think how we do. Heading into my two weeks at PPI-NI I had no idea what to expect, except that maybe a little bit of basketball would be involved.
On 15th January, I began my alternative placement. The first day consisted of meeting most of the team, interns, staff and fellows, followed by a run-down of all the different programmes PPI-NI deliver. This blew my mind that through 7 staff and 25(ish) coaches they could have contact with such a wide range of young people throughout each week. The next few days were unfortunately interrupted by the lovely unpredictable Northern Irish weather. Thursday was my first day working with the kids, here I helped with two Twinnings in Ballymena. The kids learned about similarities and differences, and how having similarities with people is a good thing; equally having differences with people is also a good thing or we would all be the same. This was all done in a super engaging, laid back setting and of course through the use of Basketball.
At the weekend, I went to a residential with a group from Carrickfergus. During the weekend we completed an Open College Network accredited qualification in Promoting Diversity through Sport (Level 2). This course taught us about stereotypes, prejudice, identity, being in the box and learned about seeing people as people instead of objects [arbinger]. Overall the weekend was a great way to see how PPI-NI uses sport to change a person’s perceptions and develop leaders.
Finally, week two commenced with a Super Twining between Holy Cross Primary School and Wheatfield Primary School at Queens PEC. This was epic. I helped lead an integrated team of P7s from both schools. The day consisted of a mixture of basketball drills, community relation activity, team building activities and finished with matches. The days theme was all about cooperation, working together as a team no matter what school the person was from. PPI-NI have an emphasis on encouragement, with enhancing the confidence in every kid from the quietest to the loudest kid. The next day I was back in Ballymena for another Twining, but with new schools. This time I helped out with the community relations theme identity. The activity we used was identity badge. The kids were asked to design their identity badge by answering a variety of questions. Once they had completed this they were challenged to share their badge with a person from the other school. During this time, you could see confidence begin to rise as they realised that they had things in common with the person they were talking too. The week finished in Ballymena, with a double Twining. I had the opportunity to lead a team on my own (terrifying but amazing). Again the theme we looked at was Identity, or what makes you – you. For this day, I was in charge of teaching each of the teams how to pass. This was great fun.
Overall, my experience at PPI-NI inspired me to be a part of bridging the divides, developing leaders and changing perceptions in everyday life. I learned that it is essential to see all people as people instead of objects. The relationships I witnessed are clearly a vital part of these young people’s life. PeacePlayers have managed to develop a place that continues to develop a young person throughout their life. I know that this will not be the last time I work with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland. Peace Out!