Sport Has The Power To Change The World

April 2023

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), which takes place annually on 6 April, presents an opportunity to recognise the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the globe.

Connecting our mission and values, the YMCA in Ireland works to create inclusive communities where everyone feels welcomed, accepted and inspired by social justice and peace for all.

Larne YMCA, in partnership with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland have for the past 6 years have been engaging in offering community relations based programmes using basketball as a sport. Basketball as we know has heavy links with the YMCA world movement and when forming this partnership with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland both organisations recognised that we had many things in common. PeacePlayers Northern Ireland is an organisation that works in areas of conflicts around the world. They have 5 sites around the world they are as follows- Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Middle East, America and South Africa.

Looking at Larne and seeing that it is an area that has had many divisions over the years we wanted to bring young people together to learn together, play together and form lasting friendships. Over the last 6 years we have developed strong programmes within the community of Larne. The first one that we formed is a P7 school based twinning programme which brings a perceived Catholic Primary School and a perceived Protestant Primary school together to explore cultural differences, how we feel about people from the other community and what we all have in common. This works with 200 pupils.

Since this initial programme we have now expanded this to have a P6 twinning programme, each of the twinning programmes end in a massive super twinning celebration event which brings all 200 P7 pupils and 200 P6 pupils together across two separate days to celebrate their learning, play basketball against all teams and see that they have been part of a much bigger programme. We have started work in Ballymena and now have an after-schools programme which is a Bridging Divides Programme (BDP) which again uses basketball but explores key cultural differences in our community. This programme has now expanded to include young people from Carrickfergus. BDP then links into the 4 areas of Belfast which is North, East, South, West Belfast and this programme results in all areas coming together twice a year in two massive events called Summer Jam and Jingle Ball.

I would like to thank all the funders that have supported the programmes that we offer in partnership with PeacePlayers and also to all the staff in both Larne YMCA and Peaceplayers for all their help and commitment to ensuring that all programme have proved to be a massive success across Mid and East Antrim.

Through the sport of basketball, many young people have had the opportunity to participate regardless of gender, ability and or faith.

Dean Nutt – General Secretary, Larne YMCA

“Through this collaboration PeacePlayers and Larne YMCA have worked together successfully to identify needs and opportunities and to source and secure funding to support delivery of community relations through sport programmes, training, and activities in the Mid & East Antrim area.  Our collaboration has helped provide a supported safe space where, through playing basketball together on cross community teams and engaging in facilitated good relations through sport conversations and activities, participants have developed relationships based upon mutual respect and understanding. This work is based on the simple yet powerful premise that “children who play together can learn to live together”.  At PeacePlayers we are keen to explore how we might build on the learning and success of our collaboration with Dean and the team at Larne YMCA.  We would love to explore opportunities for future collaborations and interventions with other YMCA’s.” 

Gareth Harper, Managing Director, PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland

If you are interested in learning more about PeacePlayers work and discussing starting a collaboration that adds value for the young people you work with, please reach out to Gareth and the team at PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland.

Tel: 02890667416