Former New Orleans Jazz star Aaron James and Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu, a former member of the Turkish Women's National Basketball Team, have spent the last few days inspiring young leaders at the Lead for Peace/ YES programme summer camp in Cyprus.
The highly successful YES programme - Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport - is an initiative to empower young people to become leaders, teaching valuable life lessons through the use of sport.
PeacePlayers International Cyprus, funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, has been hosting the summer camp that has brought together young leaders from the other PeacePlayers projects around the world, including Northern Ireland, the Middle East and South Africa, to showcase how sport can be used in promoting peace around the world.
Aaron James, a member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, said: “It’s a wonderful initiative and I am delighted to do what I can to help. Basketball is a great sport for bringing kids together in a team setting. I was very impressed meeting some of the young leaders and I know they are going to become real role models in their communities.”
And Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu said: “Witnessing the power of this programme, which brings together youth from communities that under normal circumstances do not interact has been incredible. One of the goals of Peace Players is for the participants to apply their acquired leadership and peace-building skills to their communities. With the progress I have seen at this camp alone, I am excited and hopeful for the future."
The basketball stars joined the camp to spend time with the young leaders and help them to appreciate the importance of becoming role models in their own communities.
PeacePlayers International Cyprus uses basketball to unite, educate and inspire approximately 350 young people, aged 8 to 18, each year. In partnership with the YES initiative, they will build a Lead4Peace network of 20 youth leaders – ten from the Greek-Cypriot community and ten from the Turkish-Cypriot community - who will be trained to promote sport as a positive tool for social change. Exchanges will assist the leaders in acquiring the skills to become more culturally aware and valued young leaders within their respective communities.
This unique approach to peacebuilding combines basketball with an innovative curriculum. On-court activities teach children practical skills to cope with and overcome conflict, while carefully structured integration allows them to build mutual trust, friendships and a new shared identity.
Aaron James spent his entire five-year NBA career with the New Orleans Jazz. He averaged 10.8 points and 4.1 rebounds over 356 career games from 1974 to 1979 with the Jazz.
Şebnem Kimyacıoğlu currently plays for Galatasary in Turkey and is a former member of the Turkish Women's National Basketball Team. She was born in Santa Clara, California, and graduated from Stanford University.