This past week PeacePlayers International – Cyprus (PPI-CY) welcomed PPI Executive Director and Co-Founder, Brendan Tuohey. Since Brendan created the organization alongside his brother, Sean, in 2001, PeacePlayers has come a long way. The organization has expanded from South Africa, to Northern Ireland, then Israel and the West Bank, and then here to Cyprus! During his visit, PeacePlayers-Cyprus International Fellow, Ashley Johnson, had the opportunity to further discover the story behind PPI-CY:
What originally brought PeacePlayers to Cyprus?
While living in South Africa my brother Sean befriended an individual who was working at the US Consulate Office in Durban. His next post was going to be Cyprus and he suggested to my brother to explore the opportunity to bring PeacePlayers to Cyprus. Soon after, we had raised funds from UNDP to do an initial feasibility assessment. After the initial visit and meeting with over 50 individuals, we envisioned that PPI could have a great impact on the island. In 2006, after an initial investment from UNDP and USAID, PeacePlayers established programming in Cyprus.
How have you seen the program in Cyprus progress over the last 7 years of its existence?
The program in Cyprus has developed greatly over the course of the years. First off, the local leadership has been key, starting with hiring Marina Vasilara as Managing Director, to establishing and strengthening the local board. Initially, when a project takes shape and it has outside leadership there may be a sense of skepticism in the project and the local need for the project; however, with the development of the local leadership and the quality of coaches from the local communities, the skepticism recedes and the organization is able to demonstrate that it is here for the long-term. Another of the greatest developments over the years here in Cyprus is the ease with which we are now seeing our participants, particularly those who have been participants in our program for several years, are now able to relate with one another and build meaningful friendships.
What are some of the particular strengths of the Cyprus program?
The organization in Cyprus is unique; there are no other organizations on this island that bring youth together on a consistent basis. If we continue to be successful, others will follow our example and we can be the catalyst for further initiatives on the island.
How do the challenging economic circumstances of Cyprus affect PPI-CY?
We have always been an organization about building local support, which is essential for long-term success. PPI-CY has been very successful delivering results through programming. This will continue, we are here to stay and the program will find its way through the challenging economic times.
What is PeacePlayers International’s vision for Cyprus?
As we continue to evolve and develop as an organization there are a few key areas of emphasis: create more opportunities for frequent interaction between our participants, strengthen our Leadership Development Program, develop a competitive element to our current program (like the Cyprus team that competed in Norway this past year), and lastly, measure our results.