This past Thursday PPI-Cyprus was heading to Limassol for its weekly practice with the 5th and 6th graders of the Agios Antonios 4th school when it started to rain. Unfortunately, the basketball courts are outside, and as the rain began to fall harder, it looked like practice might have to be canceled. Thinking quickly, we called the school and arranged to have the kids meet in the school auditorium. When we arrived there 20 minutes later, we found 100 kids sitting on plastic chairs in rows crammed together, bursting with energy to go outside and play in the rain.
That is when PPI-CY went into action. First PPI Fellow Gunnar told all the children to stand up and led them through a game of “Simon Says” with his whistle. Pretty soon all the kids were clapping their hands, slapping their knees, throwing their hands in the air and yelling “Wooooo!” Next PPI-CY Fellow Adam set up a projector to show the kids some of PPI-CY’s short films such as the Famagusta Twinning, PPI-CY Visits Peristerona, and the classic Half Court Shot (the kids’ favorite).
Finally PPI-CY Managing Director Marina divided the kids into groups and handed out paper and pens. Each group was then given a folded piece of paper with a country or continent written on it. The groups were then instructed to take 10 minutes to draw pictures and have the other children guess what country that group was representing.
The goal of the game was to show the kids what stereotypes they had of other countries. When everyone had finished, the kids came to the front of the auditorium and presented their drawings: penguins for Antarctica, traditional Greek clothes for Greece, a Turkish flag for Turkey, a mummy for Egypt, and the capital building and a bomb for the U.S.
Finally, before the kids left we asked them to fill out a PPI-CY survey with questions about their views on conflict and Cyprus. This is part of a new measurement and evaluation program for PPI-CY, so that we can see if children’s attitude towards conflict and their comfort level with children of different ethnicities increases while being part of PeacePlayers.
We were interested but not surprised when we found that of the 87 kids surveyed, nearly 60% would not feel comfortable crossing to the northern Turkish-Cypriot side of the island. It is sad to see that even at the age of 10 and 11, these kids have fully imbued the prejudice and stereotypes that create a fear of the northern part of their island. Over the coming months, PeacePlayers will work to help these children learn to no longer fear their peers to the north.
Finally the bell rang and the children put on their rain coats and ran home. Despite the rain, it was a great time for the kids of Agios Antonios and PeacePlayers-Cyprus.