"We're taking the control in our hands, because even though a political solution many never come, nothing can stop people from coming together and friendships being built."

“We’re taking the control in our hands, because even though a political solution many never come, nothing can stop people from coming together and friendships being built.” “The future is in our hands.”

The Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) is an all-volunteer people-to-people program that focuses on fostering trust and understanding through interactions between Turkish and Greek-speaking Cypriots in Cyprus. CFP is not affiliated with any governmental, political, or religious organization. It takes no position on any proposed political approaches toward the future of Cyprus. Rather, it is based on the belief that, no matter what, the future of Cyprus will be enhanced by increased trust, understanding, and friendship between the future leaders of the Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking communities in Cyprus. From a generation raised in a divided society, CFP develops future leaders to find solutions for living in harmony together in Cyprus.

The program begins when Turkish-Cypriot teens from the north and Greek-Cypriot teens from the south (ages 15-17) apply for the program and are interviewed in a group setting.

After being selected for the program in February, the teens spend the spring season getting to know the others’ cultures and learning about each other as individuals. After about a month of interactions, they partner up with someone from the other side of the divide and become a formal “pair.” Soon after, the activities include the families of the teens, so the bonds within the communities quickly grow exponentially.

In July, the pairs of teenagers arrive in the U.S. for the U.S. Residential portion of CFP. While in the U.S., each pair lives together with an American host family for four weeks. The aim of this four-week residency is to promote friendship and understanding through interaction and to further develop leadership skills. The teens begin to discover what they have in common and learn to communicate and cooperate as they move together through their time in the U.S.

CFP host families reflect the economic, religious and cultural diversity of the US. Host eligibility is based upon the following three criteria:

● a politically neutral home,
● a safe home with appropriate adult supervision, and
● a bedroom for the teens to share.

Integral to the program is the bonding which occurs as the teens live with a neutral, loving American family who provide a room for them to share and welcome them into their lives.

While living with their host families, all the Cypriot teens in one area get together at least once a week for the following group activities: a team building ropes course, a conflict resolution workshop, a day of community service, and a workshop on environmental issues. In addition to these leadership-training activities, the teens gather for social activities, which include their host families and friends.

Back in Cyprus, the pairs’ families keep in touch, particularly to share news they receive from their teens during bi-weekly calls. It is an opportunity for each family to become accustomed to interacting with families from the other community. By the time everyone comes together for the graduation celebration in October, the families are very familiar and comfortable with each other and committed to their new relationships and CFP.

After the summer residential portion of the program, the teens return to Cyprus. For the month of August, they reunite with their families and begin their work of synthesizing this new friendship into their “old” lives. After school starts in September, the Cypriot Coordinators and the teens begin organizing their graduation ceremony, which takes place in early October. The graduation ceremony is a formal celebration in which all the families and friends of the teens come together to acknowledge the mutual commitment of the teens to each other and the CFP community, and to recognize the hard work and dedication from everyone involved in this bi-communal accomplishment.

From November through January, the groundwork for the next year’s program begins. Teens and Coordinators travel all across the island, speaking in schools and community organizations and to the local and international media, spreading information about the program and inviting teens to apply. By early February, the interviews are held, and the cycle begins anew.