Cyprus youth in conversation with UNFICYP’s Chief of Civil Affairs Section, Fay Woolley
On Tuesday 19 July, Fay Woolley, UNFICYP’s Chief of the Civil Affairs Section joined the second edition of the event series “Youth in conversation with…” at the intercommunal room in Ledra Palace, in the buffer zone. The converstation gave an opportunity to the youth in Cyprus to ask Fay anything about her work, experiences, life and the work of UNFICYP.
Something that may have surprised the audience, is that Fay has a background in education and “was a teacher in a previous life”. However, after 10 years of teaching, it was time for a change. Fay left the education sector and worked in Albania and Kosovo for the NGO World Vision, through which she got in touch with the UN.
Since then, Fay has worked for the United Nations Civil Affairs Sections in Kosovo, Nepal, Liberia and Cyprus. These Missions have quite different contexts and circumstances, but her job in Cyprus she said that it is “the busiest and most stressful job of all the places I’ve worked with the UN”, so the question raised was: “why?”. Fay explained that it is the busiest, because almost a decade into the job, within Mission that has been present on the island since the 60s, there are still many small issues that can become big overnight.”
For Fay, “a larger presence of Civil Affairs Section is important, as it is much easier for locals to speak with civilians than with people in uniform and the section promotes a sense of comradery and community through interactions such as dialogues and conversations, which allows Cypriots to see other’s perspective and create empathy for the other side.”
“I don’t know how many of you know each other in this room, but the more meaningful interactions people have, the more they have faith and awareness to be together,” she stated. As Fay pointed out, building intercommunal bridges can also be simply about connecting people through their shared interests, such as food, arts and music.
Fay Woolley ended the conversation with a piece of advice for the young people: “I think there are a lot of challenges, but we have a life of opportunities; to be more, to have more, to live more”. So, to all the youth reading this: if you find yourself in a position where you think “I do not want to do this”, take action on your own life and change its course. As Fay Woolley has demonstrated, a rich career, with valuable experiences and wonderful things can come from it.
UNFICYP’s Civil Affairs Section aims to connect Cypriot civil society organisations and helps build bridges for communication, to break barriers of mistrust and misunderstanding. It also facilitates civilian use of the buffer zone for peaceful purposes such as agricultural work or access to religious sites.
The event was organised by the European Solidarity Corps project Cap the Gap, as part of YEU Cyprus with an aim to enhance knowledge and understanding of the decision-making levels among under-represented people and promote their access to these levels.