Introducing our Project Phoenix Team:
Christos Kypri (Project Manager & Head of Training Cyprus)
Christos had been working as a language teacher and educational entrepreneur for a number of years prior to his engagement with activities related to the refugee crisis. He is particularly sensitive to the situation of refugees, since both his parents were displaced from their hometowns during the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. His involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus first started through a free English class that he began organizing at the Reception- and Accommodation Center for Applicants of International Protection in Kofinou, Larnaca.
Even though the class was only held on the weekends (when Christos had some time off from his regular teaching job) it attracted a lot of interest by the refugees residing at the camp since there were no other teachers or activities, paid or volunteer, active at the center. While teaching there, Christos suddenly became a point of contact between refugees and Cypriot locals who were interested in helping through donations of clothes or volunteering.
“ I realized that while the state was unprepared and at times unwilling to change its lengthy procedures to facilitate the integration of newcomers arriving in Cyprus, a segment of the Cypriot population was constantly looking for ways to help but didn’t know how.” This is when Christos started organizing volunteers who were interested in teaching conversational English to refugees while also actively seeking for help and volunteers through the Fulbright Center and the American Embassy. In 2015, he was able to secure financial aid by the American Embassy that allowed him to equip the refugee center with 6 computers which were used by the refugees to access the internet as well as use the Rosetta Stone language learning software to learn Greek and English.
‘There is a fear that refugees will steal jobs or wreck the job market. Many times, governments don’t understand that in reality some of the new arrivals are doctors, scientists, designers, etc, whose skill set could have a positive effect on Cypriot society and even the economy. ‘At the camp I saw people like Lama – smart, with cool business ideas, literally ready to start their businesses (and their lives) and thus bringing financial and entrepreneurial impulse to my country. Talking to new arrivals, I wanted to see what they had to offer to the country and how I could help them achieve that.
This is when Christos’ paths crossed with Project Phoenix. When the project was introduced to him, he realized that the founders had also witnessed how NGO’s and non-profit organizations many times fail to have a real impact on people’s lives despite the large amounts of money that is spent to support their activities. Christos also recognizes that there are refugees who are (almost) ready to put their skills into use in order to create sustainable businesses that could help them support themselves and those around them without the need for the state to continuously sponsor them.
His message to refugees: ‘Go on YouTube, develop your interests, and educate yourself through digital media. Everyone has a phone nowadays. Use your phone’.
Regarding what drives him in life and work – ‘I subscribe to life-long learning. I want to learn something new everyday and I want to surround myself with people who have the same attitude’.
When asked to describe himself in 3 words – ‘DIY, creative and inventive.