THE annual visit to the US by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot youths is one of the most effective ways of building trust and friendship among the two communities, one of the coordinators of the project, Ambassador Andreas Pirishis said on Friday.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Pirishis – who is the head of the committee that coordinates the bi-communal Cyprus Friendship Programme (CFP) – said that around 600 children have participated in the project so far.
The CFP is an all-volunteer, peace building, bi-communal project for young Greek and Turkish Cypriots and their families. Each year, a team of Cypriot co-ordinators selects an equal number of teens from both communities. Each teen then chooses another of the same gender from the other community with whom he/she believes they can be friends.
Every year five groups of four to seven pairs travel to various locations in the US in the summer and are hosted for one month by families who cover all the expenses during the teens’ stay.
The programme, Pirishis said, begins from the children, but it also influences their families.
“A strong friendship is created between the children, which is transmitted to their parents, too,” Pirishis said. He said the programme, “is one of the most effective ways of building trust and friendship between the two communities”.
This year, he said, 54 children travelled to the US. He added that participants usually return to Cyprus thrilled from the experience.
But the children also act as ambassadors of Cyprus to the US communities, as their host families often end up coming to Cyprus to visit them, Pirishis said.
“This goes to show that, the two communities can and want to live together, both in and outside Cyprus, create friendships, partnerships and a common state,” he said.
He said that another bi-communal group of children is to depart on Saturday for Ayios Nicolaos Stegis for camping.