Monthly Archives: February 2012

GUEST POST: Engage – Do Your Part for Peace on the successful launch of Phase II of the project

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Peace Exchange welcomes another Guest Post today, this time from Giorgos Andriotis from the NGO Support Centre, who shares with us about ENGAGE’s successful Phase II launch this week.

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“Tuesday’s launch ceremony of ENGAGE Phase II at the Home for Cooperation in Nicosia’s Buffer Zone proved to be a great opportunity for an encounter with people from all walks of life.

“Once again, ENGAGE offered a platform to the wider public, the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the track one  folks (representatives from the official negotiations) to mingle and express their thoughts and expectations about the peace process on our beloved island.

“After all, ENGAGE’s events are all about people coming together, talking, exchanging views, creating vibrant networks and passing on their ideas to the political leaderships regarding their aspirations about Cyprus, and their strong will for peace and reconciliation.

“I have always felt that Cypriots rarely have a real chance to express their views, or to criticise or advocate for something which they strongly believe will bring positive change to their society.

“We are also led to believe every now and again that the reconciliation of our island is a matter to be managed and solved only by politicians for the people and not between the people living in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

“Or that a division of four odd decades and the wounds and prejudices as a result of this, are expected to be healed overnight, without the wider public being actively engaged in the process.

“Having this in mind, Tuesday’s event revealed some positive messages.

 “Not only did people from Civil Society and the wider public fill the conference room at the Home for Cooperation, but they also had the opportunity to watch messages – positive messages – from the representatives of the two leaders, as well as the UN, on how to channel their efforts towards the rapprochement of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and that their good initiatives and expertise can come to the forefront of activities towards reconciliation.

“Indeed, it can be said that this marked the first time the two leaderships gave jointly committed statements on actively including the local Civil Society in the peace process.

 “Via a video presentation prepared by fellow Peace it Together partner CCMC, Messrs George Iacovou, Kudret Özersay and Ms Lisa Buttenheim underlined the importance of the role of Civil Society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in informing the public about the challenges and opportunities for a comprehensive settlement.

 “In other words, on Tuesday night, the efforts and success of the CSOs in bridging the gap between the two communities were finally recognised officially.

 “‘The audiovisual messages were received with enthusiasm and hope by NGO practitioners such as myself,” said Soteris Themistocleous of CARDET, following the presentation, adding ‘especially during this period where pessimism characterises the whole negotiating process.

“‘I believe that this time, ENGAGE provides hopeful and inclusive initiatives, by increasing the activities and radius of its action outside Nicosia and by opening the door for more organised groups to participate in the reconciliation process. Thus, I feel that the project can be a true value in Civil Society and the wider public’.

“‘It’s good to see the positive steps that Civil Society is taking and the involvement of the representatives. Projects like ENGAGE prove how small efforts can bring about big changes,’ added university student Havva Ortaç.”

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Peace Exchange thanks Giorgos for bringing us the highlights of ENGAGE’s Tuesday event, and looks forward to many more such posts on the range of peacebuilding efforts in the PiT network.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read earlier Peace Exchange posts about the activities of this Peace it Together partner, you can do so here and here.

That’s all for this time, but we’ll be back again with more good stuff soon.

Until then, stay warm and… see you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here.

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Games of peace and spontaneous compassion

Children bring us a wonderful excuse to experience things we may otherwise reject, under the guise of maturity.

Sometimes, in the case of very young kids, there’s the opportunity to chuckle over their acts of innocence, or feel the vicarious thrill at their discovery of certain key ideas, or exposure to natural phenomena – such as snow – for the first time, or bask in the extravagance of their affection for pets or favourite toys.

By the time they get to be young men and women, the range of emotions associated with them becomes often an intermingling of concern, pride and perhaps frustration, as they sometimes choose life paths that are uncertain, too-new or a break with the past.

What we don’t often immediately associate with children, however, is wisdom.

At about the seven-minute point in the video above, teacher John Hunter describes his experience in what he calls the “collective wisdom” of his nine- to 10-year-old students, as they took part in a past-time he invented – the World Peace Game.

In this fascinating, multi-layer challenge – in which the aim is to arrive at ‘world peace’ – Hunter’s students have to take charge as leaders of fictional countries, to tackle a staggering range of 50 problems – including climate change, poverty, war and ethnic and minority tensions – and negotiate among themselves to master the various crises, threats and opportunities.

There’s even a student who takes the role of the saboteur – deliberately undermining the problem-solving process!

“The way the game is won is all 50 interlocking problems have to be solved,” says Hunter, “every country’s asset value has to be increased above its starting point”.

The results are often thrilling in their originality and unpredictability.

Indeed, one of the lessons learned is that the thrill of conquest in war only leads to more wars, while the pain of defeat also creates conflict – this time in the hope of revenge. A practical demonstration of what Chinese military general Sun Tzu had warned about in his famous treatise – The Art of War so many centuries ago.

“I’ve been winning battles, so I’ve been going into battles… it’s sort of weird to be living what Sun Tzu said,” agrees one militarily-successful student.

“That’s the kind of engagement you want to have happen,” emphasises Hunter, “that’s an authentic assessment of learning”.

But the highlight of the video comes at the end, when Hunter describes the finale of one particular game, where all but one of the 50 problems had been solved.

Unfortunately though, one of the fictional ‘countries’ that had started off the poorest had got even poorer, with only minutes left on the clock.

To Hunter’s amazement, his students mounted one final, desperate push to collaborate their way out of the situation – with all the other countries agreeing to pool their collective wealth to help their struggling neighbour – with the result being that the game was won in the last few seconds, in an act of “spontaneous compassion”.

It seems perhaps absurd, though this video provocatively suggests otherwise: what might happen if the problems of the world were tackled by the very young among us?

What would happen if we gave nine- and 10-year-olds here in Cyprus the opportunity to tackle the island’s longstanding conflict?

What acts of ‘spontaneous compassion’ could cut through difficulties that seem insurmountable?

As Hunter observed, the game demanded that he relinquish control, and trust that his students’ collective wisdom would adapt, respond and create in ways that were bold, imaginative and surprising.

Thus, all of the Peace it Together partners have a key role to play in pooling their talents and resources to create the landscape of harmony and collaboration on this island. But it’s worth remembering that the youngest Cypriots among us have potentially the greatest contribution to offer of all.

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and Turkish version here.

An oasis of love for the most needy, a renewal of a historic landmark

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Here at Peace Exchange, we had passed it many times before while walking in the Paphos Gate area in Old Nicosia, without realising its significance.

It took a day trip with other Peace it Together partners to change that.

Unassuming from the outside, with its entrance located on tiny St Maron street, the Favierou Day Care Centre is revealed, once a visitor steps inside, to be a well-equipped, brightly-lit and welcoming oasis for the island’s severely disabled.

Having opened its doors in 1989, it caters to individuals from across the island who are unable to receive care via other means, due to the severity of their needs.

The visit aimed at bringing together various partners in order to explore possible synergies to boost the efforts of individual initiatives.

As with all such projects in Cyprus, and particularly in the richly-storied environment of the Old City of Nicosia, there is a moving story behind the Favierou Day Care Centre’s premises.

Indeed, if you listen to the podcast here, you will learn that Favierou House  actually belongs to a Turkish Cypriot, Hasan Tahsin.

Mr. Tahsin was reunited with his Greek Cypriot colleague Petros Marcou from the 1960s, when the latter – acting in his role as President of the Association that runs the house – came to secure Tahsin’s consent to restore the house.

Mary Katsiolidou of the Association said there were daily activities at the Centre, including physiotherapy, music and drawing, as well as day trips – via the Centre’s two sturdy mini-buses – to sites such as olive mills – to offer an awareness of the social and cultural fabric of the island.

As we roamed the Centre’s well-kept, inviting and light-filled spaces, the atmosphere of gentleness, respect and genuine love for those for whom it was created, was palpable.

Indeed, what those who use the Centre need most of all is “love , acceptance and support,” said Katsiolidou. “They need to feel that they are surrounded by friends and that their moral and physical needs will be satisfied”.

“They’re satisfied with very little… just be there, and love them”

She went on to share the stories of two of the Centre’s members and how their lives had transformed.

One person had spent several years in a psychiatric facility and had been heavily sedated.

“When he arrived here, he hung his head down constantly, and would simply walk back and forth from one side of the common area to the next,” said Katsiolidou.

But as time went on, he became more and more relaxed and was content to sit and have people speak to him.

“He transformed from the removed, unreachable state he was in before,” said Katsiolidou.

Another story was of a teenager who suffered from severe epilepsy and lack of mobility. This left her parents with no options for her care and so she stayed at home.

She was taken in by the Centre even though she was below the official minimum age of 18, and, with time, “became a happy member of the team”.

The invaluable service offered by the Centre is limited only by its space and resources – it can accommodate the needs of a maximum of six individuals, so several disabled individuals remain on a waiting list.

Favierou is one of four facilities of its kind but, owing to a lack of funds, unlike the other sites, is unable to cater for individuals from all communities at the present moment.

A push to create such funds and support, as well as an open invitation to all members of society to volunteer their time and special skills to those served by the Centre, is thus on an ongoing ‘to-do’ list.

For more information about the Favierou Day Care Centre, you can contact Mary Katsiolidou at: katsiol@cytanet.com.cy

Meanwhile, a 10-minute bus ride away, in the Arabahmet district of the Old City, another Culture Heritage project, the 14th-century Armenian Church and Monastery is also displaying the signs of an almost five-million-dollar effort to conserve this important cultural and historic landmark.

Wandering inside its walls, the re-tiling of the Church and Monastery complex’s sprawling courtyards has almost been completed, the prelature and three school buildings have been restored and the Church itself returned to its former glory.

Lighting has been placed at key points in the complex, looking forward to a time when the space will be opened up for the public to roam and enjoy.

“UNDP’s mission was to come up with the design plans and fund the complex’s conservation,” noted Cultural Heritage Programme Associate Pelin Maneoglu, adding that she is hopeful a plan will be put into place as a means of generating income for further upkeep and development of the area.

Nonetheless, research was ongoing on UNDP’s side, to find potential international organisations who might be interested to involve the Church complex in their own work and be a part of a future plan to keep the site financially self-sufficient.

A stone’s throw away from the Church itself, the Melikian Mansion building – which dates back to the 13th century – has had supporting structures placed all around, securing its crumbling walls and ensuring, at least for the next few decades – that it is kept from collapse.

Further funding, if it can be found, said Maneoglu, could potentially turn this building into an archaeological park.

For now, however, the plan is to section it off from the main complex, to ensure no passerby runs the danger of straying into an area that, despite its support, remains vulnerable.

Peace Exchange looks forward to bringing you updates in future posts.

That’s all for this time, but we’ll be back again with more good stuff soon.

Until then, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here and a Turkish version here.

GUEST POST: Youth Power shares about its successful launch party and the inauguration of the 2012 Small Grants Initiative

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Peace Exchange likes nothing better than a great party, especially when it involves bringing people together for a good time while engaging in peacebuilding.

This week, Peace it Together partner Youth Power threw a great bash at the Home for Cooperation, full of music, treats, surprises and important announcements – including the inauguration of a peacebuilding grant (more on that below).

Phaedon Zacharoudes, a dynamic member of the Youth Power  team, shares the highlights, so please read on!

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“The Home for Cooperation across the Ledra Palace Hotel, was a thrilling place to be on Monday night, as scores of people from all over Cyprus came to participate in the Youth Power Party.

“The event was hosted by Youth Power, a network of 12 diverse, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot organisations that promote youth activism, whose mission is to inspire, energise and strengthen the island’s youth in their efforts to shape a peaceful and sustainable future, for a multicultural Cyprus.

“Youth activists, peace workers and lively people of all ages got together to celebrate peace and the new chapter for Youth Power.

“Youth Power embodies the second phase of the Youth Activism Project, which has been engaging young people in  peacebuilding since 2009.

“Although the work, mission and objectives remain the same as before, the network’s new name and image marks the start of a renewed activist spirit and the launching of new projects.

“Our main new enterprise is called the Youth Power Small Grants, information on which was first shared at our party.

“The Small Grants are meant to help both organisations and independent groups gain financial support for their own peacebuilding initiatives.

“In line with Youth Power’s objectives, funding will be provided to applicants to:

  • Inspire, empower and energize young Cypriots to work towards achieving their vision of a peaceful, sustainable and multicultural Cyprus
  • Provide a powerful platform for young people to voice their needs and concerns regarding the future of Cyprus
  • Encourage, support and promote communication, activities and relationships that engage, empower and motivate young Cypriots to be active citizens
  • Create intercultural bridges through joint activities, whose aim is to get the youth of Cyprus involved in common issues such as peacebuilding, the environment and human rights
  • Facilitate relationships and networking between young members of the different communities of Cyprus
  • Put the issues concerning youth in the agendas of decision-makers in Cyprus and overseas through campaigning, lobbying and advocacy

“Those eligible for the Grants include:

  • Civil Society Organisations based in Cyprus
  • Individuals or groups of individuals who are interested in the promotion of youth-related initiatives in Cyprus
  • Ad-hoc, non-formal, school groups or other small/isolated organisations. These groups are a particular target group for the network’s outreach, as they are likely to have had minimal or zero contact with bi-communal activities in the past

“You can find more information about the Grants and how to apply here.

“But back to Monday’s party! The evening unfolded merrily with snacks and drinks to the sounds of live guitar and violin.

“Meanwhile, there were plenty of gifts for every guest, a treasure hunt for a Kindle Fire tablet and, most importantly, the handing out of awards to the independent group of Youth Leaders and Cultural Activists, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to peace activism – organising the vibrant One StreetS festival which reclaimed specific streets in Morphou, Limassol and Nicosia.

“Youth Power Project Manager Seziş Thompson was really excited about the  amazing turnout at the party!

“She said: ‘We could feel everyone was intrigued and excited about the new phase of our work and we will make sure Youth Power keeps supporting young people’s efforts towards peace.’

“For her part, Associate Project Manager, Katerina Antoniou, stressed: ‘It is amazing to feel the support of young people, and now we believe even more that they are the ones able to bring about a significant change in Cyprus, through their powerful contribution to peace.

‘Our goal remains, always, to stand by them.’

“Having had such a great time on Monday night, and on behalf of our team at Youth Power, I’d like to thank all the participants for making the party a truly unique and special occasion.

“For more information on the network’s activities, please visit: www.youthpowercyprus.org.”

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Peace Exchange thanks Phaedon for bringing us the highlights of the Youth Power party, and looks forward to many more such posts on the range of peacebuilding efforts in the PiT network.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read earlier Peace Exchange posts about the activities of this Peace it Together partner, you can do so here and here.

That’s all for this time, but we’ll be back again with more good stuff soon.

Until then, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here