Serdar Atai: “My dream is to see Famagusta Walled City as a UNESCO Site”

In the last few months, a local team in Famagusta has been creating good kind of trouble. Today, we’re talking to Serdar, one of the team members of Renewal, about the work they are doing there and his dreams about the region for the future.

Hi Serdar. We would like to begin by getting to know you a little more.

I was born in Famagusta in 1967 and raised here.

DSC_9803I’ve been engaged with civil society and bi-communal work since the early ’90s. I’ve worked with many different groups. I’ve also had the chance of visiting many conflict regions in the world for sharing our experience and exchanging lessons with them.

I’m in love with my beautiful city. My dream is to see Famagusta Walled City as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites where the Famagusta Port is transformed into a Tourism Port and the Greater Famagusta Region; beginning from Deryneia and ending at Salamina, as a completely demilitarised and reunited hinterland.

How did you get involved with RENEWAL?

For the past 6 years, I’ve served as the vice-president of MASDER (Famagusta Walled City Association) and for the past 4 years I’m the spokesperson for the Famagusta Initiative.

RENEWAL is the end product of consultations by UNDP-ACT with local stakeholders in Famagusta and Deryneia regions. MASDER was one of the stakeholders they visited. The idea was born through our consultations together.

What are you trying to accomplish with the RENEWAL initiative?

As RENEWAL, we attempt to provide soft infrastructure for business development, facilitate youth entrepreneurship and enhance civil society dialogue and cooperation within the Greater Famagusta Region.

What are you most excited about in your work?

10457710_579106582236264_1628229526672439542_oFamagusta and Deryneia are two remote regions in Cyprus with physical barriers and extremely limited capacities.

The communities are surrounded by buffer zones.

The Small-Medium Entreprises (SME’s) face major obstacles in their daily commercial activities.

The highest number of youth migration to the other main cities are from this area because of the existing conditions causing unemployment.

The civil society actors and the general public have limited contacts with each other due to the absence of an easy access checkpoint that can be easily opened and operated from Deryneia buffer zone.

Our hands and arms have been tied until now, but RENEWAL gives us the opportunity for tackling all these problematic issues on the ground with technical assistance, expertise and support from UNDP-ACT. With this support, we as the project team are trying our best to achieve the Project’s objectives as much as we can.

Through the initiative has not been around for long, you must already have some achievements you are proud of.

1505194_586130008200588_7474280430414569689_nWe aimed to bring together children, youth and their families by organising different training sessions or cultural and social activities.

We’ve organized youth entrepreneurship seminars, plantation events, chess and football tournaments, folklore and music performances and a food festival. We’ve many people visiting each other’s region for the first time.

Witnessing the satisfaction on the faces of those children, teenagers and the everyday citizens of Famagusta while they spent time together is our biggest motivation in continuing our work.

How do you envision RENEWAL contributing to the peace process?

10620272_581382118675377_9118686055188246770_o
Young Famagustians attend youth entrepreneurship workshops organized by Renewal.

In the long run, I believe these gatherings or interactions at the interpersonal and intercommunal levels will help everyone to emphatize with each other that we have more or less the same anxieties and expectations as two peoples of the same region.

Hopefully, it will help us to create a common ground for coexistence and idealisation of a shared future for the Greater Famagusta Region. The synergy of local communities in daily social and economic life is the only way forward for the common future of our region and island-wide.

How can interested people follow the activities of RENEWAL?

RENEWAL has a Facebook page and people who would like to hear more about us or get informed about our future activities can follow our page here.

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