Cyprus here we are

Georgina and I were in Larnaca for ten days taking part in a Youth Exchange project with @stressballCY #improveyourself, and we couldn’t contain our excitement. Cyprus was beautiful and we enjoyed warm weather. Our accommodation was on the sea front, we were really lucky. The Flamingo Hotel and Resort was a great place to be spending time learning and enjoying Larnaca.

The project idea was to share cultural skills, knowledge and attitudes in order to have a rich common experience.  A number of volunteers from the UK and other European countries were there with us.  We were keen to share our experiences and knowledge and learn from other participants what makes a valuable volunteering journey. We met participants from Roumania, Spain, Macedonia, Estonia, Georgia and Cyprus. The group’s youngest was 16 years old.

We shared our days together participating in structured exercises that promoted reflection, creation and sharing of ideas and knowledge which helped with development and growth. Evenings were set aside for outings and enjoyment. The town of Larnaca had many bars and restaurants to enjoy a night out. Frozen yoghurt seemed to be pretty popular, it would be interesting to find out why?

As luck would have it, we were invited to meet the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, at the Presidential Palace where he took time to speak to representatives from a number of NGOs in Cyprus.  We were then treated to a presidential buffet and had the opportunity to migle and speak to very interesting NGO representatives.  We had the pleasure of seeing some very interesting works of art at the Palace too.

We took part in exercises for first days to learn more about each other and our cultures.  The project aimed to address youth employment and mobility by teaching communication, entrepreneurship, life and basic skills, digital and social competence, communication skills and cultural skills to motivate young people and help them become more employable. Our research showed that only one other organisation that we could locate in Kent participates in Youth Exchange projects, and Georgina and I aim to change this. Although the future of funding for the UK after Brexit is uncertain, we are keen on developing and participating in as many Youth Exchange projects as we can, and encourage Kentish youth to take part. We’re particularly keen on finding out how NGO’s abroad tackle youth unemployment. Youth unemployment in Cyprus is among the highest in Europe along with Spain, France, Italy and Turkey.

We were amazed at the amount of creativity that we saw and learnt a lot about how youth in different countries perceive and express themselves in everyday life, what their dreams and aspirations are, and how they go about learning skills. We hope to be able to do a comparative study of Youth Exchange take up between the UK and other countries in Europe (showing how participants experience the exchange, what they feel they have gained and how it helps them with education and careers) and create a number of  creative Youth Exchange projects, predominantly using music, arts and creativity,  inviting youth from around Europe to visit and learn in Kent. After all Kent has so much to offer in that respect, and is only an hour away from London, which could be very appealing to creative young people from abroad.

It’s been really wonderful to hear different languages and experience other cultures, learn new words, find out about some truly extraordinary careers and work that people around the word do (I met a young lady who is at university studying for a Masters in crypto currency law/regulation, how interesting).

We would like to thanks Yiannis Kanaris of Stressball CY for hosting the project and making our trip a very enjoyable and educational one and we hope to participate in future projects in Cyprus.

We left buzzing with ideas of projects we would like to deliver here in the UK and abroad and we are now working on a number of them.  If you’re interested in helping, or in traveling and learning new skills, please contact us to find out how HERE.

More about our projects and plans later.  For now, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and ask you to spare a thought for those who will be out in the cold or alone this time of year.  Love and blessings. Betsy and Georgina.