Supporting cooperation on the border between Greece and Cyprus

Hello everyone, my name is Olympia Driva and I am an IVY Project Partner for the Hellenic National Youth Council. It has been around two months since I started volunteering for the “EduTourism” project, and with this blog post I want to share my experience so far.

The EduTourism project is part of the “Interreg V-A Greece-Cyprus 2014-2020" programme and its aim is to develop an educational tourism product targeting young people 16-25 years old. The product will include routes consisting of several specific tourist sites in both Greece and Cyprus, that are connected in a historic, cultural, and environmental framework. The project aspires to enhance the profiles of the two countries through cooperation, while also achieving specific educational outcomes.

Getting into more specific goals, apart from the development of the tourism product that showcases the natural and cultural heritage of Greece (more specifically the island of Crete) and Cyprus, the project aims to create an educational programme for teachers, trainers, and tourism professionals. The curriculum will provide education and knowledge around this under-utilised sub-sector of tourism, ensuring that the effects of the project will continue to benefit the locals long after its completion.

A lot of people are expected to benefit from the outputs of the project apart from the direct target group of young people interested in travel. The communities that are local to the selected tourist sites will hopefully experience an elongation of the tourist season and an increase in incoming tourists. This is of course to the advantage of those working in the tourism industry or other business owners in the area. Additionally, an increased interest in the natural environment and cultural heritage will showcase their importance and highlight the common ground between the two countries.

It has been very interesting for me to work on the initial stages of the implementation of this project. I have been working remotely from the office, but on location as far as the area of intervention is concerned. Even though I am not originally from Crete, I have been living here for the past three years and I consider myself a local. As an IVY Project Partner, I get to experience my community in a different light, trying to think of ways to support it through my participation in the project and my newfound knowledge about European and Cohesion Policy. Contributing to the implementation and management of the project during its first months has been a privilege, as I can be a central role-player in the decision-making process.

So far, I have worn many different hats on my day-to-day tasks. Each day is different and this is something I enjoy! At the beginning I had to familiarize myself with the topics of educational tourism, cohesion policy, and the practical skills for implementing and managing a big co-financed project with many partners. I was also happy to prepare for and participate in meetings with partners and stakeholders. Right now, I am playing an active role towards the implementation of one of the project deliverables, the current status study. The study combines data from a literature review and a field study. The first part makes use of skills I acquired in my academic training, and the second part is supported by my knowledge of Crete.

To sum up, this has been a great opportunity for me so far and it has helped me look into my surroundings with a new perception. I can see now that cross-border cooperation is not just an abstract idea or something that should only concern politicians, but that it can have substantial impact on the everyday lives of EU citizens. I hope that as a part of the IVY family I will be able to communicate this idea to my local community as well, and I am looking forward to the rest of my IVY experience!

Olympia Driva, IVY Project Partner at Hellenic National Youth Council, for the EduTourism Interreg project

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