Winds of Change: The first intercommunal sailing initiative inspires young people to help build peace across the island

6 Apr 2023

Winds of Change: The first intercommunal sailing initiative inspires young people to help build peace across the island

Winds of Change is a project that aims to bring together the first intercommunal sailing team to sail around Cyprus. The project offers opportunities for young people from across the island to embark on a journey with the common purpose of building trust, understanding and unity between people from all communities. The project seeks to challenge, empower, and inspire young people to connect and in turn, contribute to peacebuilding on the island.

The project was launched on 1 April, at an event held at the Home for Cooperation in the buffer zone, to mark the 10th anniversary of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which takes place each year on 6 April.

“Today we are celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, and we are launching a new sport initiative called ‘Winds of Change’ which aims to give rise to the first intercommunal team that will sail around the divided island together,” said Greek Cypriot Sophia Papamichalopoulos, the founder of the project and organizer of the event.

Emphasizing the role of sport in peacebuilding efforts on the island, Sophia said: “As a former athlete and Olympian, I am a firm believer that sport has the power to change the world, and as a daughter of a refugee, I believe that we can all play a role in building peace together. Next to the political peace negotiations, I feel that we should be using sport more to build peace on a community level, to create neutral grounds for dialogue, to give rise to common experiences, and to create a common purpose.”

Nilhan Uzman, a Turkish Cypriot who volunteer at the event, added: “I value the potential of sports in creating positive social change and work towards a more peaceful, healthy, and sustainable world. Sports can have a significant impact on promoting peace and unity.”

“Winds of Change, which will bring together a bi-communal crew to sail around Cyprus, is a great example of this. Through sailing, the crew members will learn to work together a common goal, communicate effectively, and rely on each other, breaking down barriers and building trust between communities,” Nilhan explained. 

Supporting the initiative, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, Colin Stewart together with UN staff were present at the launch of the project.

In his remarks, Stewart said: “Due to its vast reach, unparalleled popularity and foundation of positive values, sport is ideally positioned to contribute towards the United Nations’ objectives for development and peace. To raise awareness of this potential, 6 April was declared as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace by the UN General Assembly in 2013. It is great to celebrate this anniversary here in Cyprus with the launch of such an inspiring and exciting initiative.”

Further, Stewart highlighted: “I commend all those involved in this initiative and wish best of luck to the intercommunal team which will not only sail around this beautiful island but also hopefully navigate towards a more peaceful future.”

During the event, participants gathered outside Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone holding white cards, which symbolizes the positive power of sport. In contrast with the red card, which signifies the most serious offense in sport, the white card is a gesture of inclusion, equity, and peace. The Winds of Change crew will have the first team-building workshop and sailing training this summer. The sailing tour around the island is scheduled for early September.


UNFICYP puts partnerships at the heart of its work to achieve sustainable peace and is a key priority under the Action For Peacekeeping (A4P) agenda and its implementation strategy A4P+. The Mission’s Civil Affairs Section is responsible for facilitating activities that promote harmony and conditions for future reconciliation. UNFICYP’s intercommunal activities range from supporting the preservation of common cultural heritage, promoting intercommunal dialogue through sports, cultural and other events, and through the facilitation of essential services for both communities.