EBRD helps children play for peace in Cyprus

By Jane  Ross

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EBRD Community Initiative supports PeacePlayers Cyprus

Children who learn to play together can learn to live together. That’s the philosophy behind PeacePlayers Cyprus (PPI-Cyprus), which uses basketball to enable Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot and boys and girls to play together, break down barriers and build positive relationships now and for the future.

Cyprus has been physically divided for decades into the Greek-Cypriot and the Turkish-Cypriot communities. Today, many youth grow up without ever meeting anyone from the “other side”. In fact, they have little opportunity to meet and interact with one another at school or everyday life.

But thanks to PeacePlayers – a youth charity based in the United Nations Buffer zone in Nicosia since 2006 -  basketball is uniting, inspiring and building trust in divided communities.

PeacePlayers is the only year-round bi-communal youth sports organisation in Cyprus. Set up in 2006, it now has more than 250 players (aged between 8-18), 10 coaches and 12 teams that engage in basketball tournaments and related training programmes across the island.

The breakdown of participants for the programme is 52% Turkish Cypriot to 48% Greek Cypriot and is equally divided between boys and girls.

As well as promoting reconciliation between youth from both communities, PeacePlayers promotes social inclusion and female empowerment, working with local schools and CSOs to engage parents and other members of local communities.

Now PeacePlayers is set to receive €50,000 from the EBRD’s Community Initiative. The Initiative helps EBRD staff and the Bank itself support charitable and philanthropic activities in countries where it works and  also provides for targeted contributions on the occasion of EBRD Annual Meetings.

PeacePlayers has now received the first ever such donation from the Community Initiative, which will help the charity carry out further recruitment, training, leadership development and tournaments over the next year.

At a special event at Chateau Status in the UN Buffer Zone, Nicosia on 9 May -- attended by Harris Georgiades , Minister of Finance, Cyprus and EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti  -- members of PeacePlayers showcased their basketball skills and demonstrated how the charity is making a real impact to young people and their communities across Cyprus.

EBRD Community Initiative is supporting PeacePlayers in Cyprus with a donation of 50,000.

Building relationships now and for the future,Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots are mixing on the basketball court, with help from PeacePlayers International - Cyprus.

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Thanking the EBRD for the charitable contribution and ‘for giving us the chance to further make an impact on this island’, President Nicos Mashias stressed that kids play and compete together instead of competing against one another.

It is clear that the importance of PeacePlayers does not lie solely on teaching competitive skills, basketball techniques and  tactics.

It also teaches communal respect, encourages communication and collaboration and challenges players to use these values and skillsets in everyday life.

Victor Petrov, a Greek Cypriot player, stated that PeacePlayers ‘is like a bridge filled with opportunities’, one that has helped him to form lasting friendships.  

While to Serife Ertay, a Turkish Cypriot player, her participation in PeacePlayers has given her new-found confidence.  Speaking proudly in English, she said, ‘Before joining PeacePlayers I couldn’t even speak in class. Now look at me!’.

What difference will the EBRD Community Initiative donation make to PeacePlayers Cyprus?  It will help to increase the number of teams (from 12 to 16)  and the number of coaches (from 10 to 14). It will expand its Leadership Development Programme:  20 selected leaders aged 14+ will take part in court and off-court sessions about peacebuilding and reconciliation, and learn about being positive role models to the younger generation and within the wider community.

Two bi-communal basketball tournaments will  be organised for up to 260 participants from across the entire island. And finally, an impact assessment study will  measure the impact of PeacePlayers operations on players, coaches, teachers, schools, local communities and the general public in both communities, and track changes in perception.

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