Brendan Tuohey uses sports for peace building

    Brendan Tuohey, executive director and co-founder of PeacePlayers International. Photo by: personal collection

    Brendan Tuohey’s belief that athletics can educate and build unity was shaped playing basketball with teammates from across Washington, D.C. Outside-the-box thinking has allowed the 36-year-old to help advance the idea that sports programs can help resolve conflicts around the globe.

    “In 2001, we really were unique,” said Brian Cognato, development communications associate for PeacePlayers International, which Tuohey co-founded “in our parent’s basement” with his brother Sean. “It’s not quite so unique anymore, and that’s one of Brendan’s key achievements.”

    Tuohey has guided PPI from a startup with an operating budget of $7,000 in 2001 to a $2.2 million organization with programs serving 45,000 children in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus, New Orleans, and the Middle East. Trust in those around him, a trait reinforced during his basketball-playing days at Colgate University, has enabled Tuohey to empower his colleagues and allow for local ownership of projects.

    “PPI is currently working with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to develop and roll out a ‘sport for peace-building’ toolkit,” Tuohey said. “We will use the toolkit to work with other [non-governmental organizations], sports federations, and other organizations in areas of conflict to establish and enhance their own efforts to use sport to bridge divides and develop leaders.”

    For his efforts, Tuohey has been recognized with honors previously awarded to Muhammad Ali, Pat Tillman, Mike Krzyzewski, Billie Jean King and other sporting legends known for their off-the-field service.

    “When used correctly, sport has the unique power to create environments that inspire participants to re-frame their perceptions, re-imagine identities and form bonds across cultural divides while, at the same time, developing critical life and leadership skills,” he said. “This applies to players, coaches, families and communities.”

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    About the author

    • Josh Miller

      Josh joined Devex's Washington office in early 2010 as an international development correspondent covering U.S. aid reform, the D.C. development scene and Latin America. He previously served as a marketing communications coordinator for TechnoServe, a news production specialist for the Associated Press and a news desk assistant for the PBS NewsHour. He has reported for publications in Caracas, Chicago, Madrid, New Delhi, Philadelphia, and Washington, and holds a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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