This week I have had the privilege to find out about the work done by the bicommunal youth network, Youth Power. To do this I had to travel to the divided heart Cyprus, the Ledra Palace buffer zone in the capital. Ledra Palace was originally a flourishing hotel but since the division, it has been hosting the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, the UNFICYP. “Buffer zone” translates as “dead zone” in Greek, so I was expecting to find a place full of ruins. What I found instead was a stretch of land bustling with peacebuilders working at the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) and at the Home for Cooperation (H4C), a building housing numerous bicommunal NGOs. Youth Power is also housed at H4C. I was cheerfully greeted by Phaedon Zacharoudes, one of two Communications Consultants in the Youth Power team who has kindly filled me in on the youth network’s activities.
Youth Power is a network of 12 diverse, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot organizations, I find out, that promote or affiliate with youth activism. Their mission is to inspire, energize and strengthen the youth’s efforts to shape a peaceful and sustainable future, for a multicultural Cyprus, comprised of aware, empowered and active citizens. Youth Power aims towards a future of inclusivity, reconciliation and social innovation. For that, the network has been carrying out a multitude of initiatives, starting in 2009, when the member organisations first came together under the Youth Activism Project – the precursor of Youth Power.
Their initiatives cover many topics. Their main project during the past two years has been the Youth Power Small Grants. These have financed the youth-orientated bicommunal projects that individuals, groups or organisations have initiated. The Small Grants are currently in their third and final round, with four projects being implemented. The four projects are Sharedwords, directed by Nuri Silay, aiming to inform and educate Greek and Turkish language learners through a series of educational sessions and games using the motivating SharedWords method. Reading the Lines, directed by Louiza Mallouri, aiming firstly to identify and address inconsistencies, discrepancies and gaps between research, policy and practice regarding the literature curriculum (ages 15-18) in both communities, advocating the development of critical literacy approaches in order to ultimately equip young Cypriots with the tools to interrogate various media and challenge the ideology and power relations within their messages. Secondly, it aims to put components of critical literacy in action, inspiring and guiding young Cypriots to use creative writing/storytelling as an artful advocacy tool in order to talk about issues that are important to them. Interview With The Invisible Other implemented by Petros Nicolaou, based on a research and a short documentary examining racism and immigrant rights in Cyprus. And last but not least, Collective Bahçe, a community garden built in Nicosia by Utopia Collectiva, partnering with Salih Koccat for a larger series of environmental events. All the last week for example, an activity regarding Self-sufficiency took place at the Garden, also known as Community Garden. During the training, people have learned to plant the projects have ongoing public activities which you can find out on www.youthpowercyprus.org, as well as on https://www.facebook.com/youthpowercyprus and on https://twitter.com/YouthPowerCy.
Youth Power is especially concerned with the rising rates of youth unemployment, trying to come up with alternative solutions for the local youth and to build their capacity. It has launched a series of entrepreneurship trainings and skills workshops as well as a major online project coming up called www.youthpowerline.org. It is a multifunctional online platform aiming to be used as a learning and promotional tool by young entrepreneurs, both locally and internationally. The platform is being built to be as self-sustainable as possible and to be operated directly by its users. Youthpowerline.org will be divided in two sections: Entrepreneurship, for young people occupying themselves directly with social or corporate business and Creativity, for youth occupying themselves with culture and the creative arts. Services offered include an introductory audiovisual course to social entrepreneurship, master classes, online directories to businesses, organisations and cultural agents, the opportunity to make a profile in order promote one’s work and services, the opportunity to find partners, as well as the possibility of low cost advertising. www.youthpowerline.org will go live on Thursday 11 July 2013 at the big live event scheduled to take place at the Famagusta Gate in Nicosia. More details will be released shortly.
Once more I am really surprised. I did not expect to find solutions being developed for the current financial difficulties put forth so soon after the recent escalation of the credit crunch and from such an unexpected source. Phaedon informs me that Youth Power has been developing towards solutions of entrepreneurship since late last year. “The youth, with its talent, skills and education is the future and the true capital of Cyprus. We as a network have responded to their call for cutting-edge solutions towards their predicaments and investiture in their ideas, empowering them, in this way, to be the agents of social innovation that they really are.”
I strongly agree with Youth Power. Initiatives and efforts such as these, lead to being aware of how important are youth people for society, not only in Cyprus, but in every country. I believe that young people truly do have the energy and the creativity, as well as the ability to change society for the better. We need the tools and the faith to carry out our ideas and projects. Thank you Youth Power for believing in young people and the transformative potential they carry in them.