Olga Kyriakoudi: An aspiring barrister in human rights law seizes the opportunity to work with peers from both communities
Olga Kyriakoudi is part of a group of young Turkish and Greek Cypriot students who participates in an entrepreneurship programme entitled ‘Famagusta Students Together’, whereby students from both communities came together to develop innovative business ideas to address social and environmental problems. She is one of the 26 students that came together to create sustainable, quality relations between participants, trainers and organizations involved.
Since February, participants have been meeting virtually and have materialised a set of activities and trainings on entrepreneurship and business idea development. Having formed intercommunal teams, the students worked with their mentors to develop innovative business ideas addressing a specific social problem. At the beginning of the month, the teams presented their ideas to a jury and competed for best business idea, best promotion and best teamwork.
Olga is an 18-year-old aspiring barrister in human rights law from Paralimni who thrives on debating, reading classic literature, baking and decorating cakes. “I decided to join the program because it seemed a perfect opportunity to work with other young adults but also to learn from so many skilled entrepreneurs,” reveals Olga. “All in all, the experience was great on both social and academic levels. I gained a lot of inside knowledge on how businesses operate, how to write a successful business plan and how to appeal to an audience while giving a presentation,” she adds.
To cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme had to be redesigned to virtual meetings. However, this did not halt the initiative, which aimed at providing a platform for young people to express themselves and bring the communities together.
“Intracommunal programs are essential for successful facilitation,” said Olga. “We worked together for over two weeks, and it was so much fun and educational. When we unite, we are stronger together and this is why it was such a rewarding experience. It was a privilege to work along with other young and intelligent adults, and I firmly believe that collective work is a key to success,” she added.
The initiative Famagusta Students Together & the Entrepreneurship Contest was spearheaded by Irene Antoniou and Yiannis Constantinou and organized with the support of two local organisations, CyprusINNO, a digital platform offering Cypriot entrepreneurs and problem-solvers the opportunity to connect with like-minded innovators and GIGEM, a youth development centre, social space, and education centre in north Cyprus focused on social inclusion and economic empowerment of young people, the program was led by school teachers, individual entrepreneurs and trainers.
“If I had to describe my experience in one word, I would use the word collectively. I loved seeing people come together to overcome a challenge and I believe that the collaboration between the two communities is essential in achieving the ultimate goal of peace. All the projects were outstanding and the social aspect of the programme was so heart-warming!
Talking about what she gained from the programme, Olga asserted: “What I personally enjoyed the most is working with people who come from different backgrounds, it was a pleasure to work alongside so many skilled and interesting people!”
The ‘Famagusta Students Together’, which is supported by UNFICYP, will continue to provide other activities and competitions in the aim of offering opportunities to more students for long-term engagement and connections.