Since its inception in 2001, Peace Players International has reached more than 45,000 children in global conflict areas, launching international programmes in Israel and the West Bank, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and New Orleans in the United States, using basketball as the means to bring young people together.
The two men behind Peace Players International are American brothers, Brendan and Sean Tuohey. The love of basketball is part of the Tuohey DNA. As the son of the chairman of the Washington DC Sports Commission, Sean Tuohey grew up with the dream of one day playing for a top team in the NBA. After college he travelled to Ireland to play basketball there and began to coach Catholic and Protestant children together. He soon realised that sport could be a way to break down generations of hatred. Following the first PPI project in Northern Ireland, his attention was directed to South Africa.
He explains: "Basketball was a new sport to both countries. In Northern Ireland, Catholic kids played Gaelic sports like hurling and Protestants played rugby. In South Africa, black kids played soccer and the white kids played cricket. Basketball is neutral."
PPI's commitment does not end on the court. In South Africa there is also a life skills programme where coaches meet before practice to discuss HIV/AIDS, drugs, alcohol, racism, sexism and conflict resolution. AIDS awareness messages have been distributed around the 60 basketball courts that have been built. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is an enthusiastic supporter of the project.