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Kyriakos Tsioupanis: 'Those I did not accomplish, are the things I did not try hard enough for'

Kyriakos Tsioupanis is one of the few young people who permanently live in one of Limassol’s villages. Born and raised in Kivides, even though he was a student abroad, he never wished to leave his village. The relatively small distance from the city, around 20 minutes from and towards Limassol, allows him to visit often, since he really does a lot of different things.

Most people know him as a young entrepreneur, with his own design firm, while he has also been involved in the entertainment business. His involvement in the community is also remarkable: Vice President of the Association of Youth Centers, Vice President of the Community Council of Kivides, active member of the Kivides Youth Center, Member of the Cyprus Paralympic Committee, Member of the Central Council of Civil Engineers, among others, as well as a candidate in local and national election rallies.

What most people forget – since he does not feel like reminding it, when no reason appears – is that Kyriakos has been going through life with an artificial member for years, after losing his leg in an accident when he was 18 years old. For him, this has never been an excuse, neither for asking for an easy way out in the search for a job, nor for staying locked in the house, depended on others.

It was 1,5 year ago, more or less, when Kyriakos decided to be the main figure of a video, quite avant-guard for Cyprus, which was sending the message that people with disabilities can actually do sports, have a job, live a regular life. This year, the kids from the Kivides Youth Center, received the first Social Provision award from the newly founded institution of the Youth Awards by the Cyprus Youth Organization, aiming to promote young role models, with the support of the Central Cooperative Bank and Cyta.

I believe that Cyta is an organization, which can invest in youth… It does have the power and the means to showcase our place through its youth.

Ever since the video was released on the internet, many have re-evaluated their perceptions on disability, both in Cyprus and abroad. Among them were some educators, who felt like they should spread the message in their classes – which is truly an honorable thing to do. Thus, Kyriakos has been going around schools, after the teachers’ invitations, offering plenty of his personal time to communicate to the children that people with disabilities are not people with limited potential.

Where do you focus now?
Since now days the Youth Centers that are actually active, are located mostly in rural areas, we want to spread these activities in the cities, too. Our goal is to bring some awareness to young people through the Cyprus Association of Youth Centers, about volunteering for blood offering, bone marrow sampling and organ donating.

We want to encourage some action, to inspire and create some role models. We lack in original role models. Around 7 out of 10 young people either have false ones, or no role models at all.

Do you consider yourself a role model?
That would feel weird. I prefer to know that my actions are inspiring, rather than me personally being a role model. I would wish for young people to be inspired to act in the community, to refuse to give up, to face tomorrow as a new challenge and keep dreaming.

Which were your own role models?
Our first role models are our own parents. Afterwards there are the teachers. Next come the distinguished people. Right after my accident, my own role model was Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs, who inspired me the confidence that there are no limits. The man himself is barely 1 meter tall and he is lecturing people in universities, because he wants to change society’s perceptions. This is what I want, too.

I truly believe that if you set a goal in your life, nothing can stop you… Those I failed to accomplish, were the things I did not try hard enough for.

How does it feel to talk to children?
There are mixed feelings. Within 40 minutes their reactions are changing constantly. I feel very responsible in front of them. I’ve seen children tearing, getting the goose bumps, being scared. But the most important is that their perception of people with disabilities changes drastically. In the beginning they feel sad and sorry, negative feeling that we do not want. When I leave, the say that they feel relieved, grateful and obliged to be respectful towards people with disabilities.

Have you ever heard anything bad?
At first, yes. I did meet children saying that people with disabilities should not leave their house, because they are hurt and they should not risk getting hurt again.

But there was this 1 girl at an elementary school, who knew that she should start using a wheel chair soon, because her limbs suffered with atrophy. Her dream was to become a surgeon. I thought that if she really wanted something, she can accomplish it. Even if she will never be able to stand on her legs, she may go into academia, or even be able to operate through modern technology tools. After talking for a while with her, I saw her leaving with a smile on her face. I truly believe that if you set a goal in your life, nothing can stop you.

Is this activity of yours related to your election in the Community Council?
I generally believe that Youth Centers do promote future leaders in the communities. The current president of the community in Kivides is a former president of the Youth Center. When you wish to give something to the society, you will find a way. The more you try for something, the more you are encouraged to be part of the decision making centers.

Certainly, in every phase, from a different position, you always get to offer more and more. Those I failed to accomplish, were the things I did not try hard enough for.

How did your candidacy for the Youth Awards come across?
In the beginning we were not sure that a video could get us a candidacy for an award. We found out that there was an award category for social provision and we submitted it in that one. One day the phone rang and they told us that we should get ready for the award ceremony. We did not expect to get that far.

It is a new, excellent institution and we should certainly congratulate the Cyprus Youth Organization and the Central Cooperative bank for providing some motivation to young people’s creative forces.

I would wish for young people to be inspired to act in the community, to refuse to give up, to face tomorrow as a new challenge and keep dreaming.

Are the awarded young people considered role models?
Of course! This is what we need: to create our own, local role models. We have seen people being awarded for innovative business, for green inventions, for their cultural contribution. Yes, they are role models. The idea of the video itself did begin with a contest for innovative social awareness activities. For sure, this new institution, with the contribution of some renowned organizations with important work, is more recognizable and meaningful.

Can organizations like Cyta, for example, being a sponsor to the awards, support actions by young people?
Since you mentioned Cyta in particular, I believe that it is an organization, which can invest in youth. It certainly can promote role models through young people examples. It does have the power and the means to showcase our place through its youth.

Also, it can support young entrepreneurs, too, people with start-ups, with extraordinary ideas, which can even be sold abroad. Cyta is an organization that can embrace such ideas and make a good use of them.

You do have you own business.
Yes. Back in the “fat cows” days, of course, there was this perception that people with disabilities should end up in the public sector, while enjoying several benefits. To me it is not the best idea to let people with disabilities settle down, without providing any motivation to them. This is what my family thought, too.

You need to go after your goal. I don’t like compromising. This kind of mentality belongs to the past decade. I do not criticize the public sector, but I do think that it needs to be modernized and optimized.

What kind of difficulties did you encounter as a new entrepreneur?
I had several difficulties. I think that there should be some mechanism in the government to support and consult young entrepreneurs. I chose to have my own design firm, The Design Team. To be able to go through the bureaucracy provided by the state, sure is a setback.

Personally I am among the lucky ones who were granted the provision of the Young Entrepreneurship scheme, for which I submitted an application 2 years ago and I just got accepted barely 2 – 3 months ago. These procedures need to be faster. I have some high goals in my field and I wish to achieve them, since I had a dream to create from a very young age and I consider a civil engineer’s job creative.

I’ve seen children tearing, getting the goose bumps, being scared. But the most important is that their perception of people with disabilities changes drastically. 

Do you have goals in sports?
Yes, not so much in a personal level, but mostly through my role in the Paralympic Committee. My goal is for Cyprus to have 8 participants in the next Olympic Games. I think that there are people with disabilities doing sports in Limassol and in Cyprus in general. We need to crash the taboos and allow these athletes to train properly. There are people with disabilities, who compete along with able-bodied athletes.

If you suffer from an arm with atrophy and you run along with able-bodied athletes, it is a deficit, but you won’t get any questions about your condition. But if you run in the Paralympics, everyone will ask what is wrong with you. This taboo that is still present in Cyprus, has to change. But the athletes will need to have some sponsors first, since they need to be able to have certain results before they are allowed to funding by the state.

To me it is not the best idea to let people with disabilities settle down, without providing any motivation to them. My family shares this view, too.

Optimism inspired by the ever smiling Kyriakos could make up you day, your week, your month, your life. It depends on how much of what he represents you will absorb. And if the promotion of new role models is what will change our own society, then awarding people like these, we sure step on the right foot towards this direction.


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