Josipa Cvitić has visited the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellow Summer Institute (BFTF) | European and American Adolescents Meet to Strengthen Transatlantic Relationships
Fifty-three participants conquer the world of debating, simulating conferences, and in the process learn more about other countries during the BFTF 2016. This program that is funded by the U.S. Department of State and hosted by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina enables teenagers to participate in diverse workshops, activities, and travels. The teenagers are between sixteen- and eighteen-years-old, extremely ambitious and socially engaged in their communities. They were carefully selected by the U.S. Embassies in their home countries to represent their country, participate in the program, and implement the knowledge in their communities. The goal of this program is to equip intelligent, dedicated students with the skills to engage in leadership roles and to become an example for their societies. Due to the strong, international friendships that were built over this intensive month, the participants are quite likely to help each other with their projects and build a large network in the US and Eurasia. At the end of BFTF, every participant presents a social project that is beneficial to the society, youth, or economy in their particular states. Here are three of the most promising and fascinating ways to tackle problems in Norway, Hungary, and Cyprus.
Encouraging Somali Norwegians to Vote
The initiative “Together, Our Voices Can Be Heard” by Fawzi Warsame targets the Somali community in Oslo. The majority of the Somali population have the ability to vote, yet there is still a lack of information about policy issues. The seventeen-year-old fellow, a highly engaged and knowledgeable student in the field of politics, wants to address this issue by translating manifestos into Somali. He plans to knock on two-hundred fifty doors to distribute the information and encourage them to get involved in the voting process in the upcoming 2017 election. The party-neutral organization will hand out information from all the parties represented and educate people about the Norwegian election system. However, he will not be the only person working on this project; instead, he is planning to convince his family members and friends to volunteer. By including Norwegians who are not necessarily part of the Somali community, he hopes to not only get Somalians more active in the society, but also to offer a possibility to learn more about Norwegian Somali people. So far, he plans to get started before the fall of 2017 and hopes to include other nationalities, such as the Iraqi community in Norway in his program one day.
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Agriculture Project for Roma Population in Hungarian Village
The Hungarian activist Lili Hanna Feher intends to enroll “Act Now” in the northern village Bódvalenke. Ninety percent of the habitants are Roma. Poverty is widespread and living conditions are quite tough, especially during winter when the village depends on donations. Considering these problems, Lili decided to address one of the essential parts of their lives: nutrition. She is in contact with the organisation “MOST” that has been active in this specific village and is making an effort to improve the situation. They aim to start a social project that will involve the population in agriculture projects in order to help them live sustainably. The goal is to provide ground to cultivate vegetables and fruits and to make the general food source more sustainable. There are challenges that the volunteers might face such as little cooperation of the locals or unequal distribution of the products. However, the dedicated student stays positive: “You can’t necessarily lead people out of poverty, but you can teach them to feed themselves.”
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Solving Tensions in Cyprus by Hosting Turkish Cypriots in Greek Cypriot Families
“There is more bringing us together than tearing us apart. We’ve been living together for five centuries – we can’t be that different.” – Nadina Miltiadou
The “Cyprus Cohabitation Project” aims to tackle the deep tensions among Greek and Turkish Cypriots. By organizing homestays at Greek families’ homes for Turkish teenagers between 14-16 years old, the diplomatic student Nadina Miltiadou plans to enhance the relationships among those two groups in Cyprus. In the first year, it is planned to have ten Greek families who are willing to host one Turkish participant each for ten days. Workshops with subjects such as debating and history classes encourage conversations within the families and create a friendly atmosphere for dialogue in English, which is the working language. On the weekend activities, a trip to both sides of the island will take place.
The dedicated activist was inspired by a survey that she helped to conduct a few years ago. While interviewing Greek Cypriots about the significance of their home and under what conditions they would return to their initial homes, the results turned out to be surprisingly positive. Particularly the elder people advocated coexistence, since they tended to have good memories with Turkish Cypriots.
There has never been a similar program implemented in the region, which is why the Cyprus Cohabitation Project might struggle with support from the society. However, the outcome of such a crucial initiative could have lasting, positive consequences. The desired effect would be to spread the peaceful message across families and their neighborhoods. After the stay they should share their experiences with friends and family members. Once the project is established, the goal would be to organize the homestays in the Turkish part of Cyprus. So far, the application process will presumably start in January 2017 and the host stays are planned to take place in July 2017.
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