“Tearing down walls, Building Bridges”- Youth Exchange

Presentation of the project

A refugee is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. Every minute, 22 people are forcibly displaced. The majority of the 65 million refugees worldwide are young people.

The Youth Exchange project under the ERASMUS+ program (Youth), called “Tearing down walls, building bridges” that took place in Paralimni, Cyprus, 17-24th of March, was organised by the Cyprus Youth Clubs Organisation- KOKEN, aiming on spreading awareness on the refugee crisis and at the same time motivating the young people to take action and spread the message of equality, respect and human dignity to their fellow young people in their local communities and not only.

Theognosia Petrou, the European Projects Coordinator of Cyprus Youth Clubs Organisation (KOKEN), was the supervisor of the project.  As she mentioned: “Through this project and in general through the ERASMUS Plus projects, we give voice to young people and spark their creativity and willingness to do something for a better world. The outcomes that derive from such projects every time are just amazing. I wish to invite the young people to continue dreaming of a better world and take action for creating the world they wish to live in. As I always say “if you can dream it, you can do it”, so keep dreaming!”

The partners who cooperated for this youth exchange were from Walk Together– Bulgaria, OENEF– Greece, YouNet– Italy, Asociacija “Apkabink Europa”- Lithuania, Euro FRC– Poland,  Asociatia Tinerilor cu Initiativa Civica– Romania, DRPDNM– Slovenia and, last but not least, KOKEN- Cyprus. Forty young people coming from different nationalities, culture, values, views, perspectives, knowledge and stories; were gathered to focus on the crucial role that civil society has regarding the full and encompassing integration of refugees in our communities.

The objectives of the project  wanted to  show the reality of the situation that the refugees experience, to illustrate the pivotal role of civil society in the integration process and, of course, to encourage volunteerism.

In those 7 days of the project, we worked on different methods such as team building activities, stimulation games, and discussion and reflection groups.

The outcome?

Team work, self confidence and effectiveness.

Apart from the intercultural night, in which each country had to represent their traditional values and customs, we learnt so many different things about refugees in other countries and the way the civil society deals with them. We explored the causes of crisis and the related problems.

Regarding refugees crisis, we visited Nicosia and we had the chance to meet with UNHCR Cyprus. We learnt about their history and role in this matter. Furthermore, we saw how they work and what they do to help refugees settle and how they advocate their rights.

Moreover, we had the chance to see things through refugees’ eyes, since one of the participants of the project is himself a refugee.

Mazen Beshtawe found his way in Cyprus in 2014 and since then he is actively involved on spreading awareness on refugees’ issues and fighting for their rights.

“Refugees are people who are forced to leave their countries after putting a lot of effort to stay there. They come in different categories of which made them flee from their home country. Refugees in Europe, when they first arrive, they are vulnerable since they have lost the world they knew before. Nevertheless, with little help from the new society they arrive at and proper education they will become an integral part of the society. To be a refugee it not something you have planned or you volunteered. We often see people who are anti refugees and say REFUGEE GO HOME… and I wish I could”.

 ‘R for Refugees, R for Respect’

The last couple of days, we were divided into six groups and each group took on a project. The projects were a Radio Broadcast, a Simulation using the method Theater of the Oppressed, a Video, a Leaflet, a Mural and an Artistic Installation which we successfully accomplished.

Considering all of the above, the Youth Exchange “Tearing down walls, building bridges” fulfilled its goals. From my point of view, it was a great experience and a good opportunity to raise awareness on refugee crisis. Us, the youth, will be the ones to “make a difference” in humanitarian crises, if we can demonstrate motivation and dedication.

Stefania Zygomani- Participant from Greece


Note from the Cyprus Youth Clubs Organisation- KOKEN:

Thank you Stefania for your work and contribution through this article.

Thank you all for your creativity, motivation, knowledge and experience you have shared with us.

Special thanks to our facilitator, Sophia Arnaouti for her energy and assistance in this project.

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