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.
I’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?
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.
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?
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.
We continue to cover inspiring initiatives from across the island. This week, Maria Zeniou talks about her experience at the Green Streets action, organized recently in Famagusta.
As the end of the year approached, things seemed to be slowing down with the peace process. The same could not be said for Famagustians. Indeed, it has been a pleasure for me to experience first hand the various activities organized in December by the people of Famagusta Walled City and Deryneia to work together for the future of their region.
Of the number of activities under RENEWAL that recently took place, I wanted to share with you one of the first and the most memorable for me. It was one of the notoriously rare bad weather days (that Cyprus doesn’t see much of) where the sky was pouring, the streets were flooded and you could barely walk outside, let alone do outdoor activities. Well, I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Not even the rain stopped them: Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots Famagustians, soaking from head to toe, planting trees around the walls of Famagusta. Two hours under the rain, and they managed to plant around 900 trees!
Perhaps the ‘Green Streets’ event is not what you would call a game-changer. But it shows that even under difficult circumstances, given the right opportunity, the people of Famagusta have the will to work for change. The RENEWAL project, currently underway in the region of Famagusta, is working to create exactly this kind of opportunity. After all, only if Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriot Famagustians work together can the social and economic change they envision for their region finally come.
Editor’s Note: You can follow the RENEWAL project and its activities via their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/renewal2014