Last week, PeacePlayers International – South Africa officially welcomed back Nasiphi Khafu to the program as Strategy and Operations Manager. Nasiphi or “Nas” is coming off an 18 month International Fellowship with PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland. Below she shares about her time in Northern Ireland, what she learned and what she’s excited about moving forward.
Tell us a little more about PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland?
PPI-NI lives the ethos of believing that children who play together can learn to live together. PPI-NI is a cross community charity that uses the sport of basketball to help bridge divides, develop leaders and change perceptions that may exist because of the legacy of the religious divides between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland..
What were your responsibilities at PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland?
Some of my responsibilities included but were not limited to: coordinating South Belfast, and planning and implementing the Twinning and Belfast Interface League programs. I also coordinated a leadership program called Senior Champions4Peace and social media.
What are some of your most important takeaways from your time in Northern Ireland??
I discovered so much about myself. My time in Northern Ireland was the most time I have ever spent away from home. The longest time I had ever been away before going to Northern Ireland was a month, then suddenly I had to be away for 18 months. I initially wanted to go to NI because I could relate to the history, coming from a divided country. I was curious to learn how Catholics and Protestants even know the difference between each other since most people are white. Where I come from it’s very easy to spot many of the divides because they’re often racial. I heard real life stories from each side of the religions, I got to see first-hand how the division affected each community but also how forgiveness and diversity is helping to bridge divides. I was shocked to know how divided the communities were, like if you are Protestant there is a great chance you would have never met a Catholic person and vice-versa but PeacePlayers brings the two religions together to challenge the stereotypes they might have of each other, have fun, get to know each other better, play sports and make friends. I got to understand the role that PeacePlayers is playing to bring communities who would have never had a chance to meet come together and even build relationships through the sport of basketball.
While in NI I was also exposed to more opportunities to travel to America with the US States Department, to attend the NCAA Women Coaches Academy with Sports United and then Laureus Sport for Good Foundation invited me to the One Young World Summit in Bangkok to represent the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport program. I am now a lot more confident and for the first time in my life I actually feel like I can do anything I put my mind to, anywhere in the world.
– What was it like living abroad and adjusting to a new culture?
It was not easy at first. I was in a foreign country, I left all my family and friends behind. At first I struggled to build relationships which was very strange because that’s always been a strength of mine. Sometimes I wouldn’t see another black person for a week at a time. One of my favorite moments was when a small primary two boy asked me if I was made out of chocolate.
The challenges did not just stop with building relationships; I also had to get used to communicating daily in English, my third language.
Eventually I made a decision. I realized that my time and experience in NI was up to me. I could either sit around and complain about the rainy weather and hard times or I could learn to dance in the rain and have the best time of my life. The moment I chose to focus on being myself and not trying to fit in, things turned around. I found so many great people who took me in, loved me like I was their own, and they became family and lifelong friends.
What are you most excited about returning to PPI-SA?
I have been so excited to be back home, and re-join the PeacePlayers International – South Africa family again. I used to be the participant in the Leadership Development program when I was in high school, and was later a coach so I’ve been through each stage of the program.
I am most excited to share all of the knowledge and systems that I learned in the UK. I’ve learned to respect time, to create systems that improve efficiency, and to find different ways to be helpful to those around me. I was privileged to be coached and mentored by some of the most incredible brains in the world, like the Managing Director at PPI-NI, Gareth Harper. I remember the day he looked me in the eye and said, “Nas now you are ready for the world, I have no doubt that you will be successful in whatever you do”. I smiled and knew that it was further reassurance of the greatness my mentor Mthokozisi Madonda has seen in me for years. I came home wanting to give my all to contribute to making South Africa, and the world, better using the powerful tool of sport.