Have you ever thought to yourself, “I want to make a difference in the world”?
Have you ever wondered if it’s even possible, or considered just what it might take?
PeacePlayers International is a peacebuilding organization that started as nothing more than a simple idea, and is now transforming communities around the entire globe.
A young basketball coach named Sean Tuohey was working with youth in Northern Ireland when he began to realize the unifying, bonding power that the sport had. There are many ways to ‘make a difference’ when you think outside of the box, and Tuohey felt that basketball might be one of them. He teamed up with his brother, raised a few thousand dollars, and launched ‘PeacePlayers.’ The organization began to grow and expand as they worked with other coaches and organizations to use the unifying power of sport to bring children together from opposite sides of religious, ethnic, and cultural divides as a means of developing friendship and peace within divided communities. Now PPI is considered a worldwide leader in the use of sport to build peace.
Earlier this year, PeacePlayers and Nike announced their partnership in promoting equality and a brighter future as they work together to mobilize young people and build stronger communities, showing the world that “if we can learn to play together, we can learn to live together.”
To learn more about the partnership, check out http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/go/equality
Chad Ford, the Director of The David O. McKay Center, got involved with PeacePlayers while traveling and researching for a book he was then writing about sports and conflict resolution. He met PPI’s founders in Northern Ireland and readily volunteered to help establish the program in the Middle East. Despite the physical barriers, ongoing violence, and political setbacks that undermine peacebuilding efforts in that part of the world, PPI has been tremendously successful in uniting Israeli and Palestinian youth as well as empowering young women and girls.
Dr. Ford recently spoke with a group of BYUH students eager to ‘make a difference in the world’ by starting their own NGO’s, and shared some insight about the growth and success of PeacePlayers-
“Everybody wants to go and make a difference, but then most people pack up and leave because the results aren’t immediate or what they’d hoped for or expected. The average lifespan of a new nonprofit is only 6-9 months. When I began my work with PeacePlayers, I knew I had to make a commitment that wasn’t in weeks or months, but decades. Large scale social change takes decades.”
Ford shared one of his favorite stories from the Book of Mormon, found in Alma chapter 17. In this story, a missionary named Ammon went to the land of Ishmael- a land rich in violence and conflict- where he was initially captured and thrown into prison. When brought before the king, Ammon humbly expressed his desire to “dwell among this people for a time, yea, and perhaps until the day I die.”
Ammon spent years living among the Lamanites and serving the king, eventually softening the hearts of the people and transforming the community from a state of war and violence to a place of charity and love. “…and their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil… and they became a righteous people.”
“The sort of commitment Ammon made to the Lamanites was the key to his success,” Ford said. “When you feel that way and you make that commitment, people notice, and it makes all the difference in the world.”
So, if you want to make a difference in your community or in the world, here are a few things to remember:
Think outside the box! Whether its basketball, dance, or underwater basket-weaving, incorporate your passion. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll find yourself teaming up with an incredible world-known brand like Nike.
Start small, and “do what you can, with what you have, where you are” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Just like the Tuohey brothers who founded PeacePlayers International, you too might witness the seed you plant grow into a magnificent global garden.
Dedicate your heart and soul, and just like Ammon you’ll have the power to be influential in transforming hearts in even the most unlikely places.