The Tuohey Brothers founded the basketball-based humanitarian Peace Players International project in 2001. It is established in Israel and the West Bank, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and New Orleans, Louisiana, and has reached more than 45,000 children in global conflict areas.
Brendan and Sean Tuohey raised $6,000 from family and friends to back their idea and now seven years later PPI has grown to 209 employees and operates on a budget of one million dollars. Both Tuoheys now work full time on the project, Sean internationally and Brendan, as Executive Director in Washington, raising money and awareness.
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.