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HasNa Cyprus Programs Embark on a New Chapter with Eco-Journalism Initiative

September 3, 2014

Avi Blog 1

 

The media plays an important role in every society. Journalists, through their discretion, tell us stories of collective importance – exposing the voice of struggles and tragedy, carrying us through important social and political moments, celebrating achievements both large and small. The journalists who report the media document and narrate our history and inform our collective calls to action. Ongoing changes in our global environment create a need for the media to give greater attention to the interconnected ways climate change is impacting our planet—hence the emergence of “eco-journalism.”

It is crucial then that journalists understand the role of the environment in our lives. The intellectual approach and “truth” that a journalist chooses to portray regarding environmental issues directly impacts, and often shapes, public opinion and dialogue surrounding such issues. In societies that are divided, such as Cyprus, the challenge is even greater. Though Cyprus is politically divided, the environmental issues impact the ecology of the entire island and require cooperative action. Thus, it is vital for media on both sides of the island to work collaboratively with a shared understanding of common issues facing the environment and the collective responsibility to address them. 

HasNa has been involved in a number of different programs on the island related to the media and environment, and for the first time, we are combining the two in an eco-journalism program to add to our range of projects in place on the island.

In the early 2000s, several HasNa programs trained both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot journalists on the island and one program even resulted in the island’s first bi-communal radio station. At this stage, our goal was primarily to have media on both sides of the island working together – a major step given the continuation of political division.

Beginning in 2012, we embarked on a series of bi-communal programs on the island to address the issue of illegal hunting on the island. The first educated environmental non-profit leaders on ways to address environmental conflict and establish a network of leaders devoted to this cause. This network has gone on to complete a further two-part project:, 1) educating children on the importance of conservation and 2) training legal and law enforcement officials to combat wildlife crime.

It may seem surprising that illegal hunting greatly impacts the entire country’s ecology. Since the sport of hunting is grounded in tradition, highlighting the negative impacts of widespread poaching as a political issue to be taken seriously presents a great challenge to conservation efforts. The more journalists are able to draw attention to this issue and document the detrimental impact of eschewing conservation has on the island, the more lively and productive the discourse can be, resulting in proactive measures to protect the island that is home to all Cypriots.

With several successful bi-communal programs training journalists and also environmental leaders, we have decided it is time to bridge the two areas. Working with partners from our first environmental program, Collaborative Solutions to Shared Environmental Problems, this November we will hold a workshop in Cyprus for university students studying journalism with a strong and demonstrated interest in the environment for a workshop on eco-journalism. The workshop aims to establish a network of environmentally sensitized journalists, who understand the relevance of environment as an issue in our daily lives, as well as the need to protect and defend the integrity and sustainability of the shared environment. Currently, our partners are spending the end of August and early September recruiting from the universities around the island for this program. Keep an eye out on HasNa’s website and social media for more information regarding this program!

HasNa Continues to Train Turkish Citrus Farmers

August 27, 2014

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After a successful training program in 2011 for Turkish citrus farmers in Florida, HasNa is bringing another group of Turkish citrus farmers from Mersin to the United States for training. HasNa’s second Citrus Farmers’ Training Program will take place between August 31 and September 14, 2014.

Citrus is among the top exports in Turkish agricultural sector and it is also Turkey’s leading fresh fruit export according to the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. Neighboring countries such as Russia, Iraq, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia are the main export destinations. According to the statistics, the production of citrus in Turkey has been increasing steadily in the past 20 years. Despite this increase in citrus production, there are still important problems faced by Turkish citrus producers which prevent them from becoming competitive players in the global market, particularly with regards to processed products such as orange juice. According to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Cukurova University, the lack of different citrus varieties and poor agricultural practices are the two major problems in the citrus sector. Yet, there are still no citrus-specific production support programs in Turkey. In order to increase the export potential of Turkey, the USDA has also recommended in a 2012 citrus report that Turkish agricultural researchers should help identify better varieties for export and improved horticultural practices for citrus growers.

Given Turkey’s citrus export potential, it is essential to invest in the education of citrus growers. The Mediterranean region of Turkey accounts for the 90 percent of citrus production in Turkey while the Aegean region produces the rest. Within the Mediterranean region, the primary production zone is Cukurova which is composed of three provinces: Adana, Mersin and Hatay. Investing in the training of citrus farmers and collaborating with local citrus grower organizations in order to improve current agricultural practices will not only increase the income level of Cukurova population but it will also enable Turkey to become a major player in the global citrus market. Thus since 2010, HasNa has been collaborating with citrus growers in Mersin and Adana who are also participating actively in local citrus organizations to improve both the production and marketing strategies of local growers.

HasNa’s 2011 training in Florida was successful in introducing a small group of Turkish farmers to modern horticultural techniques in the United States. Both the success of the 2011 training and the continuing demands of other citrus growers in the region motivated HasNa to design another citrus farmers’ training program in California.

This year’s citrus farmers’ training will take place between August 31 and September 14. Twelve citrus farmers from Mersin will spend their first five days in Washington DC. First, they will receive a training on communication & conflict resolution skills which is the trademark training provided by HasNa to all of its program participants. After that, the group will visit the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Academies and hear presentations about the most recent research on citrus production and citrus diseases in the United States. A special session on marketing strategies is also designed for the Turkish citrus growers in order to expand their vision on marketing their products domestically and internationally. Before they leave Washington DC, the group will visit the National Arboretum and national historical sites in the US capital.

Starting from September 6, the group will spend 9 days in central California visiting big and small size orchards, orange juice plants as well as citrus research labs of UC Davis and UC Riverside. For this second and more technical part of the training program, HasNa collaborated with the California Citrus Research Board experts and the University of California Cooperative Extension agents. Thus, during their field trips, the Turkish citrus farmers will be trained and lectured by academics, citrus experts, and farm extension agents working within the UC Cooperative Extension system.

This training will expose Turkish citrus farmers to the most recent citrus growing techniques in the U.S. and improve their knowledge of how to deal with citrus diseases. HasNa believes that empowering farmers through training is one of the most effective ways to facilitate economic development and sustainable agriculture in Turkey. Thus, HasNa selects leader farmers who are willing to take on the responsibility of showing what they have learned in the United States to other farmers in their region. These participatory and collaborative learning methods do not only improve agriculture and regional economy but also increase social capital in developing countries like Turkey.

Pelin Blog 1

 

Amusement Under the Olive Tree: Finding the Pleasure Perspective in Conflict-Ridden Areas

August 20, 2014

Monica blog

 We don’t generally equate pleasure or humor with war-torn areas like Gaza and the West Bank, and yet photojournalist Tanya Habjouqa manages to give us an alternative perspective in this image of three boys cooling off in a kiddie pool. The metaphors in this image are noteworthy—a respite from the heat of war in the shade of an olive tree, the symbol of peace. Does this image detract from the severity of the region’s war—seemingly making light of daily struggles?

Habjouqa’s compilation of photographs shared in a New York Times article entitled ‘Palestinian Pleasures‘ humanizes the region in a meaningful way. Images of young people doing yoga and surfing were a jolting reminder that Palestinian life is not all about death and destruction. Her artistry reawakened my perspective of Palestine as a people as opposed to a warring region. Rather than making light of their situation, Habjouqa draws the viewer into the connection that we all experience enduring hardship – casting about for some levity and pleasure to survive what might otherwise become unbearable. Peace building is just as much about tranquility and freedom from oppressive emotions as it is a state of cultural and political harmony.

Our HasNa programming creates a “space” for that dual peace building by bringing participants to a new environment and inviting exploration through team building. Photos of our training teams depict laughter and camaraderie, shedding light on the emerging bonds of cooperation and mutual respect as individuals and not cultural stereotypes. In experiencing a sense of personal peace, each is able to open their perspective to an “other” and see him or her as a kindred spirit. One by one, those connections create community.

Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA) Participants 2014

Volunteer Initiative in Turkey and Armenia (VITA) Participants 2014

Building Bridges, One Word At A Time

August 8, 2014

In the Classroom

In many ways, intercultural exchange serves as a cushion or catalyst for peace. When two ethnic groups are in a state of conflict, there is a breakdown of communication between them. In such situations, inter-cultural activities provide them with a common space to meet, communicate, and interact. Communication includes both listening and expressing oneself so that the other can hear. Understanding is the first step towards developing empathy, and to be able to empathize with the other is a large step towards reconciliation.

Language is often considered to be one of the most tangible manifestations of culture. By speaking and understanding the language of the other, different ethnic groups are able to expose themselves to each other’s songs, theater, cinema, literature, folklore, and other cultural indicators. They are able to exchange ideas, and express their own feelings with greater ease.

Recognizing this unifying power of language, the NGO Support Center – one of HasNa’s local partners in Nicosia – will offer Turkish language lessons to Greek Cypriots starting from September 3rd, 2014 until May, 2015. Classes will take place every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 PM for Greek-speaking students, and every Thursday, from 5 to 7 PM for English-speaking students. These language classes aim to prepare students for the European Language Framework examinations.

Is the goal of reconciliation merely to repair a relationship that has been damaged or broken, or should it also seek to ensure that there is no further escalation or outbreak of conflict in the future? How else can language skills help towards the mitigation of conflict? It’s an interesting thought, especially in the context of Nelson Mandela’s famous words:

‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

When Youth Programs Work, Peace Happens!

August 1, 2014

CFP

There was an article in the Washington Post newspaper about the New Story Leadership Program that brings young men and women together from Israel and Palestine to the US with the hope that they will build lasting friendships. Although the article began with photos of a pair who seem to get along greatly, the main message of the article was that, in spite of this friendship, the two communities were still at war.

Yes, it is correct that war still exists, but why don’t we acknowledge another program where the same method is working? We at HasNa, have been running the Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) for 5 years and the mood of the Island has improved as evidenced by the growing cooperation and interaction among the youth in Cyprus. CFP was modeled after the Children’s Friendship Project for Northern Ireland (CFPNI) and today, the communities are addressing needs for cooperation.

What propels us to seek peace is finding hope that arises from successful efforts of ordinary people. Let us look with determination and when we find any grain of success, let us share it with everyone, just as much as we share our failures. In the comments, let us know other examples where this method of building peace is working?

Serving Others

January 16, 2014

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“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

How do we serve?

With these famous words, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shed light on the importance of serving others – no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, and no matter your race, education level, or socioeconomic status. The only thing necessary to serve is to have a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.

It is in this spirit of grace, love, and serving others that the VITA Program has been developed. Since HasNa has from the very beginning worked with promoting constructive dialogue between diverse ethnic groups within Turkey, Armenia, and Cyprus, this program is a natural extension of our mission.

What are our objectives?

We have two main objectives in engaging young people from both Turkey and Armenia in a volunteer-based program.

Firstly, this program will create links between Turkish and Armenian youths to construct cross-cultural networks among their communities. As relations between Turkey and Armenia remain contentious, the political tension impacts individuals on both sides of the border. With this program, which will engage youths in activities where they will be working constructively together, we will bring together individuals from a variety of ethnic, gender, and income backgrounds to gain a better understanding of people coming from different backgrounds and to use these connections to build projects together.

Secondly, we aim to give the students the practical experience necessary to create and develop their own community service projects back at home. What the students learn in their two weeks in DC will give them both the training and the practical, hands-on experience to engage and develop ideas about volunteerism when they return to their home countries. We hope that their ideas will spread as they engage others in their projects back in their own communities.

What’s next?

Keep checking back to see photos and stories from when the participants arrive this Saturday. And leave a comment of encouragement for our participants or any advice you may have on volunteerism, cross-cultural communication and cooperation, and peacebuilding!

The VITA Program – An Introduction

January 14, 2014

HasNa is back to blogging! We’re excited today to bring you the first of several installments detailing our upcoming VITA Project. VITA, which stands for Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia, will be bringing together 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia here in DC this weekend. For more information, please check out our official press release below. We will be posting updates, photos, and stories from the wide range of activities that the students will be working on over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out!

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Program on Civic Engagement brings Armenian and Turkish Youth together in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2014 – HasNa’s Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia (VITA) starts on January 18th with the participants’ arrival to Washington, DC. The VITA participants are 14 young people from Turkey and Armenia from various ethnic, gender and educational backgrounds, united by the idea and the desire to act for the benefit of their communities.

Commenting on the program, Nevzer Stacey, HasNa’s president, said: “The main goal of the program is for the participants to gain an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and civic engagement, so they can become active participants in the development of their communities.” She also added: “Through training and activities, we hope to create links between Turkish and Armenian youth and to construct cross-cultural networks among them and their communities.”

Hripsime (Sime) Amirkhanyan, HasNa’s program associate managing VITA, explained that the program is two-fold. “The first phase will last two weeks and will take place in Washington, DC. While in Washington, the participants will be exposed to volunteerism in the United States through training and service learning activities,” Amirkhanyan said. She concluded that the project is unique because it doesn’t stop there. She explained that “during phase two, the participants will embark on implementing a number of community service initiatives in their own communities across Turkey and Armenia. They will engage other youth to participate in various projects and activities that focus on community service, as in assisting their neighbors, fellow community members, and the elderly, as well as helping other organizations throughout their communities.”

The VITA program is the fourth collaborative program that HasNa has implemented with groups from Armenia and Turkey during the past two years.

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