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On Saturday 28th May, the newly established bi-communal civil society initiative Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Centre (CPDC) in partnership with children’s cancer charity Kemal Saraço?lu Foundation (KSV), held their first public event: a children’s party in the park aimed at bringing together families cross-communally for a day of fun and fundraising.

The event kicked off at 11am in Kumsal Park, just north of Nicosia’s old town, and the festivities lasted until 2pm, with clown performances, face-painting, balloons, music and dancing, and children’s games. Children also enjoyed refreshments and ice cream.

The event was attended by about 120 people throughout; many families had heard about it via social media or the organisers, and others were passing by while enjoying a day out at the park. There were children from all age groups and from different communities in Cyprus.

There were also Turkish-Greek bilingual children’s books by Katie Clerides and Seda Tanova on sale, in order to raise money for the KSV. The authors were also there to speak to parents and sign books. The event was covered by local media outlets from across the divide.

Meltem Onurkan Samani, CPDC General Coordinator said: ‘This event is one example of working together to respond in a collective way to our shared challenges, such as those relating to health. In collaborating, we are more successful than we would be working mono-communally’. Katie Clerides, also CPDC’s Cross-Community Civil Society Networking working group co-chair, said of the event: ‘We have organised this event to raise money for children suffering with cancer. We have books on sale and lots of fun activities. I hope that everyone is able to enjoy themselves’.

When asked whether inter-communal events promote reconciliation, 100% of participants answered Yes. One participant said ‘I attend inter-communal events whenever the opportunity arises, they are definitely beneficial for all of us’. Bringing communities together in this way for joint activities and promoting Turkish-Greek bilingualism serves to normalise relations, help to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudices, and foster understanding and empathy. CPDC aims to implement such confidence-building measures with the aim of contributing to lasting peace in Cyprus.

As well as strengthening the capacity of CPDC’s civil society networking group, this event also supported the existing partnership between Turkish Cypriot CSO KSV and Greek Cypriot non-profit bone marrow donor registry, the Karaiskakio Foundation; representatives from whom were also in attendance. This partnership is a model for collaboration across the divide around common goals. Accordingly, CPDC plans to repeat Saturday’s event south of the divide as a fundraiser for the Karaiskakio Foundation.

* with the financial and capacity building support of ICO.